Interior building with white walls and tall windows. A man is at the other end of the room walking through a doorless doorframe.

When enough of it spreads, my dad explained, terror
becomes protective—a deterrent. We leaned
against the doorless door frame between his library
and army-green kitchen—where we’d stand, say,
if a bomb dropped on East Jerusalem—land
he considered occupied, but never left—the TV
bright in the background, the anchor going on
about the “Iranian Threat.” We’re safe, my dad said,
citing that same, feral balance—the mutual fear
of one’s own ruin—but I was eight, a child
of the second Intifada, so you can imagine
my doubts, having watched looping footage
of skeletal buses, then taken those same lines—
having known my country had swallowed
another—its incisors like the bars of open
air prisons. Was it really so unlikely a choice,
then, self-sacrifice? I looked at my dad
and believed he had once been a baby. I believed
he’d die without my knowing, not that he
wouldn’t know what killed him—that he wouldn’t
make Singles Mingle at the Gesher (tickets
hanging off his printer like a tongue)—that he
wouldn’t have his body donated for research
(his Last Will and Testament)—that his sister,
the donor of his one working kidney,
would watch that part of herself buried
on the Mount of Olives. A month later I watched
two strangers, both young women, cry
at the headstone he didn’t want, at a service
he didn’t want, either, and said nothing—
thinking he, too, understood it had been silence,
our own balance of terror, which meant
I could survive him.


Photo by Jaysin Trevino, used and adapted under CC.