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This Morning in Sarajevo MAG
Daria says she saw God this morning. At first, I thought she was lying, but I'm not as sure anymore. She's here now, sitting on my bed, her slim body shaking against the plaster wall. The paint has chipped in places and now the white flakes mix into her black hair.
"Dar," I begin slowly "where did you see Him?" She ignores me. Her dark eyes dart about the room. Now she is gazing at my wall, now my bookshelf, allowing her eyes to evaluate anything but my gaze.
"Daria, you're scaring me." She's looking at me now, those eyes penetrating mine instantly. Now it is I who look away.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?"
"You saw God. Where?"
"Do you believe me?"
"I'm not sure, but I'd like to." My voice sounds flat against the white walls.
"Mama sent me for cans this morning from the American relief people."
"Yeah, Feed the Children. I'm going there tomorrow. But what does that have to do with ... ?"
"Do you want to know or not?" Her voice is harsh, almost vicious. I nod and she continues.
"As I was waiting in line, I met this man. We spoke for a while; you know how long those lines are. It seems everyone needs more food now with the blockade ..." Her voice trails off and I know better than to intrude upon her thoughts. Her brows furrow slightly and she begins to shake once more. After a few minutes, the tremors cease.
"He was really old - in his seventies maybe. All he wanted was a can of soup for his wife. Isn't that something, Mir? All he wanted was a soup can." I know she doesn't want me to respond.
"When we finally got to the van, the man asked for it, really politely, you know? As though he still cared about manners, as though that kind of thing still mattered. The American woman wanted to give him more, but he insisted that he needed one soup can and only that. So I took what Mama wanted and I started walking back with him, since he was such a nice person. He and his wife had a kid once, a son - Ganya, I think it was. He died a year ago when the first shellings started.
"She coughs suddenly, "Pass me the water." I hand her a partially filled glass. The bottles Dadi and I filled last Thursday are nearly empty and, though the relief van shouldn't leave until Monday, we're accustomed to saving each drop in case the shellings induce it to leave earlier.
Daria takes a small sip. "They had a daughter, but she married a Croat and he got her out of the country. They live in France now - at least that's what the man said." She inhales sharply.
"We were walking for about ten minutes. By then, we had reached the bridge. I heard gunshots from the hills. I took cover - I don't even remember where. I was so scared, Mira, and all of a sudden I started praying on that bridge. I wanted to live so much, so I prayed and then it was over. The gunshots stopped. I didn't realize it until I heard some mother screaming and cursing in the distance - at least I think it was a mother." Daria stops there. She begins to bite down on her lower lip.
"What happened to him, Dar?" I whisper the question. I know what happened to the man. My aunt has already warned me of Daria's experience. Still, I need to hear it from her. I pick up a chip of paint, slowly crushing it in my hand.
"He wasn't fast enough and, well, he gave me the can. He gave me that stupid can! He made me swear that I would bring it to his wife, like that would actually make a difference." Her voice trails off again."Did you swear?"
"Of course I did. The man was dying!" Now she's yelling. She needs to yell.
"Did you do it?" I ask, my throat dry. Even my aunt doesn't know this part of Daria's story.
"No. I got as far as his apartment but then I started thinking. I kept imagining this grandmother, walking to her mailbox to see if her daughter took the time to write. I just couldn't tell her, Mira. I was too scared to tell her she was all alone. I ran up to the door and left the can there.""But you said you saw God."
"I saw him die. Have you ever seen anyone die, Mira?"
"You see God in a person's eyes when they die. It's there for a second and then it's gone and then they're gone. But it's there, Mira. It is there."
I nod. " I believe you."
She ignores my statement, picking a flake of paint off her hair, "What's happening to us, Mira?"
I don't answer. My eyes refuse to meet hers. Instead, I look away, for the first time seeing nothing: no London, no Paris. I can't image it anymore. Nothing exists now except Daria and me, and this place, and only that.