He was 17. Big brown eyes, and a gentle smile. I imagine he had a good supply of wisecracks behind that bold chin. He played soccer on the national youth team. A young leader, a son, a dear friend to many. Zaki bought everyone in his class hamburgers after school was closed for a week in the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack. Somehow, I read all this, absorbing the details as they etch a picture in the dim morning light. He was one of many trying to escape, grabbing onto the plane thinking they would let him in. As it took off, and people surrendered to the moment, as they dropped back to the tarmac he did not let go. The wind grew, and still he held on. They say it reached 120 miles per hour before he fell off.
It is a strange phenomenon, this modern world of ours where we hear a story about someone we never knew, yet it stops me dead in my tracks. The memories flood back, all of the idiotic things that I did at his age, for no great reason. The risk was not even a thrill, just that blind foolishness of youth as we dove headfirst without thinking, convinced we were invincible, that we knew everything.
The kitchen smells like sulphur and burnt matches. This young man’s random last words hang in the air all day. At one point, the new guitar comes out of the case and I think to write something about him, to paint just a little corner of the frame, not some giant canvas. To pay him some tribute with a few gentle chords. And yes, the bones of a song do appear but I do not like it. It is too bitter a fruit.
Copyright 2021 Marco North
Marco North is an American photographer, writer and filmmaker who lives in Moscow.