Old Photos

IMG_1426

Up late alone, I find myself looking through old photos on Facebook, the mouse unwinding the years as I scroll down the page.

How young I looked at 21! All eyeliner and plaited pigtails and cheap plastic earrings; baggy dungarees and a glass of wine, that ridiculous floor-length floral dress and the children’s guitar I bought in Souq Hamadiyeh. How deliciously naive I was, throwing myself into this new life, asking so many questions and not asking questions at all.

Syria was an adventure for us study year abroad students, shining with an excitement so bright that it blanked out other things: the lack of choices our new friends had, the steel fist of dictatorship under the kitch ‘I heart Bashar’ mugs and presidential bumper stickers that we stuck ironically onto our laptops. The torture chambers that never crossed our paths or minds.

I plunged head first into new friendships, a new language, and eventually marriage, for a visa and out of love, unwittingly forging the shape of the rest of my life. Nothing was determined and no door would close behind us; we could always go back, back, back…

And I remember the drive to the airport, when you finally got your UK visa,  watching school children out of the car window as you prepared to take a plane for the first time. You would later say you had a feeling that you would never see those streets again, that the familiar shops and signs and faces were rolling past for the last time. But who can say what we really felt that day, before you were an immigrant, before Syria became a byword for war.

If I could go back I would ask everyone everything, and cling like a child to their every word. I would look so carefully, listen so hard.

But if that’s how I feel, looking at these old photos at 1am, then that’s what I should do now, here, in this life. Because these days are precious too, and every moment that passes is one we can’t return to.

 

Glasgow

Arabic on the streets of Glasgow
I want to close your eyes
With my fingertips and take you
Back to pop beats on buses
Back to thick coffee laced
With cigarette smoke…
Open.
The ones with jobs
Stride high-heeled
Back to them
Open.
The ones without
Hold cardboard signs
Saying “help”
And a woman in a pink hijab
Tilts her phone
To show the pigeons to a mum
Who will never come
To Glasgow
And everyone
Is passing everyone
Everything
Is passing everything
Seeing
And not seeing
Smiling
And not smiling
Saying
And not saying
That your language blossoms
In my mouth too
Your language blossoms
In my mouth too
Arabic
On the streets of Glasgow