Revolution Download


J. Malcolm Garcia in Guernica:

Aleppo: January—February, 2013


An explosion. Followed by another.

Downloading, Nizar says in the dark.

He applies the language of the Internet to the live videogame outside. Incoming fire from the Syrian government he calls downloading. Return fire by the rebels, uploading.

It’s going to shit something, his cousin Radwan says. What do you think, uncle?

He calls me uncle because I am more than thirty years older than him. When we drove into Aleppo five days ago, my shoulders jerked in fright at every burst of gunfire, at every explosion. Now, I’ve stopped reacting unless it stays quiet. Then I feel uneasy.

It sounded close, I say.

We sit on the floor wrapped in blankets, shift closer to a wood-burning stove in the center of the room and the dying embers inside it. Amer and Bassel, friends of Radwan and Nizar, sit beside me. I wear three pairs of long underwear, tops and bottoms, two pairs of socks, jeans, a wool shirt, sweatshirt, coat. No power, no heat in the apartment, in the building, on the block, in all of Aleppo. The brittle January air tastes metallic. Ice films the ceiling. Sometimes we refill the stove with wood, sometimes not. It depends how desperate we feel, how much more cold we can stand. Burning wood warms us but creates another kind of misery.