This is the farewell you hope will not be your last. This is the farewell that puts contentment in your heart. This is the farewell that shoots sadness through your soul. This is the farewell that sends tears down your face. This is the farewell that makes you at one with those around you. This is the farewell when you think of what is above you. This is the farewell that makes you shudder with what’s below you. This is the farewell that makes you forget all your daily struggles. This is the farewell that connects you to what you are.
Blending with the crowds. All moving the same way. Some jogging. Some striding. Some some slow and thoughtful. Infants are carried. The fragile cared for. All with one purpose.
Birds fly over, flocking to this sacred place. Their sounds add to the miraculous peace in this overcrowded space.
Some read from a book. Some read from their heart. Others clasping hands, lest they are lost in the crowds. All are beseeching in their many languages. All are there with one common goal.
White marble gleaming beneath your feet. Causing a sweet ache as you take step after step. The tightness in your throat makes you gulp as hope filled whispers escape you ‘Oh Lord please forgive me’. The weight of your mistakes falls upon your shoulders and you wonder to yourself ‘Oh why did I do it?’.
You carry on your circles on a road with no visible end in sight Yet you feel yourself coming home, feel the rightness of your purpose.
You are conscious of your number as you pass the blessed stone.’Allah is the greatest.’
You think of those who trod this path before you. Courageous and determined to claim God’s favour. Their feet moving through sand. The desert sun causing sweat to mingle with their tears. Modern comforts make it easier, but you wonder, is it really better?
As you reach the number seven, you know the end is near . The tears fall in ernest, you will soon be leaving. The prayers become more urgent and you beg with all your heart. You wish to leave this place purged of all blackness to feel pure, ready for a new start. But as you thread out and away, through the crowds, you cannot help but whisper “I miss you, please oh God, let me come back here someday.”
The familiar shadows hung over me once again. Something about 3am haunted me most nights. The window had a few splatters of rain and the branches shadowed by the street lights scraped back and forth across the patterned wallpaper. Feeling restless I pushed back the covers peeping out of the window. Some instinct nudging me towards my coat.
The streets were quiet. A few clouds crawling across the night sky. I made my way to the end of the road, being careful not to slip on the leaves. Lights shone brightly from a window and the faint hum of music called to me, I turned towards it. Standing on the street I looked up at the windows. Shadows of people standing, dancing. Sounds of music, voices blending through chatter and laughter. The door suddenly swung open and a familiar hand waved me forward. “Come on, you’re late!” I shook my head and gestured down to my clothes “I’m not..” my words faded away as I looked down at my favourite jeans and high heeled sandals. Bright Red matching my painted toes. He pulled me close, kissing my cheek. “Come on. I’ve been waiting for you”. My cheeks flushed with pleasure, we slipped through the party crowd and into the throng of dancers. Bouncing with the music and shouting along, to the song of our time ‘Dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen’. Drink in hand. Favourite songs. Favourite friends. Laughter bubbled around. Words punching through the stereo as songs move along from one to the other.
My feet are now aching and those familiar hands tug me close. We are gently swaying together. Eyes closed, my face pressed into his shoulder. “Marry me” the words gently drop down and sit in my ear.
My eyes snap open but the party is gone.
The branches are still swaying their shadows along the wall. The rain drops still cling to the window. Those red Sandals are long gone, as are those jeans. A small smile tugs at my lips as I remember it all. I push myself up from my bed and ease onto my frail legs. The house is silent and empty. I shuffle along catching a glance of myself in the mirror, startled as a lined face looks back at me. Still caught in the memories of dreams. How does this happen? Within the blink of an eye the whole world changes so drastically yet everything stays the same. It has moved on and left me an aged body with that girl trapped inside.
I live in Raqqa. That’s Syria. With my family. I’m snuggled close to my Baba. There is no electricity. We are reading by candlelight. In our room. We read through the Quran together. Baba and I.
I startle at the loud boom. As the first bomb drops. Baba raises his voice. Mama rocks Leena. Another one drops. We can hear the engines passing overhead. Mama rocks Leena and asks God to keep us safe. The planes fly over. I don’t know why they want to hurt us. We are just a family. Living. In Raqqa.
I look around. Everything looks the same. The frames on the wall. Shutters closed over the windows. Red curtains with Tassles. Mama loves red. Her black hijaab hangs near the door. The flowers on the dresser in a sparkly vase. It shakes and rattles as bombs continue to fall.
I try not to cry as the noise gets louder. “Don’t be frightened.” Says Baba, pressing a kiss to my head. “They didn’t come to kill us.” His eyes go back to the Quran and he reads once again. I’m asking myself “How do they know, who lives here?”