Tuesday, February 22

[cease]

It's been a few days. It still stings to know how unsafe all of this is. I don't regret letting him go, I can't regret letting him go. It's the way it had to be, he had to leave, he could let Hamraville suffocate and choke him. And as much as it hurt to watch him go, it would have hurt more to see the increasing pain he felt each day, if he had stayed on in Colin's flat. I didn't call Colin, I was too ashamed to let him know that's I'd let Ezra go, that I'd sent him out into harm's way, that I hadn't had the power to hold him back. But I wasn't guilty. I hadn't done anything he wouldn't have done already.

So when Colin burst into the Pheonix today while I was working, I had everything I wanted to say already planned out.

"Aemi, I need to talk to you, NOW."

We went into the back room. Jane took over the counter. She knew something was up. He cornered me. "Aemi, the VAN's gone... you gave him the keys, didn't you." I didn't say a word. "Didn't You?!"

"Yes! Yes, Colin I did. He had to go, he would have gone even if I hadn't given him the van keys."

"I'm really disappointed in you, Aemi."

"Goddamit Colin! What could I have done? We can't protect him anymore, he was desperate, he was suffocating."

"He was SAFE!"

"He was dying. He's making his way south. I don't know if he'll make it, but it's not my responsibility anymore. He needed to do it. It was my choice to give him those keys, Colin, because I knew what he needed to do. You can hate me all you want, you can be as disappointed with me as you want. He wants to make it to the PFLZ border, he wants to help Zachary and Mazzie and Zoe, and there's nothing more we can do anymore."

A voice came from the door. "Maybe the ceasefire will help him out."

We both whirled around to see Jane standing in the doorway. At the same time, we both exclaimed out: "What?"

"Have you guys read the news recently? There's been a ceasefire... it's temporary, but both sides are keeping. Maybe it'll help your friend get past the boundary."

I shoot her a look. "You were listening?"

"Aemi, the whole cafe would have been listening. You're lucky as hell that no one's here."

Colin shakes his head and looks down. "If this ceasefire is for real, maybe Ezra has a chance."

"I'd like to think so, Colin. I'd like to think so."

I don't know where things are headed now. Ezra's gone. I'll spend every day worrying about him... and probably will until I get a letter, or anything. Colin called me tonight to tell me he was coming over, that home was lonely by himself. I think I'll be seeing more of him now that we're alone, 2/3 of a whole. I want to tell Edward about all of this, I feel like if I could tell him my stories of travelling Brynania, he might be able to tell me all of his. These days it feels like so many people are missing, so much of our lives are missing, pieces of us (physical and emotional) are missing, that the only thing we can do is stick together, try and play family, fill each others gaps. Because that's the only thing we can really do now, and the only thing we can really do at all.

Thursday, February 17

[empty holes]

It's early, 4:30am or so, far earlier than Colin ever knocks on my window, when Ezra shows up, tapping quietly, rousing me from sleep. I'd only just been able to sleep a few hours beforehand... I had been up, my heart never stopping it's pounding beat, worried about where he could be, what kind of trouble he could be in. Only the thought that he could be coming back allowed my eyes to droop, only the idea that Colin might call me tomorrow, saying that he'd showed up at the door that night, realizing he had nowhere to go. And now, here he was, tapping at my window. I didn't know whether to breathe a giant sigh of relief or gulp and watch tears fall from my eyes. I did both as I jumped outside to meet him.

My chest feels like its being squeezed inwards, and all I want to do it press it out, I just want to envelop Ezra with my caring for him. I want to tell him that he'll be safe with us, that we're his family, that we're his family. "Ezra... why did you run? You're coming back now, right? You're not leaving...."

"Aemi, I have to leave the city. I've been thinking about it for weeks and weeks now, it's the only thing I can do. If I can just make it down past the boundary line I can organize something, I can help Zachary, I can try and find Mazzie and Zoe and my other friends, I can try and rescue them. I know they're in trouble, Aemi, I know it. And I can't... I can't stay here anymore! It hurts everyday Aemi! I live like a mole, underground, under the view of everything. I can't make friends, I can't do anything! I just exist, I'm not living, I'm not living! And I can't just sit here patiently and apathetically, I can't be caged anymore. I feel trapped here, I feel dead, I don't even exist in this city. I just float below the surface, wasting day after day after day away, washing my hands of axle grease, making shitty dinner with Colin, sleeping trying not to think of my friends, of my family. Can't you understand that, Aemi?! Can't you see that I'm fading, dying here? Can't you see that?!"

I am defeated. I am defenseless. I have nothing, I have nothing I can say. I can't do this anymore. There's been too much pain this year already. It's only February. In my bare feet, I sink to crouching and stay there. I am shaking. Ezra is standing before me. His eyes are wavering again, quaking the way they did when he found out they were gone. Suddenly I'm filled with fury, rising up in my chest, what did he think he was doing, how could he just destroy himself like that. I spring up and raise my hand, smashing it against his cheekbone witha sharp slap. He grabs my arms and pins them behind me, holding me down from behind.

"Let me go you bastard! What do you think you're doing?! Ezra they will kill you out there, you will be found out and they will kill you. You fucking Zaharian! Don't you see that?! You're not safe on your own! You can't make it, do you remember how many guards we had to make it through, we couldn't even get close, my brother, my brother almost died near the boundary. I can't... I can't...."

He lets me go and collapses to sit on the curb, his head in his hands.

"I can't watch you die, Ezra. I care about you, I love you, too much. You're my brother, Ezra, my best friend. I can't I can't I can't... how can you even get close to there? How could you even get past the city?"

He looks up at me. His eyes are pleading. "That's why I'm here, Aemi. I need the keys to the van. I need it to get out. I'll follow backroads. I've got ID. I've got enough money from working at the shop. I'll be safe... I'll... I'll be as careful as I can... Aemi... don't you understand that I have to... I have to try. You've got the keys. I need them. Aemi. I need those keys."

My lips quiver. "No."

"Please, Aemi. I'm going either way. I can either take the van, or try and make it some other way."

I am defeated. I am defeated. I can't keep him here. I can't keep him here.

My voice is weak, tears stream past my nose and fall into my mouth and down my throat. "They're in the green jewelry box on my desk. I don't want to see you take them. I don't want to see it." He creeps back in my window. I am standing on the fucking pavement, my fists clenched, ready as anything to scream at the top of my lungs into the furious sky, when he comes behind me and wraps his arms around me from behind. I fall into him. "I can't believe you're doing this to me, Ezra. I can't believe you're doing this to yourself." He buries his nose in my hair on the back on my head. Pain shocks throughout me, from my ribcage down my arms, shooting down my legs, beating like sharp, wicked blood.

"I'll reach you as soon as I possibly can, Aemi. Don't ever forget me."

He releases his arms, and I fall on my knees. And then he's gone. And I had nothing to look at but my tear-spashes gathering dust on the pavement, and nothing to feel but cored out from the inside.

Tuesday, February 15

[off keel, off kilter]

When I woke up this morning, I really felt as though life had become bright again. Really I did. I've been working at the Pheonix, making quite good money (it's colder outside, more people need coffee?) and Edward seems happier, more accepting of himself. We've started going for walks together outside. Sometimes people stare, and sometimes it hurts him to know that, but it gets easier with each day. Anything to just get out of the house, to be around people a bit more.

Today I felt ready to call Colin and Ezra again. It was late, 8pm or so, the phone rang twice and Ezra picked up. "Aaaaemi... Colin told me about your brother... I'm so sorry Aemi. How are you doing? How is he doing?"

"He's fine. I'm fine. Things are really working themselves out, you know..."

"That's so good... it's good that things work out for some people in this country" he says, with a little sad laugh. Something's wrong. I can tell. Something's tense in his voice.

"What's wrong, Ezra?" No use in stepping around it?

"Wrong?" Another nervous laugh. "Wrong? Nothing's wrong... I'm just, these days, I'm just... I've just been waiting so long. There's been no news or anything... I'm just restless."

I have nothing good to tell him. I've been telling him to wait for months. To be patient. Not to worry. Just to ride it through. I have nothing good to tell him anymore.

"Ezra... we'll... we'll get together and talk about this, we will. We have to be able to brainstorm up something."

Laughter, short and breathy and worried. "Yeah... yeah, we'll do that."

I told him I'd see him soon, told him to have Colin call me later. And Colin did call later. But not to catch up.

"Aemi!" He was yelling into the phone. "Where the fuck is Ezra?!"

"What... what do you mean, where is he? He's not there?"

"No, he's not fucking here... I came home and found a note on the counter that read "I'm sorry I had to leave this way. Please don't come after me. I'll contact you when I can." You know where he is, don't you? He told you, didn't he?"

"Colin, I swear to God... he didn't tell me anything." My heart was beating a thousand miles a second. "I talked to him today on the phone... he said he was tired of waiting around... but he didn't say anything about leaving, we even made plans to get together soon and talk about things... he's gone?! Colin... he didn't tell you anything else?"

"He didn't tell me a goddamn thing. I don't know what the fuck he thinks he's doing, how he thinks he's going to get out of the city without being arrested or killed or... fuck! Jesus!" The phone clatters, I can see Colin throwing it across the room in rage, then fuzzes and disconnects.

Ezra's gone. Ezra's gone. Ezra's gone. We can't protect him anymore. Ezra's gone.

Sunday, February 6

[caffiene]

Today I went back to the Pheonix to plead for my summer job back. It used to make me so happy to be there, and I need something to fill my days again. Jane was there when I walked in, whisking away behind the counter. She raised her eyebrows when she saw me. "Well, look what the cat dragged in! I thought you'd disapeared off the map... Aemi, where have you been? Why aren't you in school anymore?"

"My brother was injured in the fighting down south... badly... I'm taking a semester off to stay home and take care of him."

"That's really... noble of you. Is he alright? How are you? And how are you friends... what was it, Colin and Ezzy? Are they ok?"

"I'm fine, and he will be alright... he lost his legs (she gasped) but he'll be alright... and Colin and Ezra are fine. But, I need something to fill my days, and I was thinking about starting up here again... is Edith (the manager) around?"

"She left, tired of this place I suppose. I'm part-time managing. Tell me your qualifications (she grinned) and perhaps I'll hire you. Man... Aemi, I have so much to tell you... UHCHR's actually getting off the ground... I sent a very strongly-worded letter to that Mattern woman, and she actually gave a damn about it. Met with me, re-planned ideas. I've actually exchanged emails with people in the UNDP, and we're going to be doing food and clothing drives throughout the city, not just the school. And that's just the start... are you staying away from UofH completely? or would you be able to help me with all of this?"

I smiled. "Get me up to speed on everything that's going on and I'm there."

"And your journal idea... are you still up for that? Because I can get funding now, not an immense amount, but at least enough to print it."

There were customers waiting. "Listen, Aemi, come in tomorrow at closing we'll work out shifts for you and talk about all of this. Give your brother my best wishes... stay strong, girl."

And so, with that, my life begins to piece itself together.

Wednesday, January 26

[eaves]

Yesterday, as I walked past my brother's room, I heard him call my name, and I walked in.He was lying on his bed, as usual, but as I walked through the door, he pushed himself up, using his arms to hoist the rest of him up, and sat up, leaning against the backboard of his mattress. "Come sit down." He said it softly, but authoritatively. I did.

"I heard your friend come by a couple of nights ago. Who is he?"

"Just this boy I know. His name's Colin."

"From school?"

"No... just from... I actually just met him at Stacy's. He asked me for a cigarette. But, that was a long time ago."

"I heard everything he said, also." I gulped. "Sorry to eavesdrop... I was awake late, I couldn't sleep. But... I heard what he said, about starting to rebuild lives. I can't just stay like this forever. I can't do it to me and I can't do it to you either. I've seen you... Aemi... you never smile just to smile anymore. I've been thinking about this for a few days now... but I don't know. There's so many... so many things I can't do anymore... Nothing that anyone can really be proud of me for..."

I paused and looked down at his bed-side table, at my stack of books, then quickly raised my head. "Edward, you should enroll at UofH. With me, next year. You could do everything there... I mean... it'll take some time for you to heal completely... but university is terrific, it's hard work, but it's really great... and it's something that you can achieve, something even Father would be proud of..."

Edward smiles. A full smile, fuller than I've seen his pale face extend to. He reaches an arm out to me, but loses his balance and shoves it back down to catch himself. I'm two steps ahead of him, and give him a quick squeeze with my arms. "Things'll be alright... they might seem too awful to overcome now, but they'll be alright someday soon."

"Thank you, Aemilia... you've... I mean... just, thank you."

Sunday, January 23

[lifeline]

Yesterday night Colin made a 3am visit to my window. Even with the curfew still in place, he came. I'm sure he snuck down every alleyway he could find. It'd been so long since I'd seen him, but somehow... I wasn't even surprised. I just got up and opened the window, and he crept in. I sat back down on my bed, and looked at him blankly. He was angry, his whispers had a knife-edge to them "Aemi, where the fuck have you been? I saw that Damien kid you used to hang out with on the street the other day, he said you dropped out of school. What's happened to you? You don't call anymore, I don't care about the curfew, you could at least call..."

I just sigh. I look down.

Suddenly, he softens. "Aemi," he says, more patiently than he's ever said anything, "what happened to you? Ezra's been worried. I can tell he misses you. And honestly... I've been worried about you too. You don't seem yourself, or at least, you seem less yourself than I've ever seen you. What happened."

My voice cracks. "Edward, my brother in... the Republican Guard, came home... they amputated... his legs. I just... it just..."

Colin's leans over and hugs me. He's never done this before. He doesn't say anything. I'm almost ashamed to have my face pressed into his shoulder, his collarbone against my cheek. I never wanted Colin to think I was weak about anything. "I never even knew you had a brother." I suppose he didn't. I didn't want him to know that either.

"Listen, Aemi," he says, taking my shoulders, "He's not dead or anything. I know it must hurt, but people rebuild their lives, we all have hardships, and you can't let others destroy your life."

"But I have to stay here and help him."

"But you have to live your life as well. What are you doing these days? Why didn't you tell us this? Aemi, you can't hide like that..."

"Why not, Colin? Why not? You've hidden from me the whole goddamn time you've known me. I never know what you're doing or where you are. That first night when we went to the Zephyr and you disapeared without me and I had no idea where you were for 3 weeks, I worried, the whole time, I had no idea where you were... and.... and... you're so secretive and solitary... you hide more than I ever have in my whole life!"

"But I can take care of myself."

"So can I!"

"But I worry about you."

"You think I don't worry about you, Colin?!"

A light turns on in the hallway. I hear footsteps. Colin jumps up like a black cat and slides out through my window and takes off across the street, all in one move. My door opens. It's my mother. "Aemi, what was that talking?"

"Nothing... mother... just.... just a bad dream."

Colin didn't come back, but somehow... somehow today I feel better.

Monday, January 10

[further]

I don't leave the house much these days. I don't have much of anywhere to go. Colin and Ezra have their own lives, I don't think they'd understand anyway. Colin's called a few times, my mother picks up the phone, I tell her I don't want to talk to him. She doesn't ask questions. I feel so numb about everything. It's colder outside, when I open the door to the outside world the breeze freezes my cheeks and I close the door again. I've been sleeping a lot. Reading old books. I make sure not to turn on the news, I can't hear anymore death, and any victory I hear is a lie. I don't want to hear about the bravery of the military, being with them almost killed my brother. I don't want to think about the Zaharians, they tried to kill my brother. I don't want to hear about refugees or the war or the violence in Hamraville. I just want to stay in my room and be safe from all of this, be away from everything.

Monday, January 3

[down far]

Edward's been home for a week now. I dropped out of UofH for this semester. I need to take care of him. My parents can't. I can. It's the only thing I can do. I can sacrifice a semester for my brother, my real brother. He needs help, in immense quantities. Edward isn't Edward anymore. Not in the way he was before. He's said very little since he came home, besides niceities, yes's, no's, thank you's... It... it breaks my heart.

I can see it breaking my mother's heart as well. She flutters over him while he's home, making him food, much of which he refuses (I've never seen Edward refuse food before), fluffing his pillows, checking in on him. I know he hates it, the pity, the maternal smothering. He gets around the house in a wheelchair the hospital gave him, but mostly he just lies on his bed. The physical deformity is... terrifying, honestly, though I'd never tell him that. It's like he's cut in half. His face is paler, every time he wheels into a room my heart returns, with one swift pummel, to the way it felt the first time I saw him. Each time I see his face, I expect him all to be there.

I think it's breaking my father's heart too, but in radically different ways. He spends all day at the office, comes home later than he ever has. He avoids Edward. Which, in turn, breaks Edward's heart, I can see it even through the numbness of his eyes. Which, in turn, breaks my heart.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only good thing in his life right now. I come in sometimes when he's lying on his bed and talk to him, though he's quiet. I tell him stories about school, I tell him my worries about Mother and Father, I tell him that I missed him, that I really, really did. It's the first time I've ever opened up to him this way... sometimes it almost feels like I'm talking to someone in a coma... an emotional coma if anything. His responses are miniscule, but the occasional smile... is more worth it than any other smile I might have caused. I try my best not to be fretty or overbearing or pitying. I bring him books which he sometimes picks up.

He never speaks about anything that happened. But someday, when he does, I know it will be to me.

Sunday, December 26

[what we're fighting for]

Something tells me that after today, my life will never be quite the same. Today we're blogging as catharsis, today we're blogging with tear stained eyes and salt-crust cheeks. Ezra and Colin can talk about family all they want, but when your real family is in trouble, it's even more painful than any construct, and shape-to-fill-a-lack, ever could be.

I got a call at 3pm, deep, official-sounding voice, asking for my father. I said I'd take a message. He told me that Edward was in Hamraville General Hospital, after being transported back from the enemy border, and that he was badly wounded, but that he wanted to come... and then, just like that, the phone lines cut out. I grabbed my bag and ran. I ran to school, to the library, in tears to find my mother. My tears made my mother panic, and she put in a frantic call to my father, tears dripping all over the phone cord. The students near her in the library turned and stared. I didn't care. I could only wonder... what did they mean by "badly wounded"? Was he near-dead? Would he die before we got there? Was he conscious, bloody, mangled, broken, burned... himself, even?

I was terrified.

My father picked us up in a government car and drove us to the hospital. His face was as white as my mothers was red as mine was stoney. When we got to the hospital and rushed to have the nurses take us to him, we found ourselves walking down white-washed hallways with sickly green light flooding through them, into Edward's room where he laid in bed, his face as pale as the sheets they laid him in, missing both his legs from the knee down.

My mother burst into sobs, but it didn't wake him up. I felt like i was being pummelled in the chest time after time after time, my mouth dropped open and I began to shake. My father walked out of the room, and wasn't found until almost 15 minutes later, sitting in a waiting room drinking cup after cup of coffee. My brother had lost a part of his body, but an even bigger part of his pride and ability. How would he get around? What would he do now? Who would take care of him? I made the first move, and went over and hugged him... something I hadn't done since we were little kids. His eyes opened, blurred and grey and he whispered, slurred and dazed "Aemilia... please don.. tell father..." I cried and cried.

We left him there for tonight, he'll come home tomorrow. The nurse says he was brought back to Hamraville last week with the bottoms of his legs full of bullets... they'd shattered his shins and kneecaps. They couldn't move him out of the bases for a week, they were being attacked so hard, and by the time they did, by the time they made it back to Hamraville, the wounds had infected... the sores and rot was irreparable, the only thing they could do was amputate. As the only small consolation... the surgury went well. He would be fine, they could give him the care he needed... but that inside, he would be broken.

I can't even start to imagine what he must have gone through, waiting and waiting in some grimy infirmary bed listening to the sounds of war, feeling the sores in his legs start to itch and ooze, screaming when he moved.... I.... I can't even begin to imagine.... I don't want to imagine.... I don't want to think about it any more. Fuck. And now I'm crying again, thinking of him in his white hospital bed, surrounded and filled with so much blankness and shame and hurt and ache. Don't tell father. Don't tell father. That's the only fucking thing he said. Don't tell father. Don't tell anyone.

Christ, what has life become?!

Monday, December 13

[two down]

Two down (History and German), two (Politics) to go. Exam time this semester is more, well, confusing than anything else. I'm so new to all of this, especially the political science bit, that I have no idea what's expected of me. That said, it's all very theoretic, beginners stuff, models and ideas and analysis without having anything to analyze yet. It's been an odd process, not what I expected at all. Still, I'm registered for more advanced courses for next semester, next year(!)... it'll get better and more interesting, I hope. History has been incredible. There was never a class like that in my high school, that just took Brynania and laid it down for you, ever since decolonization. It's been enlightening and odd to study your own country. It's like putting something under a microscope and being able to see yourself floating about in a petri dish. Which is sortof unsettling.

I talked to Jane about Colin's pamphlet idea. She loves it. While I was taken aback by Mattern's pickup and susequent takeover of UHCHR... she was furious. Jane's like that. She's strong-willed and far more revolutionary than me, which is crazy considering that she comes from an even stuffier, richer background (I suppose everyone at UofH does). We're both too busy to start it now, but she said to talk to my friends and have them write their experiences, or memoirs about our trip. It could be published anonymously, no one would be put in danger.

Lord, I'm stressed. There's so much to compile. I'll make it through to our break. I'll make it through.

Thursday, December 2

[crunch time. again.]

How on earth did December sneak up on me like that? Exam period did that to me last year... a whole semester of reading and notes and lectures and tests suddenly swept itself into the center of my life, and sucked it dry for a month. I suppose I don't talk about school as much on here anymore, because it's not the part of my life that takes center-stage anymore. It's a constant, a steady part of my life, something to cling onto on a daily basis, something to ritualize myself with. I do my work, I study my verbs, I take my notes, and then when all of that is done there isn't really enough time to let the rest of the world overwhelm me. I guess in that I'm like my parents. If I didn't have my job and busy-work to occupy the bigger pieces of my life, doubts and worries and problems would overtake me. So... in that, school is the biggest and least important part of my life. And it probably needs to be that way.

So here starts the beginning of exams. Expect me to dive out of life and into school, full force. I hope.

Professor Mattern basically directed Jane and my meeting for UHCHR, which... while she's viciously bright, felt a little bit like sabotage. Jane and I sat on either side of her and she powerballed the other students who showed up for ideas. I suppose professors are meant to do that, but Jane and I swapped several glances to each other, me sheepishly and her angrily. She promised the club she'd get us in touch with someone at the United Nations Development Human Rights Something-Or-Other, and let us know what we can do, like we were just extensions of what she was doing as her job. I didn't want this to be an extension of anything, I wanted to tell the stories of what we saw. There had to be a better way.

It'd been a while since I'd been able to reach Colin. He and Ezra were never home, they worked late and stayed in at night. The power had been shoddy in their neighborhood... failing generators, which the government couldn't be bothered to send people to fix. Power failures were something we all had to deal with... generators went out, lines rotted, but (at least in my neighborhood) they were fixed within an hour or two. Everything about Hamraville is about where you live, just as everything about Brynania is where you live. Finally I got through to them tonight, everything had been been normal enough. Ezra had almost gotten into trouble with a couple of malevolant Brn refugees, but his legs had carried him back to the apartment fast enough to be safe. Apart from that, everything had been like it was. Colin said days were just kindof bleeding together, that they were really just waiting for something to happen, that Ezra seemed contented but impatient. At least they were safe. At least we were all safe. I told Colin about UNCHR, about the sabotage. He said he understood and said that we should put something out, a pamplet or small journal. That the only way to tell stories was to tell stories.

I agreed completely.

Tuesday, November 23

[closing things down]

Tonight ends the late-night walks with the boys.

My father came home, and in a brief moment of discussion between the two of us, told me that they government had instated curfew laws in Hamraville for anyone under 25, past 10pm. There has been so much trouble around the city. There's been shootings in some parts, crime in others. The Brn refugees who took over west of the city creep inwards like scavengers. The military and police and everyone try to keep them out, out of living in abandoned buildings or roaming the streets at night in gangs. Theres been fights and shootings in the worse parts of Hamraville, and muggings and robbery in the better parts. It's been sporadic, but... frightening. It's Brn fighting against other Brn, Brn refugees transformed by the conflict into half-people, into enemies. I always walk with Colin or Ezra at night, and I feel safe that way. But now? No more.

I don't know when I'll even see them. They work during the day. I have school. And to be caught outside at night with a boy who doesn't even have any real Brn identification? Risky, at best.

When did these days get so frightening? Did life always used to be like this, and I just had no part in it? Hamraville never used to feel like a war-zone. And I never used to have friends I needed to protect from the military. Sometimes I look back on the things I wrote in old journals and muse on how much simpler they were, before I got involved with anything. I suppose, strangely enough, before I met Colin.

Tuesday, November 16

[incrementally gaining speed]

Jane and I went to different classes today, announcing our ideas for UHCHR (the acronym still has not changed, and verbalizing it into Uh-Chur is pretty inelegant). There's been an amazing amount of support for Jane's Amnesty Interntional efforts. Somehow, in between the piles of reading we both have to do (she's studying politics as well, though at a higher level than I), we found a little time to get together and do this. We set a meeting date for the 25th, and are working to get people interested. Again, just to be able to throw about some ideas for action to take.

Amazingly enough, we also found a professor who'd be willing to help us, a woman named Professor Ellen Mattern. She's one of the few woman professors at UofH. Jane had had a class with her last year, she says she's strong and intelligent, someone good to have on our side. It's rumored that she has connections to the government and the UN, something that's even odder for a woman.

Still, all of this work makes me feel strangely powerless. I don't know how many letters we've sent off to some random government office, deploring the detainment of Zahra al-Zahra and other prisonners, pleading for the government to treat them fairly and end their imprisonment. But nothing has come of it. It's an incredible feeling or powerlessness, for something that felt so powerful when it was suggested. In my mind I can see the letters being forwarded to my father's desk to be dealt with, and I can see him taking each one, ripping it neatly into four pieces, and throwing it in the waste-paper bin.

How do you achieve something in a country whose government is inpenitrable? Jane says we need to work through other organizations, that it's useless to bother with the government. I'd like to have some hope though, that if those letters got sent to another desk, that someone else would read them, compile them, and send them on. I'm not ready to give up that much hope.

Friday, November 5

[lonely souls]

Colin slept early last night, so Ezra and I walked alone through the alleys of Hamraville. Fall was coming, and it was lightly raining, the cool drizzle felt like seaspray against the hot, thick Hamraville air. It coated the streets and buildings with a slick coat of tiny raindrops, that shone when there was light on them. We kicked patterns in the mist as we walked.

I told him about my brothers letters, how proud my parents had been, how since he'd left they barely seemed to notice me. It felt good to talk to someone about it... I don't usually get the opportunity, my friends are either too shallow, too detached, or too strange to listen. He told me about living with Colin, and how, a few days ago, Colin'd confided to him that he thinks that his father might have been a Zaharian, that he left when the civil war started, when he would have been very young. He found an old picture of him in his mother's makeup box, while he was scrounging for cigarettes around the house. So Colin might be only half Brn.

I start to laugh. Ezra tilts his head, confused. "Oh... I don't know. It's just that Colin's such an odd duck, you know?"

Now Ezra laughs. "I know! I can't explain him at all. Sometimes I'm not even sure if he like having me around, he doesn't show anything, at least... not much."

I nod. "I know what you mean... I used to feel the same way about him, that I wasn't sure if I was even worth his time. He used to just show up randomly, and he didn't seem to care where I was or what I thought about where he was. I mean, he still does that to a certain extent. But now... I just feel like I know that he cares, he really wouldn't bother otherwise. And he cares about you too. The three of us stick together well, you me and him."

"We're all orphaned children, orphaned by the civil war."

I shake my head. "Not true, I have a family, I'm not an orphan."

"Yes you are, we all are, but in different ways. I was orphaned directly, my parents were taken from me, Colin's father left, leaving him mother disinterested, and you feel unwanted now that you brother is gone. I can feel it when you talk about your family... you feel alone and uncared for, even if you won't admit it to yourself. But when you don't have a family, your friends become your family. And that's what hold us together. That's what's held me together my whole life."

Ezra walked me back to my place in the soft, cool rain. He kissed me goodnight and I shook the beads of water off my shoulders before slipping in through my window. I curling into bed wondering if there was anyone in the world with a more beautiful soul than him.

Saturday, October 23

[drowning in all your letters]

My parents got a letter today from Edward. I hadn't seen them so engaged in anything since... well... since he left.

I guess my parents have always been so detached from me my whole life that it didn't seem odd to me when they because sortof detached from everything when Edward enrolled. My mother and father saw their favorite child leave for the military. I never thought about the danger he was in. And if my mother thought about it every day, it would wear her into the ground. And if my father thought about it every day, it would put more lines in his forehead, make him even more silent and angry. So they tried to forget about everything, sucked themselves even further into their jobs and selves. And somewhere along the way, everything got forgotten. With the exception of the occasional chat with my mother, I hardly talk to them anymore. I cook for myself or eat at school. I suppose family dinners would just be starkly incomplete.

But today, when they got a letter, everything broke down. My mother and father sat over it, reading it together, reading it to me. My father read it aloud to me, brave tales about being stationed on the border to the PFLZ area, about the shells, the gunfire between both sides, about the distinction he was making for himself because of his courage. My father beamed. Their golden-child was at it again, shootin' dem evil Zaharians, winnin' da war. I didn't know whether to be disgusted or to be proud or to just... well... miss Edward (I suppose). It certainly broke down my parents grey, straight-line path, if only for a day, and made them happy and hopeful.

But today I got another letter. From Edward. Addressed to me, and only to me. It was dated 2 weeks ago.

Dear Aemilia,

It's peculiar writing a letter to you, we've lived so close our whole life that there was nothing I would ever have had to tell you. I know it must seem totally out of character, but I need to tell someone, and I don't know who else to tell but you.

I don't know if you got my other letter, but we're currently stationed at the border with the PFLZ rebel forces. There's so much fighting between the two sides on a daily basis, and none of it's what I expected. There's no hand to hand combat, just sneaking cheap shots, shelling or sniping the other side, killing whoever we can, fighting to gain ground. The violence is terrifying. I see my friends, my comrades, cut down from behind. I haven't slept a full night's sleep since I left Hamraville, the mood is too tense. We lie awake in tents at night, waiting for our eyes to close, or at least for the sun to rise so we can see what's coming. People are dying or wounded and there's no where for them to go... it's so dangerous to move too far around here. We can be ambushed on the roadside, men and vehicles blown apart.

I didn't want to tell Mother and Father about any of this. It won't help them to worry, and I need them to be proud of what I'm doing, I need them to know that their son is fighting bravely and for a reason. But, Aemilia, sometimes I wonder if what I'm doing really makes any difference at all. I need you to know about this because, if, God forbid, something were to happen to me, I need someone to know the truth, I need someone to know how dangerous and messed up all of this was, I need someone to know the story without any glossing over. This is war, and war kills with more brutality than I ever thought possible.

I miss you Aemilia, take care of Mother and Father for me, and pray for me and everyone else out here with me.

Your brother, Edward


I'm not even sure how I'll sleep tonight.