A young lady pulled him aside. “What?” he asked. With swift fingers the blonde wiped a cotton cloth along his forehead. “It will smear the makeup,” she said. He glanced at his watch. “There are more important things now,” he said. The lady pulled his shirt straight, then he managed to escape her grip. He stepped into the small room, took a quick glance at the flag and sat down in front of it. He nodded. The man behind the camera held up three fingers. Then two. Then one. A red light. “My fellow citizens,” he said. “Today is a day this nation – even this world – will never forget.” He swallowed. The sweat was running down his forehead. “From this minute on our nation is at war.”
A big smile on his lips. Nice words here and there. Everybody liked the happiest man in the world. The happiest man in the world met a friend in the elevator. “All perfect?” he asked. “Sure,” said the friend. “And you?” “Oh,” said the happiest man in the world. “You know me, I’m always happy!” The happiest man in the world greeted the cashier. She laughed about his joke and he laughed back. The happiest man in the world waved to a neighbor. The happiest man in the world closed the door. The happiest man in the world opened a bottle of beer. “It’s just us again,” he said. Then he drank. Then he cried.
I sit in a building that has numbers for each floor and my name, in small black letters, right next to the door. I walk between people; call their numbers; smile and laugh. The laughs don’t linger. Those rare visitors, their smiles don’t stay; their smiles, when they leave the room, fade away. Between people; friends with all. And yet, at heart, connected with none.
There are no sirens anymore and no planes anymore. The explosions have stopped and I sit and I wait. “She will come back,” says grandma. “Just you wait and see.” I smile and I nod and I wait. “She’s a smart dog,” says my grandma. “She’ll find her way back.” I nod and I watch the smoke. And I wait until darkness. And I wait the next day. And I wait until night. The house smells of onions and smoke. A hand on my shoulder. “Come to dinner,” says grandma. “And don’t be sad. She’s with your mommy now.”
The bus turns left. Another man’s body pushes hard against mine. Warm, soft, alive. He doesn’t apologize. I don’t say a word. I don’t look at his face. The bus stops and he takes his bag and rushes through the door. His smell lingers. On my way home I think of him, feel his warmth, smell his sweat. My first friend in months, since that old lady at the supermarket smiled at me.
A tune that I remember. A flock of pigeons that we fed. The sheets that we last used together. They call you in my head. Shampoo – the soft hair on your skin. A pillow – your head, hard and warm against my shoulder. My bed – the angry eyes; the open mouth with which you screamed at me. I’m sorry. I hope you’re well. I hope you’re happy. I hope that, a year from now, or five, or ten, you can forget me. I hope that, ten years from now, you won’t hate me anymore.