Distant trauma — the body’s intact, but the heart’s shattered.

I just woke up from a dream. A nightmare, rather. I was in Lebanon, visiting. At my uncle’s, Ammo Charbel. Backside balcony. Must have been a Sunday, right before lunch. The men were in the backyard, fighting, playfully. They were building a wall and competing over who puts in the largest number of bricks. The typical nonsense dreams are made of. They end up building a huge wall that climbs high into a perfectly blue sky, and as I look up to check it out, I see a large missile heading right into it.

I freak out. I see the missile landing, slowly. I see it exploding, slowly. And I see the wave coming at me, slowly. I run inside. I register the glass balcony doors. “Avoid the glass”, my mind tells me. So I run further inside, find a mattress, hide under it, and then boom. I hear the ceiling collapse over me.

Seconds later, I’m still alive. Unharmed. I run outside and start screaming the names of my cousins, one by one. Hanane?? Rana?? Samar?? I get very calm, puzzled yeses. Weird. Hanane was quietly reading. Rana was playing with her daughter. Then I see Hala, my sister, quietly sitting around. She looks at me, bewildered. I ask if they are alright and they all, confusedly, say yes. Within moments I realize that nothing had happened. I get that feeling you get when you dream of having gone to school naked. It was all a matter of my imagination. A sort of a bad dream within a bad dream. There was no explosion. Everyone was safe. But me. Sort of.

I start crying, profusely. Tears just won’t stop. I turn around and everywhere I look, one of my cousins’ faces stares right back at me. With sympathy. I don’t want their sympathy. It makes me angry. They are the ones who need my sympathy, not me. They are the ones who stayed, not me. Makes me cry even harder. And they sympathize even harder. And I can’t escape the cycle.

Until I wake up. And start raging about that trauma. A trauma I never really experienced. A trauma I only witnessed from thousands of miles away. How could it be? I wasn’t there. Now I’m overwhelmed with feelings of guilt for manifesting signs of a trauma I’m not even entitled to. I wasn’t there. I don’t even deserve the trauma, do I? I wasn’t there.



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Manal Kahi

Manal Kahi

Believer in empathy, humor & good food. Avid consumer of books, movies & music. Occasionally put down my own thoughts on paper (on iPhone / Evernote, rather)