I escaped three different war-torn countries, but I can’t escape that feeling I left my front door unlocked.

I’m a survivor. At one point in my life I was dubbed “El Diablo Gordo” due to my strong survivalist instinct, having the God-given ability to get through almost any situation. But there’s one thing I can’t escape, a very strong feeling that I left my front door unlocked.

Born in Syria, New Jersey, I grew up in a civil war zone surrounded by bombs dropping left, right and centre, children fighting in gangs against each other. I was one of those children. For years, I played by the rules, the rules of the street, child against child, kinder v kinder. But one day, I saw the opportunity to get away, to escape the hell-hole of my childhood, but when I did, I’m fairly sure I left the front door unlocked.

Now a refugee, I jumped from the frying pan into the fire, the neighbouring country¬†was invaded by a religious zealot and his army, thousands were slaughtered on the first day alone. Many people died in horrific, inhumane, heartbreaking¬†ways, and the thing that haunts my nightmares the most… I’m not 100% sure if the house I left behind has the front door slightly ajar. I mean, it just sticks in my mind.

Even once I was taken prisoner by the religious zealot’s men, I was tortured daily with hot metal rods on my skin, branded with icons of a corrupt leader and his hollow cowardly soldiers. I begged, pleaded, every chance I had to draw breath I tried to bargain with them if I could return to my house and double check I’d not left the latch on the door by accident. They simply ignored my pleas.

Today, my home country lies in ruins, the village where I was born lies in tatters. Myself, an old man with nothing left but stories to tell and a head filled with questions. Questions like “When I got down to the end gate, did I go back inside because I forgot my bag and go back out without fully shutting the door?” and “I may have locked the top bolt, but did I do the second bolt?”. These questions remain unanswered.

Also, did I leave the stove on?

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