Don’t forget to bring the pictures.
The pictures from childhood, the pictures from school and university years, the pictures from engagements and weddings…These are some of the most important things people care about when they feel that the world around them is about to come to an end.
In war, one impossible dream people may have is to be able to dismantle their homes brick by brick, so that they could rebuild them anew, once the missiles stop falling.
Most people refuse for their memories to be erased, and do not accept to be turned into individuals without a history. It is as if people are hardwired to be attached to their past.
After the July War, the significance of these things has been ingrained into the mindset of some people, who have become all too aware of the prospect of another war that might destroy what the previous war could not.
The losses they heard many stories about have not been erased from their memories. But some people are ashamed to talk about material losses, when such a large number of people had perished.
Fouad was aware of how brutal that war was. Despite this, he refused to abandon his home. He went to check on his house every day, and would never shower outside it, until the house fell on the 26th day of the war.
Although Fouad managed to get all his family’s important paperwork and certificates from the house, a lot was left behind.
Meanwhile, Dima says she no longer enjoys buying the items that usually define her. She now fears owning things as such. She feels that there is nothing that she can really truly keep and preserve.
For Dima, loss produced an aversion to material possessions – in the sense that she doesn’t make any effort to protect her belongings anymore – and taught her that she cannot truly possess these items. Her house collapsed, taking with it all the things that had once constituted her world.
Dima lost her baby clothes, which her mother insisted on keeping for her grandchildren. She also lost the drawings she made as a child, and a journal in which her friends used to write their wishes for her at the end of each school year.
In addition, her music collection and library were gone, along with many belongings of hers. In fact, since the war ended, Dima has not wanted to buy any music CDs, and if there was a book rental service available in Beirut, then she would have probably stopped buying books too.
Meanwhile, Dima’s mother is adamant about keeping all important papers in the same bag, in anticipation of any emergency. Of course, war with Israel would be the biggest emergency, but random incidents are not any less serious.
Dima seems to have lost a sense of things, unlike her mother, whose ‘sense of preparedness’ has grown stronger instead. This is what the war did to them. It has put people in a state where they are always ready to leave, at a moment’s notice, with their identification papers.
Many who had lost their IDs and certificates went through a great deal of hardship to obtain new ones. This is why these documents have become staple necessities for making one’s escape, followed by other intimate effects.
Because of the July War, Firas remains in a state of perpetual concern. He left Dahiyeh, Beirut’s southern suburb, and moved to Beirut. But his parents are still in the ‘danger zone’, or at least, this is how he feels.
Firas is in a constant search, at least in his head, for an alternative location to take his parents to in case of an emergency. He still remembers how reckless he was during the July War. But if war is to erupt again, he will be afraid this time.
He asks his parents to put all their basic items in one place. But for him personally, he has not yet had the time to do the same, although the idea always haunts him, compulsively, especially during the summer. Firas believes that winter and wars do not go well together, as he knows from experience.
Firas intends not only to put all passports, identification papers, and certificates that are difficult to get again together, but also to do the same with other things that are dear to him and that are easy to carry, especially pictures and keepsakes belonging to his family.
But pictures are the most important item. “When my mother says that my daughter looks like my sister, how can she prove it without pictures?” Firas asks. To him then, pictures are the proof one exists at all.
War has robbed many of their tranquility. The Lebanese are now in a race against time. They must always be ready for this moment, even if it never comes.
For this reason, Nadia tries to economize on her monthly spending, to save money in preparation for the next war – which she believes is inevitable – having had to borrow money during the 2006 war.
The problem was not that she had to borrow money, but finding someone who could lend it to her. Now, she feels reassured by the fact that she has managed to put aside a reasonable amount, and feels ready to face the potential ordeal.
Tarek shares Nadia’s anxiety. He only rests when his children finish their school year and travel to Europe for the holidays. This way, he knows they wouldn’t have to experience the war if it comes.
The July War has left many people on the edge, especially as it erupted out of the blue, giving them no chance to prepare.
While Nader appeared unperturbed in the beginning, and not so much concerned about preparedness, the significance of the latter suddenly dawned on him. Nader thus starts thinking about a safe place, outside of his home in Dahiyeh, for all his important documents.
“Perhaps I should start thinking about it, because loss is a difficult thing” Nader says, adding “I am not familiar with how a person with no memory feels, the person who gets an old picture out every now and then, looks at it with a smile, while the mother tells her son about the occasion where the picture was taken.”
This sends him off on a tangent. The mere idea of such a loss makes him delirious. “No doubt, it is an unbearable feeling.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.