Saturday, March 24, 2012

My neighbourhood has gone!

Why?!  My school, my home, my friends-----all gone; some dead, others just disappeared. What have we done to deserve this? At first it was noise in the distance----then the sounds turned into explosions. We couldn’t sleep at night. My brother and I crept in to my Mum’s room. Dad had gone. Mum said that he had business in the next suburb, but she has this strange look on her face.
 The last time I had seen that look was when my uncle was taken away by these policemen dressed in black, with their faces hidden. Why did they do that? My Aunty looks so sad all the time now and my cousins cry every night. Mum and Aunty went down to the police station, but they can’t find Uncle. The police say they haven’t got him and told Mum and Aunty to go away. I saw the big guns. That was six weeks ago and now Mum has to give my cousins food.
I went to school three weeks ago, after the holidays, but it was all broken. The windows were all gone and most of the classrooms were wrecked. The students all stood around for a few hours along with three teachers. Where were the other teachers? Mum said it would be fine and that it was a mistake.
That night on TV, a lady was talking about ‘terrorists’ and about how they had turned our city into a death-zone. I asked my Mum what that meant. Her face was grey and her eyes looked like they did when grandmother died. My other older brother kept his face away from us. He wouldn’t answer our questions. That night he left the house. I am sure he took one of the big kitchen knives, because Mum couldn’t find it the next day. We haven’t seen him since.
Over the next few days the sounds got louder and louder. Soon it felt like the house shook every time we heard an explosion. Mum made us all sleep in the cellar. We took our blankets and some food and water. I felt a little bit safer there. The next night our neighbours asked to join us in the little cellar. They brought their two children and we played games until quite late.
Next morning, we climbed out of our cellar and we saw something terrible. In the street outside our broken door, there were three bodies, one of them the son of one of the neighbours. Mum quickly made us go back inside. The adults tried to hide their conversations from us, but we knew that they were very worried. Just before we jammed the broken door shut, I saw men running. They were being chased by soldiers. Every so often they stopped and shot their guns at the soldiers chasing them. As the soldiers ran past our house they threw something into the shop across the road. Hard things hit the wall of our house and we only just stumbled into the cellar, before the roof of our house started falling. Mum screamed, but we were not hurt.
The next day, Mum and the neighbour decided to go out to look for food. They didn’t come back. We are getting very hungry and thirsty. We don’t know what to do. We are getting frightened, because we are all alone in the cellar.
Before the men left, weeks ago I remember hearing them talking about the ‘President,’ and how he didn’t care about the people. I even heard that the President’s men had blown up the Mosque. Dad had said that there were people in there when it happened. He also talked to my uncle about Egypt and Libya. I don’t understand what he was talking about. Those countries are a long way from Homs. I wonder if he wants us to go to those countries now, but who will take us if our parents don’t come back?
Why do the President and his soldiers hate us? They must do, or they wouldn’t be trying to hurt us. My little sister won’t stop crying and the neighbour’s kids look sick. Where is the doctor? Maybe the President has killed him too. Why doesn’t God help us? I say my prayers, five times every day. I want to sleep—maybe I won’t wake up. I wish someone would help us.


The Dessert Rose--'Don't you love my shoes?'

ASMA---‘Darling--- don’t you just love my shoes---- they were a steal----only $7000 and you know how I love yellow!
P--------‘Yes you bitch--- I was looking for them and I had rung the assistant at the shop and  she assured me that they had put aside---‘
ASMA---‘Hehehe--- what can I say----I didn’t mean to tell our glorious leader. How was I to know that he would ring them---well you know how it goes?’
K-----Yes P, there’s always those earrings that you told me about the other day.’
    Asma shot a glance at K, bringing an awkward silence to the gathering. The nearby guards, dripping with Kalashnikovs fidgeted nervously while the two men in black suits edged closer to the ladies---close enough to hear, but not impinging on the conversation. The gaudily dressed waiter brought yet another round of coffees.
ASMA-----‘You should really be careful who you call a bitch P----don’t worry---just joking. Perhaps we should ring ahead to that new boutique in the plaza so that they are appropriately prepared for us. You know how jittery these people get when we turn up unexpectedly.’
P------‘Oh--- you are so sensitive Asma---if only the news media reported your kindness---none of this trouble would----‘
ASMA----‘You know that is hardly likely dear. My husband often states that in his quieter moments. I’m so worried about how all this is affecting him.’
K----- Well there is an easy answer Asma--- why doesn’t he simply nationalize all the shoe shops, then he won’t need to worry.’
ASMA---- ‘I think you are right K. I’m sure it is all a distraction that he doesn’t need right now. He has so much on his plate. I mean, the other day he was meeting with officials. They were planning the latest range of homeware--- you know--- he has always been interested in trying to ‘brand’ his own line. I’m so proud of him. What got me that day, he kept getting interrupted by these silly little men--- I didn’t hear it all--- something about Homs or was it Dara--- how rude!’
K----‘Yes, my husband was at that meeting. I can tell you he came home in a foul mood. I hate it when he’s like that. Nothing I can do changes him. The servants kept their distance, I can tell you.’
ASMA----‘See--- like I was telling you a few minutes ago. It always comes back onto the little people-----GIRL! ---How dare you---look! ---- You just spilled coffee on my new dress--- that cost my dear husband $13,000. Bring the manager---- now!!!!’
   A very nervous manager appeared. He had not needed to be summoned; he had been listening from behind the curtains separating the kitchen from the dining room. He hated these occasions and now his long suffering wife was the target for the ‘first lady.’ He approached the table. Even the two ladies accompanying the ‘British woman’ looked ill at ease. He was also unsure as to how he should address the angry woman.
MANAGER----‘How may I assist, your Highness?’ He glanced at his wife, who slithered across the floor, returning a few seconds later with a damp cloth.
‘ASMA----‘What on earth are you intending to do with that, you piece of trash!? This is not some peasant dress that you have soiled. I very much doubt that even our best drycleaners at the palace can alleviate the damage you have incurred.’
MANAGER----‘I assure you Madame---- My wife knows exactly what to do. You are not the first---‘
ASMA----‘How dare you to address me as Madame---- you imbecile! It is people like you who are behind the troubles we face!’ 
   She glanced towards the windows. There was a noise like a swarm of bees, coming from somewhere in the distance. At that moment one of the guards who had been standing at the entrance, turning away other customers and ensuring that the party had the establishment to themselves, came into the cafe. He spoke quietly to the anxious head of security, who then advanced towards the First Lady. He whispered in her ear. He alone amongst the guards was able to do this.
   Her reaction was immediate. This was not the first time of late that her expeditions had been cut short. It did nothing to change her mood. She rose to her feet, trying her best to maintain her dignity.
ASMA----‘Come ladies--- it seems that the rabble are intent on yet again, spoiling our day.’ She stared at the manager. ‘You can be sure that you have not heard the last of this!’
   The guards led the party from the café and climbed unceremoniously into the waiting heavily armoured Mercedes. In less than a minute the café was deserted and the approaching horde of marchers appeared at the end of the street. It was one of top suburbs in Damascus, and had not been affected until now by the discontent spreading throughout Syria.
   The manager shut up shop, but he was too late to prevent a rock thrown by an angry middle-aged teacher come flying through the window. His wife screamed as it hit her on the forehead, causing her to collapse in a heap onto the floor, lying still as she slipped into unconsciousness. The First Lady's party sped from the scene.
ASMA----‘Take us to the new Plaza near the palace---- I feel quite faint----oh--- on second thoughts--- back to the palace. I simply cannot be seen like this. I need to change!’
   A military convoy suddenly appeared on the road ahead, rushing towards the marchers. It slowed as the commander of the leading vehicle recognized the Mercedes and he ordered the driver to stop. The vehicle behind slammed into his vehicle and it wasn’t long before several following vehicles concertinaed behind. As the First Lady’s entourage continued past the mayhem, she stared out the window, wondering why she had come to this dessert country. Such is love!