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The Irony of the Brave Face

Author: 19 years old female, Syria
I did not flinch. You see; I am not a fearless person by any measure. I am claustrophobic, hemophobic and I carry some mutated mother-hen gene that renders me rather useless when people I love are in danger. Yet, when the walls shook and the glass shattered that nondescript August afternoon, I did not flinch. I could almost hear what’s-his-name’s voice echoing from some half a decade ago, when my naïve townspeople thought the Syrian civil war was climaxing with US troops raining bombs on wherever, Tartus. Money, Papers, phone, water. Get everyone out of the dorms and gather into the nearest clearing. Watch the pink smoke. It Is Fine. I did not flinch. There I was, my best friend fighting his way through a panic attack. I needed to take him to the hospital – you know, the place we stopped going to as we thought a global pandemic will catch us there after it devastated this tortured city. The place where they probably knew how to help my friend learn how to breathe through his fear, the way they help others breathe through the virus in their lungs. The place that was now a moving museum of human artifacts, buzzing ants' colony in the wake of a bloodbath. Not recommended for barely-coping teenagers or their faint-at-the-sight-of-blood besties. The nurses were scrambling around to bandage and to aid, the salty smell of red chocking up the hallway. They had more urgent matters than us, yet I did not flinch, so we soldiered on. A broken-down pharmacy and a few anxiety pills later. “Doctor approved”. “Of course he forgot his prescription in the room, miss”. Do not step on the shiny blue sand. “You remembered Judi’s passport but not closed-toed shoes, really, Lilith?” We are at the campus’ gates again. “Judi, darling, it is Fine, we are coming, stay in the clearing, stop calling”. Except no, of course not, because that pink smoke is lethal and now we have to stay inside where the ACs may work as air filters. I did not flinch. Even if the idea of having a roof above my head is horrifying. I cannot flinch. Even if my plans to sleep on the soft grass instead of glass-dusted sofas went down the drain. I cannot flinch, there will be chocolate and calm music there. My friends will be there. And It Will Be Fine! You see; the irony of putting on a brave face is that shouldering the storm does not mean surviving the aftermath. It will be fine.

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