A Dark Paradise: Baghdad in War

Eyes wept with ichors instead of tears. How divine one can be, surviving the flesh-eating war that was filled with golden ashes! This war had delineated the outer lines of my persona. Dismay had become my imaginary friend, comforting me with every direction I attended.

Home was the most terrifying place. Frightened of slipping away to that Cimmerian place, I was. Scarlet red, the streets were; filled with the desires of the pristine.

A zombie-ous neighborhood, I grew up in. “The Street of Death,” as the American soldiers called it. The years six and seven after the second thousand were the most formidable. No man of Shia religion could walk in a Sunni neighborhood, and vice versa.

Our street was blocked. No living human could walk down the streets freely; and that was because of the extremists. Every day between every two buildings, there must be a corpse. An immaculate man with no crime but his beliefs was put to death; I remember clearly walking among the dead and praying to not be their companion while my destination was only to get to school.

I could not leave my education; that was their aim, for us to be as ignorant as they are. I refused to walk on the path of oblivion. One day, as I was crossing the street with my mom and my sister, I saw several corpses; my mom had stones in her hand that left me puzzled with questions, and a dog that was ruminating on a man’s chest. I froze with bewilderment, untying the threads of my mom’s stones puzzle.

The dog started chasing our fear; with a stone made out of courage we were saved. I heard a dripping sound, turned around and my mom shouted at me; it was the head of a dead policeman on top of a traffic light. I did not say anything; just looked at my mom and smiled, so she would know that I am not afraid although my heart was shivering with disgust.

If one attempted to move the corpses, he would end up in their place. Those days showed us what it meant to starve; one could not go out and shop for food because the snipers would shoot whomever who was carrying a bag in his hand. One day, strangely bright, I was desperately dragging my feet towards school; crossing the street from the building where I live to the other side where the bridge that carries me to safety lays. I heard an odd sound; a tank!

An American tank that came to unblock our street! They took the corpses with them. The street came back to life. People went out celebrating, as if nothing had happened. Denial, how peculiar it is.

On a bitter winter day on the ninth year of the war, I had a chemistry test; all of a sudden I felt as if someone had pushed me against the wall in undesirable reactions. And seeing the glass, as frigid as frost, its pieces were flying like soaring bullets. Shocked and confused I walked outside of the building; not knowing what had happened. I was feeling as lonely as darkness itself. I rushed to hug my friend’s little sister.

My face was wet with tears, without me knowing of them. Everything was terrifyingly quiet it seemed to me. She was crying, squeezing my left hand, and waking me up from my traumatized self. Hearing the bombs one after the other, my only thought was that I needed to get her out of this alive.

She was annoyed by my hand gushing with blood; I apologized, and promised her that “I will get you back to your mother, and I will see you on Sunday, so don’t you worry, my princess.” At that moment, the bombing stopped, and it started pouring black rain.

By: Lea Hariri From Sulaimani, Iraq

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