The garden behind my grandpa's house in Zawiyah is one place in Libya that I will always treasure memories of. It's separated from the veranda by three small steps. I remember watching the ants moving in the summer, trying to count them all. In the winter, there were no ants.
The stars were pillowed into the clouds at night; glinting. Me and my cousin would always come here after our relatives had gone home and laugh. Sometimes the conversation would drift away and we'd stare into the distance; sighing, smiling. Grape vines would cling onto the walls long past their season. Now brown in the dimness of the night, they folded over each other like our legs, mine over hers, listening to our laughs racing around each other.
It reminded me of my father; lying next to him as a child, counting the stars and talking about how beautiful Libya was. Sometimes he'd drink tea with my grandparents here in the winter, his sandals strewn on the steps; his back against the same wall that I now traced with my fingers. I watch the ants go up and down and wonder if they traced their lives more gracefully than us; women who poured their hearts out in funerals the way my mother did, pounding the floor with her fists as if willing the earth to spin back on its axis; to stop moving entirely and crumble into her.
I wondered if this place would ever wear the emblems of sadness; wearily turn off the lights and go to sleep with the intention of never waking up, much like the people and cities that Gaddafi had locked away back when he ruled Libya.
But then I remembered that Libya is full of places that were unvisited and beautiful despite the war. Places where my father's footsteps had been, places that had listened to my mother's voice on the phone spiralling out of a car window; my cousin's laughter rising and falling, relatives who'd lost their lives during it all and others who no longer wanted the lives that they'd had. Libya was both a garden a warzone, and to fight was to win, to be buried in the chests of loved ones or reincarnated in the sporadic constellations of stars and petals, faces that watch over us in the summer sky.