“They Left.”

I make a phone call to my mother before I begin walking home from where the service taxi drops me off. I make this phone call each time to make out which road to take as clashes have been ongoing since the beginning of October with the IOF in the settlement close to where I live.

“It’s fine. If you cross anything, just take the neighbor’s back gate,” was the reply this time.

And so, I took the road I usually take.

Right when I arrived the curb, where the little girl yesterday told me to watch out, I saw a young boy standing there looking ahead.

“Anyone there?” I asked him, not being able to make out what lay ahead due to the sandy fog and a new building that has served no good but multiple that-was-close car accidents.
He didn’t answer.
La, la. Fsh eshee,” an elderly women called to me. “No, no. There’s nothing.”

I continued on my way, as a young boy, about my height, walked towards me. His face was covered with a koffeyah, and all I could see were his eyes.
For a split second, our eyes locked, and I couldn’t help but see innocence, sadness, courage and fear all at once. That is what I saw in his eyes: a child. He was a child taking on the role of an adult, and no one else was around him except me, another boy standing on the sidelines, and an elderly woman.

Mrawheen,” I heard him say to the other boy as I walked away. “They left.” I couldn’t help but notice his tone filled with relief.

“They” left, but they always come back. They’ll leave teargas canisters and live bullets for us to photograph and show the world “we’re being attacked!” In the midst of all these clashes and riots, even the children go home and do what they have to do only to come back. Do they know what they’re coming back for?

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