Marwan blazed into my life like August sun on a winter day.
“I’m from Syria,” he wrote in a chat on FB after he thanked me for accepting his friendship request. “Where are you from?”
“We are not supposed to be friends,” I replied. Then I told him.
“I don’t care,” he said. And that was that. What he didn’t know was that for months before we’d met, Syria had been constantly in my thoughts and prayers.
We talked about meditation and 3rd eye activation — his best friend had found me first on a New Age FB page. Marwan told me that they were taught that my people are monsters. I told him that it wasn’t that different on my side of the woods.
Soon he shared personal information with me. He was nineteen then, and I loved helping him, like a big sister. Sometimes Marwan and his best friend disappeared from FB because the regime cut off the internet connection. I was always relieved when they came back online.
One evening he wrote, “They are bombing my village.” And he went offline.
Staring at my computer screen helplessly, I didn’t know what to do next. Then, for the first time in my FB life, I asked people for help. “Please pray with me.”
The next day, Marwan showed up again and wrote that the bombing had stopped.
I was greatly relieved.
I thought that it was all over.
I was wrong.
“Now they are going to massacre us,” he wrote, then he left to embrace his parents and siblings.
He showed up one more time, briefly. Assad’s thugs had already slaughtered his uncle and his uncle’s wife and kids, half a mile away from his home. “They are getting closer…I will probably never see you again, sister. I’m so happy that we met. I love you.”
It was the Holocaust all over again.
For three days after the bombings started, I hardly slept or ate. I spent hours in the park, my sanctuary, praying in great dread.
At some point, I had to accept that the worst probably had happened.
I was never as grateful as when Marwan showed up on FB again: the massacre was over, and he had survived.
Then his best friend moved to Turkey. I planned to talk to Marwan about moving there ASAP, too. But our next chat was cut short. I resolved to bring it up on the following day.
On the following day, he blocked me.
His best friend blocked me as well.
Mutual friends who’d met Marwan through me were also blocked.
Clearly he was in danger, and it wasn’t safe for him to be in touch with westerners. I turned to activists from all over the world, who hated my country but cared about the Syrians, trying to find out what had happened. I followed every piece of information in alternative Syrian news. Hardly getting any sleep, I was in the park every night, pacing back on forth. Praying.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months.
Marwan had told me once that many Syrian friends of his were killed, yet their FB timelines had stayed intact like epitaphs, and their posts still showed up from time to time in his newsfeed… Unlike those of his lost friends, none of his posts showed up in my newsfeed anymore, but I was afraid I’d lost him forever.
Then, I remembered something. We had one more mutual friend – Lara.
“He didn’t block me,” Lara said confidently when I told her that he blocked all of us. “I can still see his timeline.”
I was sure she must be mistaken.
“I can still see it too through others’ FB accounts,” I said. “He has posted nothing new since I talked to him last.”
“He did post something new yesterday,” she insisted. He definitely didn’t share it with the public.
Later on I learned that Syrians were being taken away from their homes by the regime, not to be seen again. The assumption was that “foreigners” posing as FB friends — were actually spies of the regime. That’s why Marwan had to block us.
Lara left him a message from me. He unblocked me immediately, and we were inseparable again. Of course I didn’t know then how instrumental I was going to be in helping him to get out of there.
Sometimes when things work out in such magical ways, like they have with Marwan, I feel as if life has turned into the last episode of Lost. Or maybe it’s love that transcends everything.
(Click here for My Syrian Soul Brother, Part II: Escape from Hell)