“We are all something, but none of us are everything.” (Blaise Pascal)

Lydia isn’t exactly depressed, well, not clinically. Not the kind of depression where you have to take pills every morning just to get out of bed. Not yet. Not really. Lydia does get out of bed; she puts cereal and milk out for Henry and Lisa. They eat without complaint while Lydia has a Diet Coke. John leaves for work early – before the kids are up. He usually says goodbye before he takes the train into the city. He comes home late; if Lydia thought about it, she would realize that he is having an affair with his assistant. She does not think about it. After she takes the kids to school, Lydia often drives through Starbucks and gets herself a treat: venti caramel macchiato. She reasons that it’s good have something all to herself; this way, she gets the quiet, sugary drive home. Lydia’s day stretches before her like a chasm. She often has no idea what to do or how to spend her time. However, she will usually run a load of laundry and the vacuum before picking up the kids. For dinner, she will order take-out Chinese or a pizza from Bobbie’s. No point in really cooking if John’s not home. The kids eat and do their homework, accompanied by the drone of Disney Channel as Lydia drinks her dinner. They all go to bed around the same time. Tomorrow is another day.

Halwa rises in the dark each morning before anyone else in her village  – every day she is surprised to see neighbors still alive. Last month the armies destroyed nearby villages. People – human beings – disappeared. Her three children move their mats to the daytime hiding place as she leaves to make her way to the Oxfam camp. There, once the sun is up, she will stand in line to get a ration of corn, sugar, and oil. Often, Halwa will stay for help filtering water, or to wait for other supplies that may never show up. Halwa’s husband, Tabarak, has not been seen since the fighting near the villages two years ago; a battle that still rages. At that time, Halwa had just delivered her youngest child. After Tabarak disappeared, Halwa continued living. It is not a question. She forbids herself to think of her eldest son, Pir. He disappeared shortly after Tabarak. A single tear glistens if Halwa happens to think of her younger sisters. They tried to attend school, but they, too, were swallowed up. Perhaps they are still living. Perhaps it is better if they are not. Many years ago Halwa’s mother told her, “It is senseless to meditate on sadness.” Halwa does not. She gets the rations; she hides her children. Halwa thinks on life and lives for today.


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