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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing my history of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990)

Chapter Five

First encounter with fear.

    The scene of the man dragged by the blue Camaro (chapter four), was so strong that my conscience pushed it away to my subconscious for a long time before it emerged. It was a horrible moment, but I did not fully understand the enormity of the act, and didn't live fear. Not yet.

    My first real encounter with fear was going to take place very far. It was going to be strange. I was about to discover two kinds of fear: fear of space and fear of human beasts.

    After Down Town war, battles spread in other regions. Down town became a ghosts place. Snipers moved and chose other front lines. Shops were history here. Doors wide open, gutted, blinds swollen with holes... But a new population and a new kind of street vendors settled on the sideways of this ghosts city. A new kind of clients emerged too. 

    Mom was missing her friends in Beirut, she was missing her memories, the streets she grew up in. She waited for a cease fire to grab her bag and introduce me to her world. I don't recall the time it took us to make all the detours and to stop on all the checkpoints. But I remember the last bus-stop... somewhere on the outskirts of the Souks, aka Down Town...

    I looked around and saw nothing but huge holes in Grey buildings, surrounded by shrapnel covering what's remaining of the walls. All I saw was wild herbs on the sidewalks. All I saw was a human mass around me; alive in this dead place... I don't know why, but I started crying hysterically, grabbing my mom's hand until it hurt. I still remember the feeling... I was scared for the first time. 
    Without a word, mom dragged me out of this hell. I didn't see her eyes. I was too scared to. But since that day she never set a foot in that place. Even after Beirut was rebuilt, I tried so many times to take her Down Town, with no success... Even if by car, she refuses to look back, she stares at her lap until we get "out of there".

    My second encounter with fear took place in Antelias. We were on our way to visit my aunt in Rabieh. We were getting around the corner to wait for another cab when I saw him...
A human body with a black "head". No nose, no mouth, no cheeks. Just two holes for a darker thing looking like eyes, holding a long gun (the very popular Kalashnikov) staring at me... I lost my mind. I saw this creature coming to eat me, kill me, take me... and again, I was crying and shaking...

    The young man with the balaclava (typical mask used by all fractions during war) was embarrassed, since I became the main act in this crowded place obviously because of him. He walked towards us raising his empty hands in the air to calm my fear, and slowly, took his balaclava off his head... 

I saw a handsome human face smiling at me... it took me seconds to process what happened, but I stopped crying. It was a human face, not a beast.

He knelt and said: ''I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. See, I'm not such a bad guy!".

I don't know what ever happened to this young man. I don't know if he survived war. But I want to thank him. 
He showed me a human face in the middle of a beasts world. 
He showed me the way : always look for the human side of the "other" ... always.

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