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Husband, Father, Writer, War

Citizen of Somewhere

Citizen of Somewhere
Credit: Mark

Before the memorial for the fallen journalist, I stumbled down the hill toward the church, hungover and hungry.

Consider the falafel sandwich. At under $2, it was my obvious move. But I was sick and sad, and the kids behind the stove looked like 12-year-olds who should have been in school. An alarming percentage of children here work instead. The last time I bought a falafel sandwich, the guy ahead of me had a growth on his face. It was so big I worried he might tip over, face-first, into the grease. 

A falafel was not happening. I staggered past the stand and into the echoing cool of Hardee’s. Those early years in Southeast Asia; long summer nights in Russia; endless stretches in Saudi Arabia—when I hit bottom out here, it's to a cheeseburger I turn.

The woman behind the counter smiled broadly.

“Number Four,” I said.

At nearly $10, this was no bargain. But the person behind the counter was not a child; there was no guy with a growth on his face. There were nothing but clean surfaces and sharp edges, and the smell of fries and burger, and a cup into which I could pour soda from a machine I learned to use when I was a boy, in America.

For a few minutes the white noise neared zero.

Then I watched a Mercedes double-park, with its occupants munching fries. After that, a Lamborghini rolled by, axels shaking over potholes, with three parking tickets fluttering under a windshield wiper. Down the street, soldiers fingered machine guns.

I stared at the mess in front of me, shuddering. Wearing all black—a citizen of somewhere, a family man in a place called Beirut—I wiped my mouth, and headed to another funeral.

One last time, I filled my paper cup, a dark splash of something sweet, and then I walked out into a gray afternoon.

Nathan Deuel is the author of Friday Was the Bomb. He has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and GQ, among others. He lives in Los Angeles with his family. More by Nathan Deuel