May I ask you a question? He was sitting at the window and looking out as if he could will the sun to come out so he could play outdoors. Why you ask? Because I want you to know that if you don’t want to answer, you can say no to me. But you always answer my question and never say no, he said. I woun’t say no to you, he said. I maybe not know the answer but I woun’t say no. I tried to frame my question simply.
I wonder, I said, if you can remember what it was like before you came here to live. I waited. He continued looking at me and I thought past me and then asked, which time before? I drew breath and then said the one you remember best. And he smiled at me and said the one where we were together before? Where was that I asked. He said, you know, you know. That’s why I choosed you this time. We were bestest friends and I knowed how much you could help because we were bestest friends.
Where was that I asked again. He said in that cold place where we had to hold hands so our fingers could be warm. Who was there with us I asked and he searched my face. He was reading me I thought and then wondered why. He said it was a hard time and this time would be better. Why was it a hard time I asked and he said because our bodies were broked and sick. This time he said we are not broke so we can go outside and play. We were too old and broked last time and the cold hurt when we breathhhhddd. How do you remember that I asked and why do you remember.
Because here I can breathhhedddd and it don’ hurt. My throat burn in that place when things ‘ploded ’cause they fighted all the time. You ‘member he said, you ‘member. And he became silent and his eyes clouded. And he said, we say to each other, never ‘gain, never ‘gain. I pulled him to me and hugged him and said never again. We will try to stay where it doesn’t hurt to breathe. And I wished I could promise there would always be a place where it didn’t hurt to breathe, but I could not make that promise. For this time only, I could hug him and keep him where the air did not burn his throat. But how long before all places would be safe?
Until life in all forms vowed not to inflict such terror in worlds where to draw breath just to live would hurt, we would continue to work. That is a promise.