It’s been two years since my dreams first started to echo my nightmares and now the two have become inseparable. They can be long, deep and torturous or staccato sharp, broken and shattered but, in timbre at least, they are always the same.
We were deployed to Hermal, a town in the north east of Lebanon, to try to keep the peace after months of civil unrest. Here, the children would play football in the streets as the women offered scarves, crafts and tea from stalls in the market. The men would relax with games of backgammon or cards and drink and smoke until the smoke clouds hung low with heady smells of molasses, damson and date.
When we knocked on the door to our rendezvous, there was no reply. We had to wait and there was never a wait we didn’t expect.
Then the blast.
The white light, the heat and, looking back, a quietness.
My first thought was not of the pain or even any immediate danger but of the betrayal from something I’d relied on and a constant in everyone’s lives.
It’s a simple threshold I’d passed seamlessly through a million times but that single doorway will stay with me.
Two years after all my travels and after all my years there are now only two things I wish to find behind any closed door.
The first is my family and friends peaceful, safe and sound.
The other, quite simply, is nothing at all.