The Eighteenth Day (The first thing you’ll do when the war ends)

war diries

Najlaa Ataallh

Editor: Eva Burke

You haven’t any idea the number of times you’ve asked yourself who am I? and where am I?

You don’t know how many friends have crossed the gates to heaven.

You don’t even remember the features of your own face! If you look in the mirror, will you see the same person who was there before these eighteen days of war?

 Are you still the same weight, show the same features? Do you still have ten fingers on your hands, ten toes on your feet? Are you even human, with whole body parts or have you lost one during all these days of waiting for help?

 You wake up from a nudge by the person sleeping next to you. He is there during these war days too, displaced just like yourself, and he whispers to you: what is the first thing you will do when the war ends?

You squeeze your eyes shut, smile in pain and say: the end of war?

 You ignore him, and turn to the other side, avoiding his observation of the wrinkles appearing on your face.

 You talk to yourself: I want to rest my eyes from all this seeing.

You can barely close your eyes while thinking of him. You met him in these moments of war, and yet now the border between you two is a scarce centimeter. His house was destroyed. His sister, brother and brother’s family have all been murdered. The only ones living are him and his mother. In spite of it all, he is still smiling when he asks: what is the first thing you will do when the war ends? You wonder: is it faith or desperation that gets him to this point?

 In other words, is his heart alive or buried under the rubble?

Is his body ignoring all that has happened and does it wait for death?

Does it make any sense for this small body to have this tiny mind dreaming of life at the end of a war?

 Did he somehow, perhaps through his extreme desperation, exceed the metaphysics of this universe and stay on living even after his death? Is he merely here to slowly sink to the bottom while waiting for intercessions that don’t come?

 The confusion hits your mind and heart and you think: he doesn’t really think of life or death; he thinks only of a plan for his actions after survival.

 If his small body is released of this place and instead visits the sky, will he know anything of the life that will come after the end of war?

 You steal a look toward him.

 What is the first thing you will do when the war ends? You now ask of him. You are becoming him. You are now continually thinking, thinking, thinking.

You scream inside to yourself: you are so foolish, for sure it is him that you will go to and hug, and then go to see whether the palm tree still has grapes and dates or not.

 Suddenly you hit yourself with the pillow you sleep on and say, No, No, this might be the second or the third thing to do after the war, but it isn’t the first.

 You repeat until your eyelids have fallen and you are asleep: the first, the first


About nataallh

"It is an attempt to be me"
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