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  • We are continents, you and I. He and she are separate countries, irreconcilable cultures.


    You can't tell, most of the time. There may be a bruised wrist, or a black eye: she'll say she walked into a door, not his fist. She won't say he started it, she knows she's the one at fault. Words repeated a thousand times eventually becomes the truth. Hand over mouth, fist against gut, I will kill you if you don't surrender, no you won't, oh yes I will.


    And the war goes on, the crying, the silent dying. That kind of war.


    You can't tell, most of the time. You don't hear the bombs, they're too far off, and the gunfire is distant, you may hear the echoes and mistake them for thunder. It's easier that way. Roll over and go back to sleep.


    She has been driven almost to submission, forced to give up most of her territory but still continuing to keep up the resistance on her narrow strip of hope. But she is getting tired now, so weary, and you can see that, but you don't offer to help. She may be your friend, but you have your own wars going on, you have obligations, he happens to be your colleague or your boss or your drug-dealer, you have your sacred contracts, your hands are tied. You have to secure your own house.


    At night you toss and turn, in dreams you hear the crying, you sense the silent dying.
  • She would change her name in an instant, if she could manage to get away. But he keeps close watch at the door, his instincts are finely tuned. She is a barricated subject, under house arrest. The windows are bricked in, the floor is solid concrete. In any case, the streets are on fire.


    She says she can't do this anymore. Every battle has been lost, there's no land left to defend. You tell her to keep fighting, insisting that it will be worth it in the end. But she says she's already at the end, there's no place left to go. She backs into the last room, slowly, until her bones hit the wall. The end wall, the end. And she straps on the suicide belt.


    You've got this all wrong, she says. You still think it's a matter of principles, or a problem blown out of proportions, your obstinate faith in solutions is agonizing. Please stop insisting that there must be a way out, stop repeating that defeat is not an option. She speaks calmly, her reasoning is logical, but her voice is weakened by years of strenuous resistance. She has nothing left to lose, and her thumb is on the detonator.


    *

    She looks at him, he looks at her, the oppressor and the oppressed, the power has shifted, and the moment before she moves her thumb they both know they have lost.
  • Afterwards, you carefully enter the ruins, collecting the shattered pieces of wasted lives, asking yourself what more you could have done. You place her shredded heart next to her burned-out body and secretly wonder whether you could have prevented the tragedy. Could you have listened more closely, should you have repeated your assertions one more time, told her to get out of there, urged her to accept kind offers from merciful strangers, kept insisting that she must not be afraid. Oh, but you were so tired, weren't you, and so busy with your own wars.


    You will honor her memory, you say. You, who turned your back to her bruises. You, who refused to take a stand. You, who would not choose sides. You, who overheard the screams of pain, the crying, the silent dying.


    *


    We are continents, you and I, he and she, us and them, always half a world apart.
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