In Ahero, a six week old baby girl was found wrapped in a black polythene bag outside a gate. No clothes, no blanket. She didn’t survive. I think about the decisions her mother had to make. What choices she had. In Palestine, a father holds his daughter, lifeless, in his hands.

There’s an aching in this world.

I have been thinking about medical justice and how health can be a bridge to peace. I wonder what my girlfriend would have to say about that. That’s one of her passions. I should text her. I wish I talked to her more than I thought about her but for now that’s enough.

I have been thinking about that Pakistani boy I once liked. We worked together for six weeks in Uganda. I remember his palms getting sweaty every time I held them. He’d apologize for it and I would tell him it was okay. I loved how he’d clasp his hands in mine when no one was looking. Every night we smoked around the football field, he’d tell me I was the one he wanted to marry. We were just twenty-four. There’s something about him that made existence feel innocent. Maybe that’s what I miss. I was his first kiss. He was my first cigarette. He asked me if he could call me his girlfriend at the airport on our last day. I said yes. It felt right. He had created a folder on my drive with all the pictures of Arua sunsets he’d taken that I had been too busy to experience. That was his way of reminding me not to forget. He always had an extra water bottle for me because he knew I always forgot mine. He taught me how to roll tobacco. I taught him how to tie a tie. At breakfast, we always sat next to each other in silence. He was not a morning person. I was. It just felt right.

We tried dating long distance but one of us wasn’t patient enough and the other could not document their daily lives enough to bridge the gap so we settled on friendship. Or at least one of us did. On his twenty-fifth birthday he said his parents had found him a girl to marry. Their families had already met. I prepared him for their first date, researched the best date spots in Lahore and settled on a quaint little café because it had his favorite food on the menu and I thought she’d appreciate the décor and ambience. She was an interior design major. I listened to him on the phone twice a week complain about their differences and witnessed the differences turn to knowing. I listened as our phone calls became less about the rooftop he was smoking on and what natural dye I was choosing for my yarns to the exciting plans he had with his bride-to-be. I couldn’t bring myself to remind him not to forget.

Two years later he calls telling me he has been unwell for months. I listened to him say he regretted never marrying me. I say my dad would not have let me marry a Muslim. He says I had more spine than he ever did. I tell him I’m untethered, not brave. Shortly after, the phone calls stop. The Instagram memes never came. It’s been three years, seven months, two days and eight hours since we last talked.

There’s an aching for home.

At home, I’m reminded of that innocence I miss. My nephew is on the floor sketching on my notebook. He’s supposed to be drawing a monster truck but like every artist, only he truly understands his masterpiece. I think it’s a dog with chicken legs, but what do I know? His mum is showing me yet another TikTok video as I make her tea. She tells me one of her favorite thrifted shawls was handmade in Palestine. I wonder where the women who embroidered it are, and if they were okay. At home we’re sharing daily moments that represent lenses into our humanity. That’s our way of acknowledging each other’s right to the now, as Viken Berberian would put it. In the face of destruction, we’re trying to construct meaning from the absurd.










Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash