He’s begging for loose change and crying, heckling parked drivers from the middle of the road. I click my car doors locked, the light turns orange and I speed off. He reels to the side of the road and howls like an infant, red eyes, red face, letting it all out. The homeless at midnight.
Offline media is stuck on one channel: war. Every billboard, every poster, every public place where eyeballs can settle, the slogan, ‘Together, we will win’.
And the main story: a black, white and red call to release our hostages. Their photographs are everywhere, at all times.
Checking in at the biometric reader at the airport, between blips and beeps, their faces flash up, smiling, unexpected on the tiny screen before the computer spits out the paper slip that allows you into this country. All down the long sloped entrance to the security checks, all across the concourse, emblazoned on the cab driver’s t-shirt, on park benches, in alleyways, on electricity boxes.
Outside, reality is roughly the same. The usual taxi touts at Arrivals. A short queue at the cash point. A makeshift sign by a bathroom door indicates a shelter close by. Stiff little Israeli flags on car windscreens, high-rise blocks billowing ‘Bring Them Home’ banners from every floor, a bumper sticker that reads ‘We Will Finish Them’.
When I open my phone to find a coffee shop, Google Maps shows dozens of bomb shelters around the blue dot of me.
Inside our heads, things are ruined. Cars are not cars, they are things that lock from the inside, that mangle and burn at a music festival, crouching open coffins that prop up charred black bodies whose eyes and mouths gape at eternity.
At Hostages Square there is a portaloo. When I lock the door from within I recall the shooting, toilet by toilet, filmed by the terrorists. Rat-a-tat-a-tat. If I lie curled on this plastic blue piss-stained floor, below the seat, with the stench of human effluent in my nostrils, would the bullets sail above me?
They call it second-hand post-trauma. Apparently, there are articles about it. You shouldn’t watch graphic GoPro videos, your brain thinks it’s really happening, right in front of your eyes. But it’s too late. I’ve seen them all. Life has been reduced to buildings (standing, flattened) and bodies (running, falling, bound, desecrated, pulled to pieces). It’s all just buildings and bodies and bits.
You are a body, in a building. One of these rockets or bullets or shrapnel slices or whatevers could hit you and your body, too, would break apart until you’re not a person anymore. A memory, a Facebook wall with kind words, sadness and a silence for people to get used to, something for an archeologist to pore over with tweezers, a number added to the rolling tallies of bigger numbers for invisible typists to argue about on the comments section of a news website.
Ceasefire. How I wish we could. How can we cease the roaring lava of visions and skulls and broken lives and faces forever gone that engulf our hearts in flames?