Ah, I know. Friendship bracelets.
Told my coworker I’ll make a list of “calmer” games for the kids to play at the refugee camp, something we can do sitting down so their energy level doesn’t get too crazy; especially since yesterday smiley little amir mohammed, with his tiny toothless grin and big sparkling eyes, chucked a fat rock against the head of two-year-old Dameer and broke the kid’s face open. I carried this bleeding, screaming child all the way across the yard of the refcamp and surely everyone’s thinking, great, this fucking American just beat up an Afghan child. Not like that’s anything new. They know NATO for dropping bombs on kids and families all the time, without much discretion. I’m just a micro of the macro. Nobody actually said anything.
Duck duck goose. The silent murderer. Telephone. Down by the banks, but not that one, because the English is too difficult. Most of them aren’t at that level yet.
So the next day we load up the van and go, and I bring a sack of embroidery thread in 8 or 9 different colors with a tiny pair of scissors. Tape would have been nice but we didn’t have any, so we tied the strings to the table or held them taught by hand.
The plan was to teach the kids to braid, if they didn’t know already, and make friendship bracelets of three different colors. They all wanted to keep the bracelets for themselves, so there wan’t a ton of friendship going on, but companionship happened anyhow. We sat at a wooden picnic table in the center of the park area outside of the camp; kids between two and five, then some older Iranian woman, and one ancient Afghan great-grandmother of Asiatic heritage, wrapped in shawls, spoke only Persian, sat methodically braiding an elaborate chain from my coworker’s hand. He seemed to be falling in love.
Chasing beauty can be one’s permanent life pursuit. Chasing money is less abstract and equally achievable. Beauty is easy to find because it lives in dirt, in sorrow, in the separation of families, in the distance between young lovers, toddlers whose mothers have been killed in an airstrike and the community which rises to raise them, tiny hands braiding bracelets, wrinkles in brown skin and handmade trousers torn from jumping a border fence. Beauty is the most difficult thing to bear because it is temporary and somehow born from some type of hardship. Beauty is pain, blooms like flowers in the gut, and can never be fully destroyed. To chase one is to suffer the other.
Toddlers playing, a paper airplane. Shrubs uncomfortably pruned. Old fella passes, rounded spine and balding head in a striped polo. A kid falls off his bike. Couple on a bench, her head in his lap. Tricycles on the pavement. Youths in matching shirts. Enthusiastic Hungarian chanting from somewhere over yonder. Older guy with long silver hair walks in strides and carries a half-sized pizza box. Wears glasses. Definitely an intellectual. Does walking in a city make a person more intellectual?
Bike kid’s gettin cocky with his stunts. Wealthier folks are probably at the gondola-lookin restaurant in the park’s center. Seated chicly in appropriate white outdoor chairs. Sipping on Cold Drinks With Ice, as Fancy People are wont to do. I hate them all.
A small broken log all alone on a patch of dirt. A german shepherd that has never been allowed to run free in its entire lifetime. The shepherd has given up on feeling bitter and simply allows itself to enjoy the freedom to eat whatever human food it begs its masters for.
Greasy-lookin hip kid eats a sandwich as he walks. Four hippies gathered in a corner. Fifty percent of them are wearing those enormous hammer pants that seem to magically sprout on hippies. Skinny man in pink shirt and khaki shorts reads the Bible on a bench with his chihuaua.
Mom took the kid’s bike away and now he’s pissed as fuck, screaminng, crocodile tears, arms folded round his chest. Still wants cuds from mama doh, even though mama is the one to blame.
A girl on the bench with long black hair. She looks like me, but clean and proper, taking in the sun. Standing, slowly meanders towards me. Kneels down, meets my eyes and licks her lips. Pushes me onto my back and undoes my shorts, pulls my leggings down, kisses me over my underwear. Nobody around us notices. I’m fine with that.
Lola, trae la pelota. Lola. Lola. Lola, trae. Trae la pelota Lola. Trae. Lola is a small, shiny black girl with floppy ears and a real perky tail. Her companion is more of a setter/street mutt mix, light brown, huntin dog size, too excited to control itself, barking like a maniac. Owner cries out Coco!
Never trust anyone who names their dog Coco.
había un calvito con miedo de todo
con ojitos que brillaban al sol
quería irse lejos, pero temía estar sin la madre,
quería ver el mundo, pero temía viajar.
quería cocinar, pero temía aprender cómo,
quería amar, pero temía su corazón.
quería ser más sabio, pero temía irse al cole,
quería salir fuera, pero incluso temía el sol.
con suerte un día el calvito
se dejó caer de la cuna
y pasito a pasito
aprendió a caminar —
luego se puso pelo y
como dicta la naturaleza
tras su milagro mas asombroso
se atrevió de ser hombre
y el calvito se creció.