512 Words

Vision of the Ordinary

M. Stanley Bubien

Leaning out my bedroom window, I thought it strange that today would look so much like any other. With a sigh, I opened my closet, lifted my freshly pressed black suit, and slowly, methodically peeled away the garments and dressed.

Briefcase in hand, I kissed my brother, Yassoud, on the lips goodbye. He smiled at me, a child's smile, filled with innocent love, offered without condition or bargain. He raised his drawing. I recognized it immediately: Jerusalem of old---from the time of the prophets. I tousled his curls, though my fingers went numb against his locks.

Upon offering my mother the same kiss, she reached up from her wheelchair, but froze with a frown when she noticed the briefcase. Staring into my eyes, silently, the color drained from her face. I had prepared for this moment, and I met her gaze. But somehow she remained still, unflinching, while I was forced to look away. She never said a word, but I felt her gaze like arrows piercing my back as I took leave of our home, never to return.

Joseph met me on the bus one minute late. I glanced at my watch, forgoing a greeting.

Over the engine's roar and grind, bits of conversation reached me. A grandmother scolding a child, two men discussing the weather, a group of students gossiping about a classmate. Again so strange---so commonplace.

Disembarking at the marketplace, the students giggled wildly, staggering into a coffee shop beside the bus stop. I nudged Joseph, raising my chin at the storefront on the opposite side of the street. He understood---we'd been through this several times---and crossed alone.

Passing the coffee shop, I spotted the students within, though now, in their midst, stood a curly-haired boy lifting a paper to show them. My hand crushed the briefcase handle and I cried, "Yass---" but looking again, he was gone. I wiped my eyes with my free hand. I was warned this might happen, but nevertheless, I found it unsettling.

Forging on, I bumped through the crowd toward my destination, while, across the street, Joseph too arrived.

We locked gazes. Held. Waited.

I made out Joseph's plain black suit, the briefcase he fingered, and, more distinctly, his face. The passersby, how would they remember that face---and mine? Would it be a vision of the ordinary? Of evil?

A woman stepped between Joseph and myself, breaking our connection.

Mother? But how?---wait, the woman walked! Sweat beaded on my brow and I heaved a heavy breath. Not my mother, no. But whose? For a moment, I forgot completely what I was doing here, the reason I had come, what it was all for. Lightheaded, I noticed Joseph opposite me---wild eyes, darting to and fro---he had not forgotten. He shook his head---the signal, my signal!---and he twisted his arm.

The explosion erupted. It launched screws, bolts and pieces of Joseph's body like arrows at me. But it was the flame, the burning flame, which engulfed me, engulfed my briefcase, and detonated the bomb within.

Copyright ©2001 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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October, 2001
Issue #66

512 Words