May 17 ● BY Fawaz Haddad
Note from the Editor:
The following is an excerpt from the novel يوم الحساب or, Doomsday, published in May, 2021 by Riad Al-Rayyes Books. It was translated from the Arabic by Nour Al Ghraowi.
I am a dead person, in the protection of a martyr.
I will not tell you my real name. Announcing it would pledge my fate to a trial that won’t last longer than a minute or two in Sednaya prison. And right before the trial, they will take my fingerprints. Those fingerprints could be my confession or my death certificate, and I will wait blindfolded for my execution in the white building.
The name I carry belongs to a young martyr. I use it with careful consideration. I did not commit a crime, all I did was organize protests and relief work, in addition to helping some friends escape arrest. I was a member of the Youth Formats.
This precaution includes the people that will appear successively in the course of upcoming events. I am one of them, and the least important. If I was careful in mentioning their names, it’s because danger won’t pass them by. It will follow them no matter where they go, which is why I am determined to be cautious. There is no reason they should lose their lives just so I can write about them.
I am stuck in my city–Damascus–exiled within, chased by three branches of security, and maybe more. I am nothing more than a suspect in their files, even if I was accused of terrorism, like so many others, in addition to several other crimes, starting with the crime of weakening national sentiment. Even though the accusation of being a terrorist is more than enough. My name is at the top of the wanted list on all checkpoints around the city. And if I escape from them and find myself somehow safe, it’ll be thanks to the martyr who is protecting me. Likewise, I will protect his name.
But for the sake of this novel, my name is Hassan.
I get around with the martyr’s ID. He’s still alive in the official records, even though he actually died by a sniper’s bullet and was buried in secret. If his name shows up during an investigation, he will be considered wanted. His name will be all over town, on every checkpoint, and I will be arrested as him.
I wouldn’t know if he came back to life in time; I will know when the gun is already pointed at my head. And when they are interrogating me, if I don’t get killed by an angry executioner, my torture won’t stop until they send me to the court. Then, if I am unlucky, I will have a few more weeks to live. After that I won’t survive for long; I will live until the noose is around my neck.
I did not have a choice but to keep this martyr’s record clean of the revolution, the terrorism, and the bombing, even though he lost his life in a peaceful protest. Stealing his identity was a risk I was willing to take, and, despite that risk, it was the best thing that happened to me.
When will coincidence stop controlling my life? I don’t know. As long as the war lasts, the regime remains, and I don’t leave. There is always a chance of getting arrested, losing my life, and getting buried without a name in a mass grave. If I was a martyr, I’d already been a martyr. I will die without my real ID.
So I don’t exaggerate, nothing really happened to me. Every time I remember my friends’ bodies dirtied with mud and blood, I realize that was their destiny – death avoided me, or did me wrong because it seems my destiny is to live a longer and more painful life. If I thought that fate had taken care of me, I did not really count on it, because throughout the revolution and during the war I was targeted by snipers, the regime’s thugs, the secret service, and the army. If I get arrested, I won’t complain. This is the destiny of every person who protests the regime.
I survived arrest, but living in hiding isn’t really a blessing, as long as I am stuck with the memories of bodies, and body parts, in a country under siege and under the oversight of security agencies. Damascus is no longer a decent place to live. It’s an internment camp. What’s keeping me connected to the city is its monuments, its cement debris, the sandbag fortifications, the checkpoints, and the president’s pictures all over town; in the streets, in the ministries, companies, offices, schools, colleges, universities, alleyways, trees, camps, cars, and stores…There isn’t a place in this city that those killers cannot reach, they wave with slogans of promises and threats: “Assad or no one else.” “Assad or we burn this country” . . . We will never survive if we don’t kneel and bow our heads to his absolute authority and his bloodline that will rule forever.
Oh home, you are nothing more than a sweet and exhausting illusion.
I am determined to leave the country. I tried to convince my sister Samieh and her two kids to leave with me. She is hesitant, but I won’t let her stay. I will wait for her. I haven’t received an answer from her that reassures me. She says she will not leave the country until her detained husband is free
My girlfriend Rema, with whom I’ve lived this revolution and who I was to marry, doesn’t want to leave with me. She refused the idea completely. In her decision not to leave, she automatically decided to end a long-term relationship that was based on true love. The decision to break up was mutual, and we both agreed this is the best thing we can do. I will leave, and she will remain stuck in a revolution with nothing but refugees and victims. Rema is stubborn, she still has hope that she can do something, as if God has chosen her for a mission, and even if she knew that this mission was set to fail, she would never give up on it.
I said to her, “If you really had a mission, then it’s outside of the country and not inside.”
“Is that why you’re leaving?” she replied sarcastically.
I will never give up on her. My expectation is that she will leave with me. I will keep trying to convince her. And if I say I cannot imagine life without her, then I assure you I am telling her the truth.
No matter how vast the world is, it will always feel small when I’m alone.
I can’t completely disappear from sight. My movements are minimal, pending the dream of departure, lest I expose myself to arrest by sheer coincidence, and it is common to see the intelligence forces, security, and the national defense patrols roaming the streets, looking for prey.
I do not want to get into any adventures and I have no mental capacity to help anyone. However, friendship has its rights, and a friend of mine who has already left the country, and with whom I’ve spent so many days of the revolution and war, has asked me for a favor. He called me and asked me to meet a woman who’s coming from Paris to Syria. She has a simple humanitarian issue she needed to figure out. But we both know that there is nothing simple in a beautiful country that has become an unsafe forest where women and children are always subject to kidnapping.
My friend has provided me with some information about this woman, but not enough. She’s a Syrian lady with Parisian citizenship. She teaches History of The Middle East at The University of Paris. She will arrive in a week, and when she does, he will set up a meeting for us. His description of her is short black hair, blue eyes, and a teal scarf. As for the favor, it was to help her in any way possible. He gave me no more details about her problem or how I can help.
I don’t like this mission for many reasons; one of which is going back into the public spaces, cafés, and streets that I have decided to frequent less. I am afraid helping her is going to take a long time and delay my departure, and that it won’t be worth it. I’ve realized that her problem isn’t simple, and even though he described it as a humanitarian problem, I want to pull out of it.
He set up our meeting at Al-Cham Hotel, but I asked him to change it to Al-Nawfara Café. He protested, saying that even though she’s Syrian, she left Syria when she was very young, so she will not be able to find Al-Nawfara Café. I did not accept his rejection, saying that she could ask any passerby and they would tell her where the café is. My reason was that Al-Cham hotel was too public, whereas Al-Nofara café is in old Damascus alleyways, where it’s safer.
Al-Nawfara Café is frequented by different types of people, and a good number of educated people and artists. But after the revolution, not many people visited the café anymore, due to the difficulties to get there and the expensive transportation. The café is in a safe area, behind Umayyad Mosque, even though mosques are suspected areas because that is where most protests started. But right now there are no protests and no revolution. The suspicion level was low; the mosques were under strict surveillance.The café no longer aroused the Formats’ suspicion. A beautiful lady at the café might get their attention, but they wouldn’t care about an educated young man with his light blazer, jeans, and unshaved beard, who’s sipping on his sugarless tea.
I recognized her by her blue eyes and the hallmark teal scarf wrapped around her shoulders. Her beauty was striking despite her pale features; white skin, tight lips, and short black hair. I don’t know what came over me at that moment. I wanted to turn around and leave. I hesitated, and I was annoyed with my friend for his insistence on meeting her. She could draw attention to both of us.
I was worried that maybe she was in connection with the Syrian opposition abroad. I feared losing the security I was so privileged to possess. I needed to always be careful, so I wouldn’t get arrested due to a simple mistake or neglect. At the time, those who survived were roaming around Europe, longing for Syria without hope of returning. It was my desire not to be bound to them, even though they do nothing more than write statements and sign petitions, and do activities that don’t go beyond protesting in complete safety. The intelligence forces consider any connection abroad as employment by the west, and an excuse to accuse them of treason. While I was cutting ties with my acquaintances inside, arrests were nonstop.
For a moment, I stood staring at her. She was looking at my features while her tight lips formed a smile. It’s too late to back out now, they must’ve given her my description and she recognized me. I walked towards her. I will talk to her for a bit and if her problem is simple, I will help her. But if her problem is complicated, I will make up an excuse, apologize, and leave.
I contemplated her as I approached; she was wearing a gray jacket, with an open-at-the-neck white blouse underneath, and her small purse was on the table. She was staring at me with a cold look. I expected to meet with a woman in her forties, but it seemed that she was around thirty-five, or less. Nowadays, it is hard to determine the age of women, especially those who live abroad. They chase the latest secrets of industrial beauty, even if her beauty seemed natural; no lipstick, no mascara, or arm tattoo. The reassuring thing is that she doesn’t look like western fighters, no tattered hair, no angry features, and no sharp looks.
She stood up, extended her arm, and shook my hand.
She said, in a low voice, “I am Rehab.”
I responded coldly. “I’m Hassan.”
Her delicate voice convinced me that she had nothing to do with the revolution and the poor, nor with the feminist movement. After I sat down, all of my suspicions disappeared. She didn’t say anything. Her eyes were wandering over the paintings on the broad wall; there were pictures of Antarah Bin Shaddad and his beloved Abla amidst colorful patterns, along with black and white pictures of men in fez and turbans. She seemed interested in folk arts. Her smile showed her admiration for the naiveté of this kind of Damascene heritage. Perhaps folklore art was a hobby of hers she wanted to invest in now that the capital was quieter, while my friend has taken advantage of our friendship and told her about me as if art was a humanitarian mission.
At first glance, I realized why I didn’t like this meeting. The owner of the scarf did not need help; she was only a decent woman who was curious, sipping on her tea in a shabby cafe, overshadowed by the remnants of the fragrant hookahs’ tobacco, crammed between uncomfortable wooden chairs and small tables made out of tin. Despite the fact that there were potted plants lined up at the outskirts of its entrance, and green leaves of pergola, the atmosphere was coarse and lacked poetics.
If I were to help her with something, it seemed that it would be about something hanging on the walls, for the space is folkloric, not devoid of folk tales. I will provide her with some information about Damascene mosaics, and Antara’s poems, about his love for Abla. We won’t be hanging out for an extended period of time, because the storyteller won’t be long this evening, as long as Ramadan is far. I did not go on, lest I imagine Sarah’s story, whose revelation would be disappointing.
Her smile quickly disappeared behind a serious mask, and my impression of her was shaken. Her pale features were no longer soft. I thought, since she comes from Paris, it’s hard to understand what she wants. Maybe this Middle Eastern university professor came to be oriental in a country that was once hers and now has become a perfect example of allegations of booby-trapped religious activities: explosives, beheadings, mutilated corpses. I did not rule out the idea that she could be a feminist hoping to provoke a scandal by revealing what has been happening in the women’s refuge camps, where they are bartering sex for food.
If her lingering problem was of these types, I would not be her guide among the religious people who wear robes and beards and veiled and women who wear burqa’, who live on the front lines fighting. I would make it up to her with a tour of the markets in Old Damascus, which is very close, it starts with Al-Buzuriyah and Al-Hamidiyah, and the narrow, intertwined markets that branch off from them, the tour will end in the afternoon, then I will invite her to lunch at the Abu Al-Ezz restaurant, then we will eat ice cream at Al Bakdash store. And in the end, we would promise to see each other soon, but we would never meet.
I scanned the crowd around me with a leisurely look, waiting without a desire to speak. I did not rule out the fact that there could be a circulating detective at the cafe this morning who might declare his presence to me rudely, just because I looked bored and was accompanied by a woman whose features seemed to be resentful. He might then think he has found an insignificant prey, and interrupt rudely, asking questions with utmost harshness, to demonstrate importance. Then who knows what might happen.
I recovered my bad mood, but resolved to get rid of it before one of us appeared
suspicious. After consideration, I realized I wasn’t obligated to give her a tour, nor did I owe her any apology, and that it would be best if we leave this cafe as soon as possible. If an intelligence patrol raides us, I will end up in one of the basements for hours getting my skin peeled, delivered several bruises, with my eyes pulled out or a broken jaw, or worse, while she will only end up deported back to France.
The waiter approached, asking what I would like to drink. I told him I was leaving soon so he left us. She didn’t realize that I was in a hurry to leave, so she rose, saying:
“You don’t want to hear what I have to say?”
“I am afraid that you are being watched.”
I found an excuse to ask her not to speak too loudly, and to be short. As her time became limited, she commented, lightly, “I am not being watched.”
“How do you know?”
She said it angrily. Then I realized I had missbehaved for no reason. My mistake was that I inserted her into my fears, and she hadn’t even asked me for anything.
“If you are that angry, then why did you show up?”
I wasn’t in a good mood. My phone call with my sister Samieh this morning worried me, and my date with Rema was postponed.
“You don’t know how difficult things are here, and I do not want to depress you.”
Amazement appeared on her face.
“You will help me, I don’t know anyone else that I can trust,” she begged.
“I can only offer limited help, I can’t even help myself!”
I don’t know why I told her about my problem; there was no room for it. Then I realized I was dodging her, and trying to escape her because it seemed she was trying to embarrass me and close any outlet for me:
“I don’t have a lot of options, you won’t abandon me, will you?”
I realized her problem was deeper than I thought and even worse.
“I seem to be confused,” I said, surrendering.
My confession was nothing but deference to her. I did not expect what I would hear from her, it was completely contrary to what I had in my head.
She came to inquire about a young man who had been lost in Damascus.
My thinking changed completely. I thought she was searching for her young brother or a dear relative, I formed very bad episodes in my head; searching for relatives, asking around about them, following the news, whether good or bad, but always contradicting, in which most – if not all – are made up of lies, then comes the tragic news, the tears, the pulling of hair then fainting.
I asked her, without any hesitation, just to make sure,“Is he your brother, or a relative of yours?”
“He was one of my students.”
I made modifications to what I had imagined. Perhaps she had volunteered to ask about the young man to please his university friends. She had wanted to demonstrate a noble motive…All right, no tears, and no hair-pulling, no more than exhibiting sadness.
To avoid digression in my imagination, and making up scenarios that most likely won’t hold, I let her speak.
The young man she’s searching for is George Iqouni, a Syrian student at The University of Paris. He returned to Damascus, then disappeared for about six years. Right before he disappeared, he managed to deliver a message to his mother and sisters asking them not to look for him, this way no harm could fall to them because of him. He did not tell them about his return or whereabouts.
For years his mother never contacted him, and he never contacted her. She didn’t even know of his return to Syria. A few months ago, his mother asked a cousin of his to go to France looking for him, then he learned from his friends that he had left the University six years ago and that he had most likely gone back to Damascus. The search for him led his cousin to his professors at the University.
“When his cousin asked me about him, I asked for his mother’s address. I immediately called and informed her that a year after his return to Syria I haven’t heard anything from or about him.”
The news was a shock to the mother. After thinking her son was in Paris all of those years, to discover that he had actually been in Damascus.
Due to the fact that she knew the young man, and felt sad for his mother, she decided to help, so she came to Damascus. Some of his Syrian friends in Paris also volunteered to help out his grieving mother.
“It was one of his friends who made my meeting with you possible, in the hope that we know where he is, what happened to him, and whether he’s alive.”
“Or dead.” I said.
“Yes, or dead.”
I hadn’t said it to upset her. She had come from far away for me to disappoint her. But oh, how easy it is to tell her the truth! The bad possibilities are endless, the good ones are few. I won’t tell her, even if that is going to save her a pointless search. It is better she knows at the outset of her effort even if it is not going to bear any fruit.
“After all those years, it is difficult to obtain accurate or satisfactory information about him, so I advise you to go back to where you came from.”
I didn’t say that just to say it, it was the reality. I didn’t expect her reaction to be so angry. She snapped angrily and stared at me with rage. She tried to lower her voice:
“I didn’t come here to hear this answer, just say you have no desire to help me.”
“Don’t expect anyone to help you.”
“Yes, I am scared, but I will try my best.”
She calmed down and said that she had an idea about the situation and that she doesn’t need to know anymore. In order for our cooperation to be parallel, she said she wouldn’t hide the fact that she would not be depending on me alone. There were other people in Paris who have acquaintances in Syria, and they expressed a desire to help the family. They told her about a senior ministerial official, whom she met yesterday. She dropped him from her account after he apologized to her and denied her request. He said he cannot inquire about the security of a missing young man, lest they think this matter is very important to him, or that he is mediating in exchange for a large bribe. He wasn’t worried about his title but about his family. However, he did give her the address of another senior security officer.
“What are you going to do?”
“I promised to meet him soon.”
“If you go, you might never come back.”
“But I have to.”
“How old were you when you left Damascus?”
“You don’t know anything about this regime.”
“I’ve read enough about them.”
“If you’ve only read, then that’s not enough, you should’ve lived with them for a while to understand which country you’re in right now.”
She pretended she didn’t hear me and said, “I am going to meet him, I might get some information from him.”
“If you are going to turn to them, you made a huge mistake by speaking to me,” I said, apologetically.
“If they don’t have any information, I will need you.”
I did not mistake the hope that appeared in her eyes for disappointment. I could’ve promised her but I preferred to tell her the truth that my presence in Damascus, no matter how long it will be, is only temporary, so she shouldn’t count on me for something I might not be able to fulfill.
“I will be emigrating at any time now, and might not have the time to help you as I wish, but I will try my best, trust me.”
“I do trust you.”
I gave her my phone number and asked her to memorize it and never to save it in her phone. But she was hung up on the idea of my leaving the country.
“Leave the country, is that right?” she said.
I almost made fun of her. If only she knew how many people this country has cost us. As if she was judging me, she said: “You didn’t answer my question.”
What bothered me most was that this question has no place for it now, especially since she had abandoned her Syria and become French.
“If we meet again, don’t ask me that question.”
I left without looking back.
Even though I shouldn’t have been worried, I had more than one reason to be upset before meeting this French lady, who was Syrian. That morning I received a call from my sister Samieh; the lawyer had informed her that the release of her husband, Hatem, from Sednaya prison wouldn’t be long, that it would happen as soon as he appears in front of the court. The judge was convinced that his case had no basis, the investigations had not condemned him. The news was reassuring, but I was still worried. Oftentimes something would happen last minute and hinder his release, and things turned upside down.
Hatem’s case had taken a strange turn after he was referred to the inspection committee as a result of possessing scandalous and malicious information, and, contrary to any investigation or judiciary, he was taken to the branch, and then from that branch to another. We received news about him from time to time. His case was economical and had nothing to do with politics or the war. Their excuse as to why the procedure had not run its course was the stockpile of detainees in prisons and the terrorism cases in the courts.
Hatem’s detention had exceeded the maximum of three years for a charge without evidence, and the investigations exhausted their missions without proving anything, turning it into a security case in which they did not provide accusations related to terrorism. Their case failed.
This would be Hatem’s last chapter. But even if he was to make it through this mess, he still wouldn’t be released despite his innocence and whatever actions his family might take. The lawyer would soon let us know how much it would cost to release him. My sister repeatedly explained that she wouldn’t think about leaving until Hatem was released.
That day, knowing his release day was approaching, Samieh told me she wasn’t excited about leaving. She didn’t want to leave her job at the Ministry of Industry, and asked me to reconsider the whole idea myself, which took me back to my attempts to convince Rema to leave. She had failed me time and time again and threatened our relationship would collapse, as if it wasn’t already collapsing. I had proposed she marry me before leaving the country, but she’d insisted on delaying it, saying she wouldn’t leave “right now.” But it was not “right now,” it was an unknown period. I reminded her that she was approaching her thirties, which is a critical age at which to remain unmarried, and that she shouldn’t wait any longer. “You don’t want family and kids?” She refused. She wouldn’t get married simply because she was approaching her thirties–even if that meant abandoning the idea of marriage altogether.
I asked her, “Do you want to get rid of me?”
She replied, “I will either marry you or not marry at all.”
Our relationship was a sample of foolish love stories, which led to intractability so that neither of us could do without the other. At the same time, we were due to separate without separating. I was attached to her, as much as she was attached to me. There was no salvation for me without her and no salvation for her without me. We traded off being mad at one another. We took turns; one day she was mad and the other day I was…
Our story had grown even more complicated in recent months. I didn’t know exactly what had changed. The relationship was turning into a tragedy without a solution. There was no way out. Rema was waiting for me to back down from my position, while I was waiting for her to admit to the reality of the situation. There is no hope of change in this country, except for the worse.
Her unyielding argument was: “This situation won’t last long.”
My answer was always: “There is no other way.”
In the face of her insistence and lack of retraction, there was no escape from a solution that could loosen the difficult knot of our story, even if its ending were to be decisive–parting–this was beyond our power.
I considered a temporary solution; to become friends while I traveled, which was better than estrangement, or pretending as if one of us did not know the other. This wasn’t but another foolish step, though I was sure she would change her mind in time.
What changed thereafter? Nothing. As long as Rema stuck to her decision to stay, our relationship remained the same: friendship alone. One of the drawbacks was that I couldn’t say goodbye to her at once. I did it gradually, which was exhausting for me even if it seemed easier to her. She wasn’t suffering like me, she was waiting for me to give up and change my mind.
As I lost her gradually, and despite my dream of what could become of her, she was also afraid of those kinds of goodbyes that are never-ending, the ones we experience over and over again.
The inventive “Friendship Scenario” did not succeed in laying out a roadmap to actually ending our story, even if we stopped acting like a loving couple. We were trying not to be alone, and to always meet in public whether with friends or without. We each hoped that the other would fade away, so we stayed like this, in an extended and fluid relationship.
What I feared most is that Rema would go back to thinking seriously about the revolution and rekindling old friendships, but where were they? The Formats had broken up and there was no trace of their existence. Before they were nothing more than an assumption, even if the whole country was shaken in the first year of the revolution, and it almost overthrew the regime, then it faded, and its members scattered throughout neighboring countries and the world, except for those who died in detention.
My waiting aroused some apprehension about Rema’s involvement in the secret work all over again, even though she denied it. But with time my fears became real. She was involved in some secret activities after the hidden ones gathered in the diaspora and remained in contact with each other. Her web designing job allowed her an open space with no way to communicate with them. She clung to her claim that her movements inside the country were limited to distributing food baskets to the displaced in the camps, which were donated by businessmen and charitable societies, and to urging lawyers to defend detainees in regime prisons. While she hid the fact that she was helping the families of the opposition find refuge in Jordan and Lebanon, which was very dangerous, I knew of it all. I didn’t blame her. Her humanitarian work prohibited me from criticizing her, and even if it was the right thing, it was very dangerous.
She was threatened no matter how careful she was. I asked her to stop any suspicious activities, it wouldn’t do her any good in this chaos. I advised her not to get involved in activities against the regime, and to rethink everything she had refused before, which was saving ourselves by leaving the country. She asked me to stop trying to escape reality by trying to emigrate. As long as we are not caught, we can do something. The fact that she knows I’m on the wanted list and has accepted the idea of me leaving, but she did not encourage it. She doesn’t want to lose me, but me staying means I will be within their reach, and in a sense surrendering to them. I will not be able to resist unless I decide to disappear once and for all, without leaving a trace, and live in complete isolation. This solution means not to be together, while my decision was to start another life. Even if she does not accompany me at first, my belief is that she will realize that surviving in Damascus is, too, a loss of life, and will follow me.
“We must leave, before there comes a day when we will not find someone to say goodbye to.”
Our friends and famillies were dwindling; some of them emigrated and some of them died, others committed suicide, others were arrested and returned to their families, flogged to bones, and perhaps mentally deranged, or they are still detained by the intelligence services and their families are paying money for news as to whether they are dead or alive.
Rema was very considerate of me and didn’t hide her activities. Apart from her desire not to implicate me, she was overly cautious for my own safety. I didn’t want to separate, even if that meant more safety for both of us. She was optimistic:
“There is an end I wish we do not cross.”
These fears turned the friendship into another relationship, founded on sacrifice and altruism. It was in tune with our fantasies of undying love, in a time when death flowed like yellow air. It was a support for us to resist struggle years ago. But today, we resist what? And we fight for what? The idea was entirely illusory, and if it was true, it became very naive, as if we are still living love and revolution in their first innocence and sacrificing our happiness for the people and the country. She didn’t realize that we are not able to offer something to the people who are doomed, and a country that had been destroyed.
Sometimes I think I haven’t passed my teenage years, just like Rema, how her femininity did not mature despite the feminist movement that she was attracted to for a period of time. What about our natural right to love? As if we missed the age of adulthood. What can love do to a defeated revolution? Nothing. And if this love has not diminished in this dark period, it is because it knows more than it knows.
We were living a love story in the middle of hell.
She disclosed that there was no secret in its creation, which might be true.
She said: “I found meaning in my life.”
So I said to her: “There is no meaning to life here, life is on the outside.”
As if there is meaning to life, more than just living.
Under the influence of the meaning of life, our relationship broke up, perhaps for the tenth time. We thought there was no point in trying to get it back… but as per usual we got it back, and it didn’t break.
I called her in the morning before going to my appointment at the Al-Nawfara Café. I asked her to meet me not in Rawada cafe with friends, but alone in the cafeteria, the conversation involved us alone. She said she couldn’t meet, she’s sick. I asked her what was wrong.
She responded delicately, “I am sick for no reason.”
I realized it was period pain, so I did not insist. The argument would be heated and our voices would rise up and her already bad mood would explode in my face, which would make me angry with her. So we postponed our meeting for a few days.