The morning I left Damascus, I woke up to the sound of explosions. I had been dreaming I was a guest at a party where I kept finding slain bodies hidden in the closets. I wondered who exactly among the party had killed them and to what extent my hosts were complicit. I feared what the lurking killer would do if they discovered I knew.
Waking up was a relief. The familiar sound of death was a stark reminder, however, of the reality concealed in the recesses of this city -- often out of sight but close enough to pierce people's consciousness, jolting them out of their fantasies. My dream mirrored an increasingly disjointed society.
There were wedding parties and pool parties. I photographed film sets and parliament. It was as if nothing was wrong -- except nothing was quite right either. Then again, in war only the dead stop living and many people choose denial. For some inexplicable reason, it was harder to obtain permission to photograph the opera at the Al-Assad House for Culture and Arts than the military morgue -- and once I succeeded, I was scolded by the security guards for standing in what was supposedly the wrong place and then hounded for moving at their own instruction.
There were also a spattering of bombings. The only point on which the government, the opposition, and the United Nations are in agreement is the existence of a "third force," a popular euphemism for al Qaeda. Pockets of the city where the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) is operational were shelled every day -- regardless of the civilian population present -- while Syrian soldiers were prepared for burial by the dozens.