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Husband, Father, Writer, War

I Didn’t See You There

I Didn’t See You There
Credit: zz77

The other night in Beirut, notebook in hand, I slowed to watch an old man part his curtains. Inside a building scarred by bullet holes, he worried his hands, standing beside yellow walls and a water-stained desk. I fumbled in my bag, trying to find a pen. A dog barked. The afternoon light was dying, and I couldn’t find the damn pen.

Then I noticed a fleet of jet-black SUVs, windows tinted, creeping down the block. The old man closed his curtains. Street lights kicked on with a buzzing of white light. I’d gone, perhaps, from watching to being watched.  

One afternoon not long ago, my wife was walking down the street, when she saw a man hustled off the sidewalk by burly men. They entered a waiting vehicle, which roared off into traffic. Standing there, she wondered, Who was that? It could have been any of a motley crew of local militias, armed gangs, national police, domestic intelligence officers, or foreign agents.

Turning onto our street, I saw two of the black SUVs by our front door. Frozen in place, keys in hand, I closed my eyes. It wasn’t hard to picture what came next: A man would hop out of a truck, his jacket unzipped, holstered pistol visible, hand pressed to an ear piece. His gaze might settle on me.

Opening my eyes, I took a step closer to the trucks, realizing I couldn’t see into either vehicle. The windows were completely black. With the taste of pennies in my mouth, I walked upstairs.

Leaving the lights off, I peered through a cracked window. The trucks sat there, engines rumbling. Relieved, for now, not to know more, I sat back and sighed.

I reached into my shirt pocket. The pen had been there all along.

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