A Significant Place
I stand beside a gravelly, sand packed road. I kneel down and touch the ground with my hand. The sun threatens to pound me into the ground, its blazing rays like pieces of glass against my face. Breathing is difficult here and the heat is choking in its intensity. Yet small brown skinned children play a derivative of soccer with a duct tape ball in the empty field opposite where I stand. Children rarely seem to notice the elements. Only the old and the despondent comment on the weather. I have been talking about the weather for a long time. Sand blows around my feet. Cars and diesel trucks of indeterminate make and model creep along the road disappearing into the walled city like giant ants coming in from the hunt. In the distance, a jet roars into the sky. Sweat pours down the side of my face. I wear a bandana around my throat and mouth which does little to protect me from the blowing sand. It gets in my teeth and the corners of my eyes and I taste the destruction of this place. It tastes like gunpowder and death and a quiet despair. Just outside the walls of the city, two old men lie on reed pallets and watch me. They speak to each other in a tongue I don’t pretend to understand. They don’t appear to be lepers but they have been shunned by the citizens within the walls. Occasionally, as a car drives past the gate, it slows enough for a hand to shoot out through the dust clouded window and toss change into a basket at their feet. The pair seem neither thankful nor embarrassed by the alms. They only continue to talk and watch me. If I walked over and kicked them, I do not think they would be surprised or angry. They lack concern for their situation. I have been standing here for the better part of an hour. There is no memorial cross posted here, no makeshift memorial with pictures or rosaries, nothing to mark this spot where three years ago a woman my son had never met walked up to his checkpoint and punched buttons on the cell phone connected to the bomb under her cloak. True to the end, they both believed in their causes, each thinking a difference could be made through action. Neither action means anything now. The world remains unchanged. Yet my world, a world neither were trying to affect, is radically different. I have come here to find the family of that woman, to know them, to understand what drove her to the action that stole my son from me. I turn and walk towards the gates of the city.