Crescent and the Cross
was untimely news for the thirteenth of February, but Shadi Hariri
was in the States at a gas station when he heard what had happened.
air was cool, yet thick, and a lone attendant stood smoking a
Chesterfield at a door clear of the pumps. The sign was off and
the prices were not lit. Someone had walked by smoking Middleton's
pipe tobacco, and cloud cover kept the sweet aroma low. All was
silent save the feed coming out the speakers.
to the new Iraq. I thought they would only bomb ministers and
political people. We are not even part of a party. And still we
are the target of this.
attendant approached and with a pert, industrious nod motioned
asked, "D-d'you have any cigarettes I can borrow?"
attendant left, then returned with an entire pack. Inside were
no," said Hariri, stepping out of the vehicle, "I do
not smoke." And giving over a dollar bill, he took one and
said, "Thank you. I do not smoke. My wife is picking me up."
a deft snap he removed the cigarette's top half and slid back
into the driver's seat. He did not shut the door.
are we dying in Lebanon?
or card?" said the attendant.
yes. Twenty-five on the card," said Hariri.
attendant moved away with chains from his belt tinkling on his
was getting dark.
stepped out and walked an ellipse around the front of his car.
Both men stood categorizing the contents of their own heads: Hariri
now clearly seeing the emblem his business must takethat
of a five-leaf tree, a branch and with it a leaf now broken and
in mid-descent, and the guy with two cigarettes guessing at the
precise geography of one more Middle Eastern country.
looked up. He saw the sky glow as if backlit both orange and purple.
trembling handblood snaking out dry skin where pigment turns
lighterunlatched the passenger door and returned to his
want to live. We are normal people. We just want to live.
wife will pick me up," assured Hariri and stubbed out the
ash between thumb and forefinger. "I do not smoke. Thank
rip of the engine fired quick, then quicker out of P over N and
into D, the dominant flash there of brake-red in the evening twilight
ignited a déjà vu neither could be certain about,
exactly, without calling on faith: biochemical for one, something
altogether different for the other.
fell, and the two parted ways, once and for all.
Watson is a writer who lives in Georgetown, Kentucky.