Sunday, June 25, 2017


Baby birds outside Layla's window in Damascus

"When are you coming to Damascus?" Layla voice is strong thru the telephone. I am sitting in her niece's (my sister of choice) flat in Puteaux, just outside of La Defense in Paris.

It is hot. We've just had a breakfast, half Syrian with its yogurt and olive oil, half French with its croissants.

"When it is calmer." Her niece has told me before handing me the phone that Layla has said bombs were going off not too far from her.

Layla's voice bring back so many memories. I met her when she visited her niece  who at the time lived across the hall from me in Geneva. This was the in the 1990s.

I stayed with her every time I went to Damascus. She showed me her favorite parts of the city, herded me across terrifying traffic, took me with her to visit her friends. She roamed the country with her niece, her other niece and me. We saw Aleppo when it was beautiful, the lost cities and the ancient city of Ebla, a ruin from 3000 BC.

There were 17,000 cuneiform tablets translated by an Italian professor, I later met him in Rome while researching a novel I cannot write because the plot is about a peaceful Syria.

Even more I remember the days sitting in her living room with other friends, many of whom I came to know when they had visited Geneva. We sipped mate laced with cardamon thru silver spoon/straws and nibbled seeds and talked and talked and...

The women spoke in English to me as much as possible, lapsing into Arabic sometimes, than providing me with a summary. Our lives have been very different and yet at the same time there were so many things we had in common as women.

Layla's niece put on the speaker phone. Layla went to Arabic with her niece translating for us both when necessary.

I would love to be in her living room again.

Even more I would love the bombs to stop.

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