I think of Damascus. The connection between 18 and Damascus, like all connections, is tenuous at best. I left Damascus for Karachi when I was 11. Age has nothing to do with it. I spent the summer of my eighteenth year in the city, as I spent every earlier and later summer. But if you ask me today what I think of when I hear the number 18, I think of the jasmines that creep down the side of Mezzeh’s buildings, brushing your shoulder as you walk by them. I think of the orange light that hits the ceiling at night—it must come from the dry Damascene evenings—the tall street lights and the many honking cars that drive through the city, whiling away the hours past midnight. I think of Nizar Qabbani’s poetry—Twelve Roses for Bilquis is one of my favourites (but that’s another number, not 18, memory again playing tricks)—and I think of the pockmarked caves of Ma’loula. Pockmarked from time, from centuries of life, though now the bullets have added their marks too. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter what the number is. These days all I do is think of Damascus.