Category: Serbia

PRINCIPOVAK KIDS

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.

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