In this scene from The Syrian, Nadia has just gotten her husband out of prison. She, Andrew and Samir are now faced with the challenge of getting Elie, who has spent the last 13 years in a Syrian prison and has no official papers, across the Lebanese border and back to Beirut.

Andrew smelled the cheap soap Samir used to wash Elie and the stink that lingered even in his new clothes. What troubled him more than the smell, though, was the rottenness in the man—it shined through his stare. No shower could cleanse Elie of the anger, jealousy and self-hatred he so freely projected onto others. On one level, Andrew understood Elie’s behavior. Andrew could make love to Nadia; Elie could not. The old man’s self-loathing had to do with how he looked and acted. He was a sixty-year old man who should still be in the prime of his years, but instead acted and looked like a man in his eighties. His appearance was so repulsive his wife could barely stand to look at him. Andrew knew from his rotation in a psychiatric ward what deprivation and torture did to a person’s psyche. A man barely able to function on either an emotional or physical level could hardly be expected to act like a gentleman.

He knew that Nadia’s dilemma was different. Though legally declared dead, Elie had become her husband again. With that came a spousal responsibility to do what she could to get him out of prison. Having met that moral obligation, she now had to choose to stay married to a man she no longer loved, or divorce him. Andrew had silently vowed not to interfere with whatever Nadia decided to do. Can I go through with that? He wondered.

He heard Nadia’s voice and looked up from his food.

“We need to get back on the road, so finish eating as quickly as possible.” She overpaid for the food and gas, delighting the owner.

“Samir, please go check on the car,” she said. “Andrew, I’d like you to stay here. I have a few things to say to Elie and I want you to hear them.” She sat down directly in front of Elie.

“Samir tells me you’re peeing blood,” she said.

“That’s my business.”

“It’s our business too. We’ve all invested a lot to get you out of prison. Continue to act this way, Elie Khoury, and I’ll regret I ever got you out. As for Andrew, he came to Damascus to help. He didn’t have to do that. So, stop being such a bastard and start showing us all some civility.”

“I warned you I couldn’t abide another man in your life.”

“We’ll deal with that later,” Nadia said. “Right now we have bigger issues. Andrew’s a doctor. You’re ill, so you need him. No’ I’ll rephrase that. We all need him if we’re going to get you back to Beirut. We have at least a five hour trek once we reach Tel Kalakh and he’s going to help you make that trip.”

Elie looked at her, surprised.

“Yes, that’s right. How did you think we were going to get you across the border with no papers? It’s the only way—through the woods and over the mountain.”

Elie groaned and shook his head.

“While I go check on Samir, you’re going to explain your symptoms to Andrew. Elie—look at me. Are you listening? Are you going to accept his help?”

“I don’t have a choice, do I?”

“No,” she said as she stood. “I’ll wait in the car while you two talk.”

This book is available for purchase here.




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