Waking up

I woke up, and I was running from a blast that had knocked me from my bed and my untrusting sleep. Debris flying everywhere, dusty rubble threatening to trip up my spinning legs. The sun has been slanting down upon us incessantly, for the past three days. The crumbling buildings reveal partial insights into the insides of a world that used to exist. In the building in front of me, the wall has been ripped off, but the room that used to be there is empty, and the furniture is either gone or barely recognizable. I should not be out in the streets right now, but my little brother is wandering, lost in front of me, afraid of the “fireworks” that he doesn’t understand, and wailing for help. I briefly look up at the brilliant blue sky which, for so many people, is a symbol of hope and happiness — a sign that today is going to be a good day. There are not many good days anymore. Sometimes I get to go to school because my father is adamant about continuing education, and believes that it is the solution. It is hard to believe him. I’ve gone to school many times, but the bombs do not stop coming down. I have forgotten what it is like to play, and my 12-year old sister is busy asking questions like: “How will our future be beautiful if they have destroyed Yemen? When will this war end and Yemen will be liberated and the future will be beautiful, God willing?”

I remember what my father wrote, “Wars are destructive not only to towns and cities, but also to souls.” Danger has become routine, and death is everywhere — an unwanted companion who cares not for screams, or age, or souls. I am afraid for mine.

I woke up, thanks to the ice-cold water thrown at my face. I was drowning. I knew it — I flailed my arms as if to swim up, but I had no idea where up, or down was, let alone where I was or how I had come to be submerged in water. Then I realized my arms were chained behind my back, and I was sitting down on an iron chair. I was awake. Somewhere. I recognized The Darkness advancing towards me, and from the deepest remnants of my bruised and battered heart I felt a surge of absolute terror. A terror so vivid that I froze, paralyzed, unable to move, to protest, to shout. Unable to beg, to plead, to protest my innocence. I never knew English, I could only speak Swahili, but now 5 years into The Darkness, I could communicate with It. But I could not reach It. I could not understand what It wanted from me when The Darkness professed that I had changed my appearance. I almost believed It. I almost believed that I was not Tanzanian, that I was indeed Yemeni, and that I had changed my face. With the iron collar around my neck, they often pulled me violently towards the iron bars so that I slammed hard against them. Perhaps all the blows really had changed my face. I could never tell. I was always surrounded by The Darkness — everything was cold, harsh, and completely, completely dark.

One time, I began hoarding pills The Darkness had been giving me. I counted 26 of them. I thought it would be enough, but I was stopped before I was even able to swallow. Somehow, The Darkness knew, and wouldn’t let me go.

I woke up, and I saw that it was raining. But the raindrops looked as big as my fist, or rather they came down so quickly and violently, that it seemed like an iron sheet had descended upon my town. It was the wind that was the worst though. It felt like I could physically see the wind picking up speed, as if some god had decided that the sins of this world were too many, and decided to punish the weak and the poor first. I could see that my roof was not going to hold. I knew, in that moment, that although I was probably going to survive, that my family was going to be alive, that my kids would be fine, I knew that our home would be blown away. I knew right then and there that I would be forced to live on the streets. My children are going to be homeless. Again.

There it goes. The metal roof of our home has been ripped off. We are exposed to the wrath of the elements, of this whimsical god that has deemed my country worthy of yet another catastrophe. I hurry to wrap my daughter in a bundle of bedsheets, as I get ready to brave the anger of the heavens to take shelter in a neighbor’s house. We huddle together, comforting each other, soothing each other, loving each other in the face of tragedy. I saw my daughter smile in my arms as she started to warm up. Suddenly, the roof was torn apart, and the sky cracked open.

I woke up.

I’m in my bed, and the cool, grey Scottish sky reassures me of my safety. As I started to fall back asleep, I dimly thought to myself: it is dangerous to read newspapers.

The true danger, however, lies within the easy nature of complacency. Perhaps I’ll do something about it tomorrow.