The woman knelt on the loamy earth, staining her skirt at the knees. Her son stood before her, his large gray eyes level with her dark blue ones. Wanting to remember every detail of his dirt-smudged face, she studied him. Clasped his small stained fingers in her rough hands. His platinum hair had started to darken this year and was now the color of wheat blowing in the fields, I wonder what color it will be when he is a man? She pulled him to her chest, holding him near to feel the beat of his small heart. She closed her eyes, wanting to preserve the memory of his face, and erase the image of the ramp behind her son.
Even with her eyes closed, the ramp was still there, and in this instant she knew this is how she would see him forever. Her boy at eight years old, at the bottom of the long gently sloping walk made of rock and mortar, how many moons ago? The path sloped toward the sky, a gentle angle toward the heavens. Deceptively smooth in its incline, children embarked in groups of seven. Leaving their mothers or grandmothers or aunties in the loam. At times, one of the soldiers who stood sentry would have to hold a woman back, to keep her from following the little one they had released to the ramp.
“He doesn’t have to go. You know that, Suss. Don’t you?”
Her eyes fly open, the boy still clutched to her breast. Who? And to call me Suss?
The soldier stands still, but his eyes meet hers. And this she had not expected.