Do you remember that café we met in? I remember it like it was yesterday. Akram, Fadhil, Baravan, Zamanlabib and I went in there for a drink after our football match. We were so excited and happy. We had beat the club from Taji. This was the third time we’ve played them this year and we finally beat them. We couldn’t believe it. Fadhil and Baravan each scored a goal for us. We were causing such a racket because we had won. Then you walked in with your friends, Dleen and Kayoosh. As soon as my eyes found out, I knew you would be the woman I was going to marry. I just needed to find out who your family was, so I could convince your father that I was the right man for you. When you looked at me, and our eyes met, my heart just stopped. You owned me with your eyes. You game me such a sweet smile.
I went back to the café the next week in the hope that you would come again. I had almost given up when you walked in. This time you were only with Kayoosh. You looked at me and smiled again. I stayed and drank so much chai while I watched you and Kayoosh. You would sneak glances at me when she wasn’t looking. It was so exciting. When you got up to leave, you signaled discreetly that you would be back the next week. I hoped you would come alone so I could talk to you.
The next week, I sat with my chai and waited for you to arrive. As soon as you walked through the door, I was so excited. You looked so shy this time, but then I noticed that you didn’t bring any of your friends. I asked you if you would like drink, and you asked for a sharbat. I stood up to walk over to the counter, and I tripped on the table. I was so embarrassed, but you didn’t laugh, you were concerned that I was OK. Thank you for that.
Telenaz, I remember how we sat and drank our sharbat and talked about our families. We talked about our hobbies. I remembered how interested you were in football. I remember how you asked so many questions, wanting to understand it. I remember asking you about the books you read and the stories you wrote. I remember asking you about all the characters. They were so interesting. You knew the entire life of all of the characters in your stories.
As we sat in that café, week after week, we started writing stories together. You challenged me to create characters that weren’t simple. You challenged me to create characters that were like real people. You taught me how to be creative. I remember teaching you how to play chess. You never really liked it very much, but you played it with me while we talked and talked.
We talked about our future plans. We talked about what we wanted to study at university. What talked about what we wanted to do with our lives. What we wanted to do with for our families. As the weeks went by, our dreams started to include each other. Going to university together. We talked about what it would be like to spend our lives together. We talked about what I would need to do to convince your father to allow me to take your hand in marriage.
I remember the day I had to tell you that I was drafted into the army. Our chai was filled with the tears we shed. Do you remember the promises we made? We promised that we would wait until I finished my tour of duty. It would only be two years. We could wait that long. That wouldn’t be a problem, two years is such a short time. Then I would have saved some money and I could approach your father and ask for your hand in marriage. We hugged each other close, wanting to kiss, but we knew we couldn’t, not just yet.
I left the next day for basic training. In my pocket I had that picture we took together. Through my sixteen weeks of basic training, we wrote emails to each other every week. Our emails filled with love and promises.
As my basic training was finishing, we promised to meet at the café again. Oh, how I looked forward to seeing you again. Those sixteen weeks seemed an eternity, but worth it for the money I saved while in basic training. I remember as I walked down the lane to the café. My heart filled with so much love and excitement. Did you feel the same? I believe you did. My heart tells me you did.
Oh, my Telenaz. Did you hear the rocket coming? I heard it. The sounds made me stop in my tracks. I couldn’t move. Then I saw our café explode in and outward spray of rubble and dust as the world was shattered by the explosion and I was thrown to the ground by the concussion. I stumbled through the rubble to the whole that was our café. Nothing but broken bits of stone, wood, and massive amounts of blood. I was covered in blood as I worked my way through the blood looking for any sign that you might have been there, hoping you had not. Then I found the remnants of your scarf. That’s all I could find. My world died that day my Telenaz.
I went back to my command when I could find nothing of you. I needed to know what happened. Who had attacked us. A civil war had broken out between the Christians and Yazidism. I was so angry with what happened to you, that I had to beg them to let me go to go to the front lines. I needed to revenge you.
Things were very chaotic at the beginning of the war, and we lost quite a few people at the start, but we did start turning things around. After 6 months of being in a regular solider, I volunteered for Black Division, which is our special forces division. I had to go through 3 months of special training.
Once I finished my training, I was immediately sent out to make my first kill. I thought this would be very hard, but I remembered what happened to you, and I found it quite easy. Because of what they did to you, I found it very easy to kill. I very quickly moved up the ranks.
It has now been two years since I lost you. I found myself back in our town. It has changed so much. So many buildings have been destroyed. I found myself walking down the road of where our café was. I found the space that was once our café. All that’s there was a couch, a brazier. Most of the rubble had been cleared away.
I decided to have a sit and relax. My phone vibrated so I had a look. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that I had received an email from you.
Are you alive?