The Last Line of My Childhood by Vera Badalyan, Russia/Israel

I don’t know how a boy becomes a man and to tell you the truth, I don’t believe in such pompous words. But I know how you lose your childhood and how you carry on, moving somewhere new through the fear.

I was eleven. I don’t remember myself well enough during these years: how I looked, what was special about that time or who my best friend was. My everyday life was filled with school, homework, friends, and testing my wild character on my parents, like other kids do at that age.

My father used to come home late, tired and hungry. In the kitchen, dinner would be waiting for him and I would spend some time with him before going to bed. Most evenings, he would watch the news on TV, and I was allowed to watch it as well. Actually, my parents didn’t forbid me from doing a lot of things; at least I don’t remember anything more than, “Don’t open the door to strangers.” So if you do not open the door you’re safe. Simple, right?

One evening, the news was discussing what happened the night before in the capital of Russia. In the middle of the night, in an ordinary ten-floor house like mine, there was an explosion. Many families were dead. And day after day, the news repeated the story until it was “updated” with a new picture of another explosion. It had happened in the middle of the night, in an ordinary brick house in the suburbs that was just like mine. Another bomb had been detonated and other families were killed in their beds.

I remember how after hearing this news I didn’t want to stay home at night. In the dark, I looked at the windows of other houses. I looked at the lights in those windows and thought: “Which house is going to be next?” For the first time in my life, I was scared so deeply. I was scared for my family, for my friends, and even for my teachers. It wasn’t a nightmare – no, I had seen it on the news. I was smart enough to realize the fact that I’m not safe anywhere from this time on. It was a fear of a defenseless human being who might not have woken up the following morning.

Years later, I discussed those two explosions – which had happened during a single week – with my friends. Everyone who was my age described having felt the very same fear – it was the first inhalation of true, heartfelt fear, which they would never forget.

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