For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and another city which you leave to never return.
Aleppo is Calvino's Almema, the city of the dead, where "you reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living." In Syria, we are living aberrations to life itself. We have seen what no one is supposed to see, the insides of children and the primal sins of men. We have watched with horror as our air force's planes drop barrels of explosives onto sleeping villages. We have defied the laws of nature. Just as no parent should ever have to bury their children, no citizen should have to bury her own city.
Tectonic shifts in a city like Aleppo simply do not happen in one's lifetime. It is no longer a given that my city will outlive me.
Our home is sick, and we are homesick. My mother tells me she is a stranger in other people's home, as strangers live in our home. My father talks about locking up and leaving, the key in his pocket, thinking he will return -- but now return is an impossible dream.
We were supposed to live and die in an Aleppo unchanged, just as our grandfathers had before us, but instead we broke the laws of nature and pass on what we had inherited intact to the few survivors, in ruins.