“Max, I’m telling you! We’re not safe here!”
“Would you hush,” he said, grabbing my arm and pulling me down to sit beside him.
I was terrified. My heart was racing. My head was pounding. Something was going to happen. I could feel it. But what that something was, I had no idea. Regardless, Max wasn’t hearing any of it.
“Max, please. Just listen to me,” I begged.
Max responded by promptly putting on his headphones, and drowning me out.
“Awesome,” I groaned, pressing my back against the wall. We were sitting just outside of a local cafe. Or what used be a cafe anyway. Now it was just a few brick walls being taken over by the wild. There’s no telling when the economy got the best of it. It looked as if it had been sitting empty for years.
I felt like my heart was going to burst through my neck. As I kept an eye out in every direction that I could, I couldn’t help but envy Max’s calm disposition. He wasn’t naive, and he wasn’t in denial. I knew that he understood the danger we were in, and believed in it as I did. But he never panicked. He simply dealt with things as they came.
So I sat. And I watched.
These days you couldn’t trust anyone. Every face that drifted by had a story. Some of them were shifty-eyed, dirty rotten cheaters just looking to rip someone else off. Some of them were cunning tradesmen, genuinely believing in the ‘if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’ philosophy. But most were just sad, lonely strangers who had lost everything. Everyone dealt differently. They were survivors, just like us.
As I sat there I thought about how I was dealing with things myself. Was I really dealing with them, or just keeping my head above water? I’m not naive, but I want to see the best in things. People, places, situations. If I can’t find a silver lining, I panic. And there is no place for panic in this world. So maybe it’s a good thing that I’ve always been that way.
Then there’s the environment. You’d think a person would be accustomed to gunfire and bombs after being surrounded by it for over a month. Things didn’t used to be so ugly, but now that’s just how things are. People are just…cold. And ruthless. But there’s just something about things blowing up , there’s something about stable buildings crumbling right next to you, that you never really get used to.
Max always tells me I’m too personal about it all. I get too involved. And maybe that’s true. Maybe that makes me weak, he seems to think so. But if that’s the case, so be it. I’m perfectly ok with not being made for a world that’s void of humanity.
“This isn’t the world we grew up in, Iz,” he’d tell me. “Not anymore.”
No matter what the world may have become, or what it used to be, seeing someone’s home fall to the ground get’s to me. A lot of lives have been lost in this war, if you can even call it a war. A lot of those still living are in the same position as myself, being forced to turn their world upside down. Watching a strangers livelihood be reduced to ruble just reminds me of exactly how different this world has become.
Anyway. Bombs. You never get used to them. So as we’re sitting up against the cafe and I see one falling from the sky, I see it coming at us in slow motion. I glance at Max to find him still, head back, headphones in, eyes closed. Peaceful.
I scooped up our things and shoved him with all I had. He looked at me in shock, eyes wide as saucers.
“MOVE,” I shouted.
We had made it maybe four feet, with about a foot in between us, when the building was overtaken with debris and a cloud of dust. Within seconds another followed, blowing me back another foot.
I laid still, numb to the world around me, vaguely aware that I had hit my head. How hard, I wasn’t quite sure, but it was hard enough. It was quiet, at least to me, and all I could think of was how beautifully blue and still the sky was. Bricks were moving and falling around me. I couldn’t move my leg, so I was sure it was either injured or stuck under something. But then again, when I tried, I couldn’t move my arms either. Slowly but surely, the ringing in my ears stopped. As I glanced around, I realized that it wasn’t just my leg that was buried, it was pretty much everything but my face. I heard muffled shouting and movement. Soon, I could hear Max directly over me shouting my name.
“IZZY?! IZZY CAN YOU HEAR ME?!? Ugh…come on where are you, Iz?”
“Ya take two steps forward, get thrown one step back,” I mumbled.
I hated when he called me that. “You’re standing on me,” I groaned. “And of course I can hear you, the people of the Czech Republic can hear you, loud mouth.”
“Izzy?!” Max looked down in horror, realizing that I was buried beneath him. I wondered how bad I actually looked. He moved quickly but carefully, moving only the bricks that needed to be moved. He took hold of my arm to try and help me up. Every inch of my body was sore, but I guess that’ll happen when you get thrown into a pile of bricks.
“Are you alright?! I mean, do you think anything’s broken,” he asked.
“No. I don’t think anything is broken.”
“Ok,” he said, relaxing a little. “Alright. Um…do you think you can stand up? Don’t push it, easy!” He held my arm and helped me onto solid ground. It hurt. Like hell. But I didn’t want to stay there any more than we had to. “Ready to go,” Max asked.
Was I ready to go? Uh. Yeah. As a matter of fact, I had wanted to go for a while now. My head hurt, but I knew what I had told him. ‘We’re not safe here, Max!’ But no. Most people would throw a brick at him and tell him I told you so. And I did, in my head. I glanced down and saw a piece of wood that would make a perfect walking stick, and chuckled. It was as if God was patting me on the back going ‘Yeah, I know the feeling, people not listening to you and all. Just keep moving.’
“Yeah,” I said, picking up the stick. “I’m ready.”