On Saturday, I wrote about the opening of Afghanistan’s first museum dedicated to victims of war. I wrote about the glass cases containing bits of lives snuffed out, the detritus of just one of countless mass graves: dentures, torn cloth, shoes, rusted handcuffs.
That night, I slept fitfully. I had Afghanistan dreams. Again. Nightmares about a place I’ve never been.
The next morning, my mother, my sister and I went through boxes of my old things. In a few months, my grandmother will sell the only house I have ever truly called home. Anything I left there when I moved out must go. As my mother sifted through my jewelry and knick-knacks of years ago, she held up each item and asked “Keep? Or throw away?”
Out of a dusty makeup case, she pulled a bracelet. I snatched it almost violently and ran into the living room.
I hadn’t seen the bracelet in years. I thought I had lost it somewhere, and guilt weighed heavily on me for that. It was a precious object; you see, it once belonged to a girl who now lies in an unmarked grave in Afghanistan.
The bracelet is glass, handmade. It looks black, but, when you hold it up to the light, you see that it’s actually very dark purple. There is a single, freckle-sized blot of of green paint on it, a lovely mistake the artisan saw no need to correct.
I rubbed the bracelet gently between my palms, warming the glass. It didn’t fit over my hand. She had smaller hands, I thought, and such little wrists.
When the bracelet came into my possession, I was 17, exactly the age she’d been when a bullet stopped her heart, when she saw her husband drop in front of her in the last terrible moments of her own life.
Her daughter would fall asleep in the back seat of my best friend’s car on the way back from Sunday trips to the playground and the ice-cream parlor, and I would stare at the little girl as the winter sunshine rolled over her flushed cheeks and thick-lashed almond eyes. Her mother had been pretty, her father undoubtedly handsome. They had loved their baby, and loved each other. They wanted to have more children. They wanted to go on living. History laid waste to those simple plans in one bloody day.
I pressed the bracelet to my chest.
Really powerful. It’s realizing the loss of the ordinary in war that is heartbreaking.
I realized today that the little girl, the daughter, is now almost 12 years old. Time flies.