Syria, Iran and an Apple


I hopped on the city tram, excited to see a dear friend after long. The tram was crowded and the city rather unfamiliar. I was passing through Geneva for a couple of days. I stood on the tram listening to music and lost in my thoughts. A seat near the door became empty; I took it.

At the next stop, when the door opened, an older man entered gracefully. As our eyes met, I immediately got up for him to sit. Not seeing this exchange, a little girl ran toward the seat and occupied it mindlessly. I was caught in a dilemma between a happy child lost in bliss and an older man gracefully smiling at me while standing. He softly nodded not to bother the child. I respectfully nodded back with a smile. A Spanish band was playing in the background.

The older man and I inevitably stood on the crowded bus, our glance still locked to one another. He stared not inappropriately, but rather with a manner that I felt a feeling of affinity and kinship with him. He looked like my uncle whom I haven’t seen for years. The movements of his hands as he was holding a bag of apples, his glance and gestures, especially that smile, looked like my dad’s smile, my uncle or a friend of theirs. Whatever it was, it felt deeply familiar. I kept stealing my glance away from him, while maintaining the smile not to make him uncomfortable or his attention unwelcome.

Eventually he said something. I responded, “I don’t speak French”. After an awkward pause, I asked, “nacion?” He said quietly but firmly and gracefully, “Syria”. He pointed at me with a smile. I said, “Iran”. Tears ran down his cheeks. He reached out and embraced me. I embraced him back. He held my hand, I held his and I said, “I am sorry. I am so sorry for everything.” He looked at me with a smile and wiped his tears slowly. As he wiped those tears, I began to tear quietly.

The whole world had stopped around us. We lost touch with the tram, the music band, the crowd, the child. I suddenly realized it is my stop. I said, “I have to go!” He said something to me in Arabic with a smile while letting go of my hand. I did not understand. He handed me an apple and I stepped out to join my friend just before the door was shut behind me.

His face, his smile, his graceful posture and his tears are now the map of Syria to me. Human connection is real and can go far beyond wars.That is all.