As part of a collaboration between Syria Deeply and Rookie, we’re publishing the memoirs of a teenage girl living in the midst of Syria’s war. Marah, as she’s chosen to be known, lives in a city under siege. She was 15 years old when the uprising began. This is the tenth in her series of articles.
Once upon time, there was a girl called Marah. When she reached her teenage years, she dreamed about meeting the man of her dreams. She wanted him to be smart and handsome. She wanted to get married wearing a white wedding dress.
Like young girls everywhere, she waited for the moment when her knight in shining armor would surprise her.
That girl was me. I had my first encounter with young love at 15. One day, I realized I was being followed to school by a boy who used to live in the area close to my house. He was tall, dark and handsome. He had big eyes and wore beautiful clothes. He wasn’t like any of the other guys I’d seen around.
One day, the boy plucked up the courage to approach me. He asked if we could talk for five minutes. Without giving it a thought, I accepted. He confessed that he liked me and that he wanted to befriend me, but I got shy, put on airs and refused his friendship. He was saddened by my response, and I couldn’t sleep a wink that night. Why did I behave like I did? What completely absurd behavior! I kept wondering if he would give up on me or if he would try to talk to me again. I decided that should he ask again for my friendship, I would accept.
The next day, the boy got my cell phone number. He called me and opened up about the sadness I had caused him by refusing his overtures. We talked for over an hour. That’s when our friendship began. We got closer over the phone, but in person, we didn’t talk to each other. We only shared stolen looks. We were afraid people would know that our friendship had grown into our first love.
We dreamed of living in a different world where we could openly declare our feelings, but when Syria’s war began three years ago, the boy decided to fight with the opposition. Before he left our city, he asked me to meet him at the library. There, he told me he’d be gone for two months of training. I cried a lot. His hand reached my face and settled on my cheek. Our first physical contact! I blushed.
For two months, I didn’t hear from him. I was a teenager in love in a time of conflict; I was scared for him and yearned for him. Then he returned and we met, once again, at the library. We ran towards each other and grabbed hands. He wanted to hug me, but I refused: I am from a conservative family and was brought up with strong religious values that prevented me from being physically affectionate with him in public.
For a long time, we stayed in the library talking about our present and future. He said he was going to fight on the city’s front lines the next day. I was terrified. I begged him not to go, but he had already made up his mind. He held my hand and begged me not to forget him. It was as if he was saying his goodbyes.
The boy was killed at the front. When I got the news, I couldn’t believe it. I cried and thought I would die. My mother, who knew nothing of my romance, realized there was something wrong. I finally told her the whole story, regardless of how she would react. My sadness was unbearable.
I spent that first night after he died thinking of him. I dreamed we were walking together in the rain. I couldn’t forgive myself for refusing to hug him. I wished a thousand times that I had hugged him. I really did!
The next morning, I walked silently to his grave and placed the flowers there. I refused to believe he was gone. Don’t mock me, but my broken heart tells me that I will meet him again. It’s now been two years since my first love died in battle. Even as I work to finish my education, I keep his memory with me.