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Beauty in Ruin

Stalking the essences of a dream, I meander throughout the streets that have become rubble. It is quiet, unsettlingly so, but there is beauty in ruin.

I dream of the little things. The way fiery sunlight glows against the sand-dusted buildings, the way soft moonlight shimmers on old street signs. It is hard to remember and easy to forget, but if I close my eyes, I can still taste the rice and cream that characterized my childhood among these tall gleaming skyscrapers. My mother flashes in my vision, long red hair dancing behind her, as she smiles and beckons to me to come in for dinner. My brother sits on the front porch and scrawls something in his notebook. I am home.

And as quickly as I remember, truth floods in. Images cartwheel before my eyes. My mother, eagle-spread on our living room floor, blood pooling around her. My brother, mouth open in a silent scream. The men with bug-faces and artillery rifles who thundered through my city like God’s agents. And the Americans, with their eyes of steel, who came in right after. The two had more in common than they thought. They only looked to destroy.

I have no home anymore. My home is where my mother’s blood mixed with my father’s hardwood floors, where my brother’s journal burned under a blue-white fire that consumed our city. When the first bomb hit nobody knew what was going to happen except I.

I survived.

I trace the familiar pathways of my childhood, where pretty girls lit up my dreams. I wander through the supermarket with its glass windows shattered. I look at the shadows on the ground and I wonder how many of them I knew, how many of them I loved.

There is life in destruction. Some believe horrors must be ugly; that the burning skies of past lives can only be repulsive. I know this to be a lie. Before me lies the last remnants of a childhood that I thought would last forever, and there is a quiet beauty to it all the same. It reminds me that I am whole. Even as the old world shatters around me, I remain complete.

Slowly I remove my protective gear. First the helmet, with its plastic shield from the air I once lived on. It does nothing other than block more from my memories. The first gasp of air takes doesn’t tell the tales of sorrow that I know all too well. On the wind you can hardly even smell the fires. The helmet was a formality anyways; I had no plans of returning to my white-bread life, pretending to forget the faces of those I lost.

It is when I am naked but for a T-Shirt and jeans that he appears before my eyes, like some sort of mirage. He fades and flickers out of view. It is as if my mind has gone mad; as if my soul has decided to protect me from the pain of loss by turning truth into dreams. I will not succumb to the machinations of my human fragility. I must look and see what the bug-faces and Americans have done to the land I once called home.

The man stands with his back to me, his shoulders slightly hunched, wearing a purple robe. He has no shoes on. It is a strange thing to observe, but it is all I can think of. In this dead and darkened hell, a man wanders without shoes. Curious, yes, but even beyond that. It is liberation in an image. To be shoeless, among the glass and rubble, is a freedom I cannot grasp.

On his head he wears a crown of brass and rust, shimmering almost gold in the light. The sun plays tricks on human eyes. It dances before them like a fairy and offers them sweet nothings, but when the darkness of truth brushes over it, the dance ceases. His crown is no more beautiful than the scar down the left side of my face, put there by an mask with no name, who slashed and cut like he had something to prove.

The man turns to face me, his teeth bared in a sickening grin that turns my stomach inside-out. Half of his face is missing. His skull, bleached white by the sun, gapes out from between pieces of flesh. His skin sags and yellows. One eye is missing, as if it were never there, and in its place he has put a single daisy. He is a skeleton, a reminder of what war really is, a reminder that the burning of grief is only temporary.

We lock gazes until I break it as tears well up. The cyanide in my system slops and whirls and I feel myself slowly stumbling to my knees.

“Father?” I whisper, and all becomes black.

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