In between war and peace, there is a space where words like ceasefire float around as though they mean something more than pause.
For me, a ceasefire is like a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. You know it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. You just don’t know how long you have to brace yourself for whatever this ultimately means.
I remember the pit in my stomach that formed when we knew my sister was full of colon cancer. For 22 months, it sat and grew thorns that jabbed at me incessantly. When she died, the mass inside me emptied so fast that I was left with a gaping hole I didn’t know how to live with. It took me a long time to replace it with things that brought me pleasure and comfort.
I’ve been here through intifadas and wars. I’ve seen the cycle enough to know what it means to be given a ceasefire. And the pit is growing again. This time, I feel the entire country twisting around with me in discomfort. I don’t know the answer. I wonder if there even is one. But I know that we cannot go on much longer like this.
This is what Ceasefire means to me.
* * *
I have been here before.
So many times before.
Words depicting bloodshed and war shot from the only weapon I’ve ever held comfortably in my hands exploded in empty fields of papers no one will ever read.
I wrote of pain and suffering and heartache and confusion and the humanity inside me that is ripped apart by my need for safety and my need for peace.
I am flesh and bone, so I duck and cover, but I am heart and soul, so I rise and resist.
I don’t understand any of it.
I don’t know why I am chained to my history and my people any more than I understand why I am sympathetic to mothers on the other side of the wall I hate but hide behind as I teach my children tolerance and love and how to communicate effectively to end conflict.
This region at the center of turmoil and battles in the name of gods who don’t have the decency to show up and put a stop to this endless loop of hatred and fear eats me alive and sustains me at once.
Sinatra croons in my head as I watch my country flirt with war.
“Bang bang, she shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, my baby shot me down”
Bury the dead. Bandage the wounds. Build another wall and burn another bridge.
Regroup, reload, relaunch.
Cease to what? Hate? Exist? Believe?
This land has hooked me, reined me in and entangled me in her torment. I cannot pry myself away from her now.
Simmering in the quiet air, raging deep beneath broken trust, our fire holds still another day.
Hanging for a moment in time, it is too heavy to remain suspended between hope and reality and will come crashing to the broken ground.
I am here, planted in a land that was buried alive in a shallow grave. She is slowly decomposing, her stench cannot be masked. I can’t describe how her wretchedness roils my insides yet fills me with a yearning hunger never satiated. This is not prose – it can’t be written from imaginative thoughts. It is a vivid description of the land I feel beneath my feet. It is more real than I will ever be.
This land cannot cease to fire; it is the only way she knows how to breathe.