past the snipers. There’s something about the heat and chaos of
battle that forges bonds.
We fought as dusk and bodies fell, and won as night came over
I told my girlfriend of Hakim’s arrival the next day. She didn’t say
anything for a long moment, head still inclined. Framed by ash-
blonde hair, with skin silvered in the moonlight and lips still gently
parted, she looked beautiful.
She rocked back on her heels, hair falling over her face, and
looked at me, her hair like platinum and her skin like wax paper.
“I thought he was dead,” her voice was as cold as midnight frost.
Hakim doesn’t know about us, I’d explained before, but that had
nothing nothing to lessen the tension.
“So did I, but now he’s back.”
She hunched forward, hugging her knees to her chest, and
shuddered. The look on her face was strange, shut down. She knew
I’d been a soldier, she knew exactly what Hakim and I had done, out
there in the starless, godless desert.
I’d mentioned the war to her several times – she knew the nature
of what Hakim and I had been through, what we’d seen, what we’d
done as murderers, soldiers, harbingers of retribution out in the
She stared at me, her face desolate, particulate. Then, she
resolutely reached across to the bedside table and pulled on her
sunglasses. Hiding was a habit of hers.
“Just don’t introduce him to me,” she said. Her voice was still cold.
It was two hours after the raid, and Hakim and I were stationed
outside the ruined, crumbling shell of a building, a white van idling
on the corner with its headlamps on, while unspeakable things went
on inside. The screaming from inside sounded unnaturally loud in
the cold night air.
“I’ve been thinking about Tennessee Williams,” Hakim said
conversationally, as a hoarse scream sounded from behind us.
His tone was so at odds with the violence, it made me laugh.
Trust Hakim to uphold his university studies, even out here. “Oh,
really? And what does he have to say for himself?”
Courage To Live