It was New Year’s Day and we were enjoying Syrian coffee and delicious homemade coconut cookies in Mohammad’s apartment in Athens. The kids were eating the chocolates we had brought for them and watching cartoons on the phone. Mohammad was playing the tambor and singing songs in Kurdish.
Manal brought out a stack of large photographs of their wedding. “Before Manal very very beautiful,” Mohammad said. But I said she’s beautiful now. “Yes now beautiful, but before very very beautiful,” he said, “like model.” We looked through the photographs, which seemed like from another lifetime, although it was just five years ago. Manal in full makeup, with elaborate hairdos, in shimmering ball gowns in red and green, with tiaras and dangly diamond earrings; Mohammad groomed and dapper with dark hair and chiseled features. They looked longingly at their former selves. “My teeth fall here, my hair gray here,” Mohammad said.
Manal came across one photograph, of her father. She kissed it and hugged it to her face, and cried. If I understood correctly, her father was in the hospital in Damascus undergoing heart surgery. “I cry for my dad, my dad cry for me, “ she said.
Photo: Saanya Ali