Sarité is dead again. Nearby, a mother kneels at the side of the road in loud lament for the shattered child in her arms. An old man leans in the doorframe of his soot-blacked house, watching me. Leaning is the best option after the landmine took his leg and his livelihood. Images surface when I’m not looking, in idle moments when I’m tempted to believe the world is a safe place again. But it never was.
I see Sarité again, turning to smile at me as she walks away, adjusting the child on her hip. “See you tomorrow,” I call out, but she doesn’t answer. Perhaps she knows that I will see her in an eternity of tomorrows, but not she me.
The moments fade, stealing my energy like a receding wave sucking sand off a beach, and I am left incredulous that life is mundane.
I move through each day, get on with my life like I’ve been told to. I get up, I do my job, I drive through endless stop-start traffic. A car backfires in the middle of Reading and I’m in Baghran again, running, stumbling from the Hazara marketplace as it explodes around me and all I can think is that I’ve dropped those beautiful pomegranates I’d bought. It jolts through my chest like an electric shock: I don’t see the marketplace, but I feel like I’m there again and it pulls the breath straight out of me. Someone hoots their horn at me, and I drive on down West Street, hands and feet still jarring.
Later there’s a film on. But a man pulls a gun and I spill my drink, Baghran intruding. Even sleep isn’t safe: I see Sarité’s face and what they did to her. The old man leans in his doorway and watches me. Awake in the dark, my heart slows back down, sweat turns to chill, but it’s always the hands and feet that take the longest to feel normal again.
And so comes tomorrow: I battle the traffic, panic in the Tesco crowds, meet a friend for coffee. My friend says goodbye, turns to smile at me as she walks away, and Sarité is dead again.