This isn’t good a good situation, but I’m trying to be a big girl about it. His network has blacked out before, when attacks in his area were particularly bad, as they are now. But He’s not been offline for longer than 10 hours since we started writing in May.
This time I didn’t panic, at least not for the first 12 hours—I forced myself to believe missile attacks knocked out Wi-Fi in his neighborhood. Then for the next 6 hours I figured he must have dropped his phone in the toilet. It’s totally possible, I’ve done it twice. And these last six hours I’m betting the network went down and he dropped his phone in the toilet.
See? I’ve got this. Look at me totally not panicking.
We chatted on Tuesday afternoon, while I was walking home from work and it was almost midnight in Syria. He hasn’t been sleeping because the clashes have been moving closer and closer to his home.
Me: How is tonight?
Ahmed: Sometimes it’s quiet and sometimes bad. It’s not stable.
Me: Is it close to you?
Ahmed: Unfortunately, yes.
Ahmed: I don’t want to worry you.
He tries to protect me because he knows I fell apart the last time I couldn’t reach him. He had just sent a recording of explosions under his window, then the internet cut out. He didn’t have time to tell me he was okay. I spent the night grieving, and cursing myself for not getting him out in time.
Me: I’ll be okay, you can tell me.
Ahmed: Never mind.
Me: I promise!
Ahmed: Okay, yes. A lot of missiles.
Me: Will you send a recording?
Ahmed: Good night.
Me: Ahmed, just send the recording. I can handle it. This way it will be like I’m right there with you. My foot on your foot
I love that Arabic saying—it means I’m right behind you.
Ahmed: I really don’t want to.
Me: But all my feet will be on all your feet!
Ahmed: Okay, fine. I will try.
Me: Thank you! Just don’t go outside to get it.
Me: Please stay inside your house.
Me: Away from your windows.
Ahmed: Marcy, I know how to stay safe. But right now it’s quiet.
Me: Oh. You can do it later if it starts again. But maybe it will never start again. Insula.
Me: Sorry, I’m dictating to Siri and she doesn’t know insula. insula. Argh! Siri! I mean God willing.
Ahmed: Hahaha right, you’re saying Inshallah. Genius Siri.
Genius Siri, genius technology, genius everything but a working system to protect Ahmed and his family and millions who have fled from the place where they are trying to survive.
But there was no time to talk philosophically, I had arrived home and needed to sign off.
Me: Okay, Little Brother. Stay safe so when you get to Canada so you can buy me dinner.
Ahmed: Hahaha okay. I will, Inshallah.
Me: I’ll be thinking of you because I’m always thinking of you. My feet can reach you all the way from Boston!
Ahmed: Thank u sis. Good night.
Me: Good night.
But that wasn’t the last I heard from him. Before I went to sleep, I checked in.
Me: Hi Little Bro, I’m going to bed now. It’s almost 6:00 am your time. Would you just say hi when you wake up? Let me know if you are okay.
He was awake already, and this is what he sent in reply:
Me: That sounds close.
Me: Did you sleep?
Ahmed: A little.
Me: Wait…are those roosters?
Me: And are the loud sounds missiles?
Ahmed: Yeah, and bullets.
I think I can tell the difference. The pops are likely bullets, the booms are likely missiles. That last boom turned my stomach, and the roosters played with my brain—I associate rooster sounds with waking up in idyllic, rustic settings, like on a Tuscan farm at sunrise. But in this recording they sound less like crowing and more like screaming.
Ahmed: Go to sleep, sis. Have sweet dreams. Don’t worry, it will be okay in the morning.
And I hope he is right because I haven’t heard from him since.
*Because Ahmed and family are still in Syria and could be targeted, it is not safe to use their real names or photos.
Photo by Flicker User scribbletaylor, CC BY-NC 2.0; Stamp image by Wikimedia user Stan Shebs, Creative Commons