I remember the day Avery and I were walking through the orchard, before I’d moved there, and when we climbed up on the cliff overhanging the river, there you were just sitting there in your yellow and blue jacket. All by yourself. It was one of those beautiful spring days, a little breeze just barely tapping our faces and the sun beaming down but not too hot. You said you’d come out there to work on Algebra, and sure enough, you had your math notebook, but I never once thought you were doing Algebra. Who hikes out to an empty rock overlooking a river with a gorgeous view of the mountain only to sit and do polynomials?
I think you were doing philosophy. I think you were doing meditation. After you died, Hamza, I thought about that day and couldn’t help but wonder what you knew deep down of life and death. Or what you knew of the uselessness of Algebra.
Or maybe it was simpler than that. Maybe you were staring up at the mountain, at Tirnest – your home. Maybe you were debating whether you were being called to the big city or called to the countryside. All the while you were being called to the grave instead.
I never grieved for you, Hamza, because I don’t think I was ever given the chance to believe that you were dead. The desert is frozen in time in my head, the whole country the very same as it was the day I left it. And when I left it, you were still alive. It’s hard to believe that could have changed, and I’ve sometimes wondered if I were to go back and see Omar again, would the grieving come then?
Or maybe this is grieving. Maybe my way of grieving is remembering you sitting there on that red desert rock contemplating life and seeing myself in you.