insomnia is night chat

I’ll never forget the countless nights I spent listening to this on repeat. Watching from the window. Smoking my cigarettes. Getting ready for the worst. Thunder struck yesterday, and the first thing that came to mind was the sound of bombs we used to hear. It’s funny. Even though I’m thousands of miles away. The sound still follows me. I guess war scars never heal. Specially the ones that even doctors can’t see. I have whole weeks, sometimes even months, where I remember nothing about it. And then all of a sudden, just the sound of thunder, or the face of someone I thought I recognize would trigger me. And all I want is to head home and stay there. In the corner, or on the floor. Somewhere where I usually don’t sit. Somewhere where I usually don’t fit. It can’t be normal. It can’t be usual.

Though this track has always been there for me. At least for as long as I needed it. It’s the first thing I reach to on the first signs of insomnia. Not that it ever successfully put me to sleep. It just relaxes me. Helps me accept. Helps me medicate while staying sober.

I’m a bit annoyed by the current dissonance I have with certain memories. I’ve made up with most of my demons from the past. But the nightmares from the past still lurk deep inside. It’s ironic that I fear my fear more than I fear some of the shit things that actually did happen.

I guess one thing about surviving, is that you never really believe it. And if surviving took any skill on your side, then you’re forever fucked. Because once that skill is gone you’ll feel like your chances of survival are zero. You’re basically dead already. It’s just that nobody had the time to bury you yet.

I’ll never forget the couple times I played journalist. Two of them stand out the most. The first was when I was young and wild at the age of 13, and second when I was still the same at 15. The first one was on my grandpa’s funeral. I remember it was the day the rebel forces launched a big attack on the neighborhood right next to ours. It was one of the last standing regime backing areas. While everybody was at the funeral, I saw on TV how some rebels were treating some of the people they caught. It disgusted me even though I was on their side. That close to the action I decided I’ll pack my camera and head there. I went straight into the fighting area. This is Libyan war mind you. There was no civilian block. I took lots of footage. I didn’t capture the rebels doing bad things to none rebels. Though I did capture them fighting between each other. They were badly coordinated, and there were clearly more fighters and arms than actually needed, and so a lot of them weren’t allowed in. Which resulted in fights that I captured.

One of them saw me and called to me immediately. I was still on the rebel side politically at the time. So even at 13 I felt like I had some sort of authority in the matter. He ordered me to give him the camera. It was clear that I’d never get it back if I did. It wasn’t my camera. But it was my neighborhood. And it was still early on in the war. At a time when no one was sure who’s who. And I capitalized on that. Pretended that all of the people watching from my neighborhood were my friends. That they knew me. That they’d get really mad if he’d even think of touching me or taking the camera by force. He was still angry and getting even angrier by my cockiness. But I was too cocky for it to be false. His comrade suggested I just give the mini CD the camera had instead. I said no, but that I’ll break it so no one gets it. That way the idiot’s pride isn’t violated, and I don’t give them anything that they might use in ways I don’t support. It worked. I went back home, and for the longest time didn’t tell anybody about my adventure in journalism.

Second time was a bit more involved. It was two years later. So people had quite some time to test their new boundaries in the lack of a system to keep things intact. It was a time when perhaps not a single family in Tripoli didn’t have a family member get kidnapped, killed, tortured, or get their car stolen. Slightly comical. I was heading home from school when I saw a big protest in front of the parliament. It was from a militia called the SSC (اللجنة الأمنية العليا). It was at the time perhaps Tripoli’s biggest militia. The most unorganized mess I’ve ever seen to this day. It was basically one umbrella for a couple hundred small militias and gangs in Tripoli. They were protesting that their salaries got cut. See that’s the funniest thing about Libyan warfare. The government pays all sides. Literally all sides.

I got home, picked up my camera, and went running to the parliament. It was maybe a 15 minute walk, so I was there probably in less than 10. I started filming as soon as I got there. They were just protesting after all. Sure they had lots of guns with them. Sure they had cars with anti-aircraft machine guns on them. But they were peacefully protesting so far. There was a famous tent there, that had nothing to do with this protest. But that tent is for another time. As I went along and took videos of the conversations that were had. I got into trouble a coupe of times when people noticed that I was recording, but for the most part it was easy trouble. The kind where you can just quickly disappear into the crowd and they won’t bother.

All of a sudden the parliament doors were broken. And everyone was running inside. I got closer to the fence and started recording from there. I saw them, and even recorded on my camera how some beat the security guys up. As I was recording this I couldn’t help but go inside and record even closer. I don’t know where my mind was, but I felt I had to do it. Some of the guys saw me, and came to me immediately. As soon as I saw them approaching I put the camera in my bag. I knew the drill after all. I was ready for exactly this. I even had an extra disc on me just in case. So I would hand in the extra instead of the original. Genius. Perfect plan. Their leader reached me, and as soon as he touched me it was clear I was fucked. Not because he did, but because of the way he did. He asked for the recording, and I straight up gave him the two discs. I wasn’t gonna fucking risk it more than I did. He interrogated me for around 10 minutes. Asking who I worked for? Nobody. What do I do? I’m just a 15 year old student who was going back home from school. Then why the fuck was I doing what I was doing? curiosity. WHO THE FUCK AM I WORKING FOR? I swear nobody.

His friends came with the car and he ordered them to take me in, and interrogate me further at the base. I was fucked. I knew what they did to people in Libya at the base. I knew that I would either die, or I would rather die. I knew that I was gonna be fucked for life. I knew that torture just gets to you at some point regardless of how strong you are. I knew that I was an idiot and that the last thing I might see from life is the chamber where they’ll force me to sit on a hot plate.

Dumb kid, and would’ve been dead dumb kid if someone didn’t come and just straight grab the shiny mini CD from the guy interrogating me. He introduced himself as head of some sort of department in a militia that certainly has no departments. Both of them argued for a bit, and then it was clear that the new guy had even more power than the one that got me, so the new guy took the CD and started walking away with his friends. I had just one split-second to act. If I’m still gonna be there by the time the new guy left, I’m gonna be fucked even more. This guy just hurt their pride. And I’m the fucking reason for it. There was no chance I was gonna go with these guys. Not if I wanted to stay alive. So I just followed the new guy. Literally just walked behind him pretending that he told me to do so. I didn’t look a single time to the back while I was walking. If they caught my bluff then I didn’t wanna see them running after me. I continued walking until we reached the gate, and then the new guy went to the left and I to the right. And I literally just walked straight in the direction home. Not looking back a single time until I reached a bridge which was far enough from the parliament. Once there, and once I was certain no one was following me I started running home and crying at the same time. I had no clue what just happened. I just knew that I survived. And that I did because of my decisions.