The Day the World Ended

Riwa Doughan

It’s the fourth of August and we are sitting in the dark. There is no light, only flickering embers that float in between us. We sit in silence and breathe in the dust. It’s the end of the world, but how is it so quiet? Tears stream down our faces, but do we feel anything at all? August fourth was and always will be a day of collective numbness.

It’s been a year and I still follow the cruel ritual of checking the “2020 Beirut Explosion” Wikipedia page; I do so every few months to remind myself that this outrage was not just a nightmare. Every single time “cause: under investigation” glares at me through the screen, I catch flames and burn in silence.

Now August comes, and with it comes the sticky tar black liquid that seeps down my throat. This vicious memory is a ravenous tiger that slumbers in the far side of my mind, it lies still most days, but when it does wake up, it mauls my heart and claws at my chest looking for a way out; a grief that can’t be contained inside. I remember my hands shaking as I called my family to check if they were still alive. And the numbness I felt as I made my way back home through a fallen city, glass was everywhere as if the sky had fallen. I felt so small during that moment, I couldn’t do anything, and the slow ensuing waves of guilt were overwhelming. I was in the safety of my home with my family, watching through a flashing screen. People crying over the rubble and searching for their families among the ruins. Instead, they should have been passing each other loaves of bread and smiles across the dining table, talking about their long day at work, watching their evening shows together.

It’s been a year and the ones responsible are still parading around our towns, their blood-stained hands tainting everything they touch. They’ve gotten so used to gambling with our lives, how are we still letting them? Not one of them is ready to take accountability and grant us the faintest sliver of peace but even if they did, it would never be enough, the lost lives cannot be brought back and no apology or compensation would ease the people’s pain.

I am standing high up on my rooftop and watching the full moon bleed its pale light onto the homes of my people, people that have endured so much but still they stay. The candles on their glass flecked windowsills shine so bright against the night. Silhouettes of mothers, fathers and children talking over dinner, reminiscing over days of prosper and hope, days when it was okay to dream and think about the future. There’s something so sad about feeling unsafe in your home, will the walls cave in again someday? The fourth of August will always leave our hearts filled to the brim with grief; we all lost something that day and we continue to lose more and more every day.