GHOUTA, Damascus Province – The long road is riddled with obstacles and mines. Only luck determines whether a person crosses it safely. This dark road is lit only by faith and the shattered remains of dreams.
For three days, news about the road dwarfed everything else. The road opened its arms, and the bodies of the young men fighting to keep it open lined up like a bridge, one martyr after another, so that the living could make it to the other side.
For three days, the voice of the muezzins echoed, but not with the call to prayer. These soft, sputtering sounds were lost in the wind before we could hear their full names. Every time we heard the megaphone crackle, we knew it would announce the addition of a new martyr to the many who had defied the ruthless road. There isn’t much time for grief.
Everyone had come to terms with the fact that the road will be paved again with the bodies of these youths. There was grief, but also joy. Everyone was celebrating the road, following the news about it and pretending to be a part of it, as though we were one long human chain carrying pickaxes and moving slowly but steadily down that road.
Down that road, there would be milk and eggs for hungry children, warm clothing, and golden wheat waiting to be turned into bread by ladies’ magical hands. There were medicines waiting to ease patients’ pains and save lives. Down the road was a lost Eden, a promise of a semblance of life, a promise of warmth, repletion, and healing.
Blood-sucking tradesmen also joined the celebrations of the road. Suddenly their shelves were piled up with some of the goods they had stashed away, and people punished them by buying nothing. When the road opens its arms tomorrow, they said, you will have to shamefully bury the goods you had hidden!
Those three days held more dreams than three years. They held plans for the future, plans of those who wanted to leave and those who wanted to come back. Even the other besieged regions had an eye on the battle, as though it would lift the siege off them as well. What lies beyond the road is nothing like what came before it.
News of the road soon waned, however, and it was said that it had swallowed the blood of those youths and closed in on their bodies. Dreams of the lost Eden down the road were put on hold. Yet no one forgets these moments of hope, how they turned everyone from tired old creatures into winged beings celebrating the joy and life to come.
The road closed down on these hopes, but it did not affect these emotions. Chance reminded us of what lies ahead, and that all this pain may be tolerable when we reach the end of the road.
The road ahead is still long and riddled with obstacles and mines. The end is still blocked, and what lies beyond it remains unknown – what lies beyond the siege, the revolution, and the war. It is a dream binding us all, as though we were one long human chain carrying pickaxes and moving slowly but steadily down that road. So blessed are those who eventually cross it.