Letter from San‘a: "every breath is stolen"

This post was sent to us by a special guest contributor, Fatima Noman. Fatima is 16 years old, and lives in San‘a. This is her second post for the Mafraj Blog. I always imagined the light I saw before dying would be that sent from God—bright white with an angel glancing at me, tranquility—not that dropped by an aircraft.

It scares me how many times I've escaped death. I feel every breath of air I breathe is stolen. I feel like a fugitive running from death. Have you ever touched a dead person? They feel so cold, icy. Gelid. Every missile that hits makes my blood turn cold, my jaw dangles wide open and I can't speak. I try to remind myself that once again I have fled death. Once again I have beat the odds.

Some days I am strong and invincible. Other days like today I am shattered, broken and frail. I am trying to sleep but the thought of waking up dead is frightening me, but nobody is ever ready to die. I remember being 9 years old dreaming of my teens and how "cool" I'd be and how rebellious and flawless my life would be. Now at sixteen all I can think of is whether tomorrow I'll be cocooned in a white cloth being placed in a hole of dirt and whether my Mother will be grieving or if she'd be right next to me getting her share of dirt.

Some days are hard and just unbearable. I feel futile and vain. I've always been that person, you know the one that cries easily just one wrong word or one wrong move engenders a fit of tears. Lately, the tears have surged, they've turned into waterfalls, vast and endless. I try to talk my self into not breaking down but I can never find the right words. Every time I gaze at the mirror I vow to myself to not get frightened. I remind myself that the moment I came to life the hour of my death was previously written. It's useless, day after day. Talk after talk. Useless, pointless and worthless.

Just a year ago all I could think of was what university I want to go to and how to score higher grades. And of course the image that has always been in the back of my mind; sitting on a porch on a sunny day with my children playing around the backyard giggling and my two youngest fighting over the swings. Now, I feel illegible to dream or hope or aspire.

Today as I was sitting on my bed cushioned in the safety of my pillows reading my book when the missile hit. I jumped off the bed and out of the room. I waited then returned. This happened 5 times in the course of 8 minutes and each time I returned to the bed I would say: Fatima! You won't move this time, but I fail myself I continuously fail myself.

Lately, all I think of is if I do make it out this alive will I ever feel safe in silence or will silence always mean a stronger hit?