His favorite café used to be located on this boulevard; the proprietress whistling as she served him mint tea with just the right amount of sugar. Now, the whistling comes from on high and portends the arrival of things far from sweet. He does not receive bad news via text message or phone call or frantic refreshing of a news website. If he is lucky, a shrill shriek may give him brief seconds to duck for cover before the block explodes. Bombs have dismantled his neighborhood, the city, the entire region. Bombs have stolen his innocence, his kith and kin, but they have not yet come for him. He has no doubt that they will. He is twelve.
His nightmares are more comforting than his reality. The monsters that haunt his thoughts are terrifying, but he is rid of them at the end of his slumber. He can do nothing to erase the sight and smell of dead bodies rotting in the streets, to insulate himself from the screams of agony from the maimed, to wash out the taste of dust and blood. His remaining friends have taken to drinking homemade moonshine, to huffing rudimentary stimulants, to becoming inured to their own existences to such an extent that they are already dead to him. He has considered succumbing in the same manner, but a stubborn sense of duty to his ancestors keeps him on the straight and narrow.
Or, at least relatively so. He survives by ingenuity but also through blatant theft, not a small amount of necessary violence. He has so far escaped the clutches of the militias, their causes indistinguishable but for minute differences that seem almost comical to him given what should unite them. Their propaganda rings hollow to him, does not offer any useful solution: the militiamen would not hesitate to use on their enemies the same bombs that have destroyed his future.
He has lots of free time; his school was one of the first things leveled when the bombardments began. Despite having little incentive to prepare for the decades ahead, he nonetheless has undertaken a makeshift education, reading everything that he can find, talking to the few elders that remain to teach him. But mostly, he daydreams, recalling better times, wondering what it would be like to have normal problems like the people in the foreign sitcoms he used to be able to watch.
He is not quite sure who sends the bombs to torment his people. He pictures them accurately, but he has no way of knowing this. He refuses to believe that they have families of their own, cannot fathom that they would make the same choices if they had the compassion inherent in parenthood. He feels this intuitively, but he is wrong. He is too young to realize the forces that control the bomb’s masters, is still too trusting to imagine the dissonance that allows them to separate the decisions from their consequences.
As he scrounges for his next meal, as he ambles through his living dystopia, we fret about getting a reservation at that hot new restaurant, about which tires to put on our new bikes. Our outrage for his plight does not exist; we have long ago abdicated responsibility for the actions of our governments. Those bombs bear our names.