Thursday, February 21, 2013


You Wake up to horrible news. Your home area is blown to pieces.

You run to the phone, call every number you have for family members, aunts, uncles, cousins. No one answers. You start calling neighbors, friends, friends of friends, friends of neighbors. Nothing.

You run back to the TV, see the news coverage, then the Internet, more detailed coverage. Pictures of charred bodies in the streets.

You close your eyes.

You pick up the phone again, dial and count the endless beeps. No one answers. You go into the bathroom. Throw up your panic. Come out and watch more footage. Black smoke covers the screen. And then, a glimpse in the corner: part of a dwelling, a hole where your bedroom used to be.

You close your eyes again.

Stones, nothing more, you tell yourself. Not important. You run to the phone again, call friends who might know more, or have other sources of information.

The phone is useless.

You, standing in your living room thousands of miles away, are useless. You drop to the ground, double over and scream, then curse, then screams some more.

And finally, you break down and cry.

If you are lucky, the phone rings, or your computer beeps the arrival of a message from someone who made it and thought to let you know who’s injured, who’s not, and who won’t be coming home.

If you’re lucky.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


It takes practice to protect the ones you love.

You have to work hard
Give warm hugs
Wipe flowing tears
Grant shoulder rides
Tell half-truths
Invent pure lies
Use simple words to explain complicated matters.

You may need to cull certain people out of your life
Keep a watchful eye
Monitor small changes
Look for clues to determine possible heartache.

You can pray to a higher power when your hands are tied
Depend on lessons taught
Wait for a miracle
Swallow your fears
Hold your breath for sudden enlightenment to strike.

At times, you watch in silence.
Others, you scream away.
Use your fists on someone else’s face, blocking danger.
And some times, there’s nothing left to do but point a gun.

It takes practice to protect the ones you love.

Lilas Taha is a novelist, winner of the 2017 International Book Awards  and is the author of Shadows of Damascus and Bitter Almonds.

Friday, February 1, 2013

It's Time

I had to call on M’sieur BuĆhar again. For those of you who don’t know my friend, you can check out my post on October 19, 2012.

Two people were arguing, a difference of opinion between colleagues that should have passed amicably. I arrived late for the meeting, and had to filter through some comments to figure out what the main topic was all about. Once the heated discussion took full hold, one of the men involved started shifting in his seat, turning his body sideways away from the one opposing his view. That was a clear indication that he was not willing to consider the other man’s idea. Faces turned red, arms crossed in defiance, voices elevated considerably.

I looked around the room, people had their heads down, some fiddling with papers and folders, most likely pretending to read. I did the same and waited for the tantrum wave to pass, hoping we could get back to the main topic before the end of the meeting. But the two men kept at it, back and forth exchanging insults. Shouldn’t someone say something to end this childish behavior? Maybe if I stood up, quietly withdrew from the room, it would send a clear message to the quarrelling couple that they’ve stretched it far enough. Better than saying anything that might be taken for one side against the other.
I closed my folder, tucked my pen in my purse, put my hands on the table intending to push my seat back to get to my feet.
One of the arguing men called my name.
I looked up.
“What do you think?” he asked, his yes focused on me.
I was cornered. Any comment I thought of might have caused damage to either party.

You’ve probably watched a scene like this in many movies. The actor in place would have stumbled, stuttered, made some general comment that could be understood in many positive ways, or made a silly joke and the tension would break.

Well, this was not a movie. I was not an actress, though I wished I were. Why didn’t the phone ring at that moment? Why didn’t the secretary come into the room with an important message to relay to one of the guys causing this mayhem? Why didn’t the fire alarm suddenly go off? And why, in God’s name, did he choose me, of all the attendees to ask for my opinion?

It was time for M’sieur BuĆhar.

I closed my eyes and summoned M’sieur BuĆhar into the room. By now, I’ve become addicted to this solution. He was my savior. And true to his mission, he stormed into the room. He would know what to do. He would pull me out of this hole.

M’sieur BuĆhar put a hand on my shoulder, gently pushing my back to have me sit straighter in my chair, leaned his head closer to my face and placed his lips on mine.

“Je pense que vous êtes tous deux comporter comme des enfants. Je ne vais pas être partie à la folie.”

The words flew out of my mouth. M’sieur BuĆhar mouth, I should say. Everyone stared at me with quizzical eyes, confusion clear on their faces.

“Could you repeat that in English, please. We don’t speak French.” Someone said.

I pushed M’sieur BuĆhar head out of the way. He glued his lips to my ear and said in broken English, ”It is time to speak your mind.”

I knew it. I knew if I opened my mouth again, his words would fly out, no matter how hard I tried not to. He was my champion, after all. I took a deep breath and did just that. I spoke my mind. I told the two men they behaved like children and that I would not be part of their foolishness.

You want to know what happened next?
What can I say? M’sieur BuĆhar never failed me.

Lilas Taha is a novelist, winner of the 2017 International Book Awards  and is the author of Shadows of Damascus and Bitter Almonds.