The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 15, No. 4

People That Don’t Exist

by Shani Boianjiu

Person A
The Sudanese's body is still skewered on the barbed wire fence. One arm reaches in a stroke over his head, and his tongue dangles; he looks like a frozen swimmer. Nadav says the Egyptian soldiers and us, the Israeli soldiers, are like two children on a dock, waiting for the other kid to plunge in and claim the corpse. Nadav also says that I'm a special girl. He says, "Avishag, the only person you think about is you." It wasn't my shift when the Egyptians shot the man. When it's my shift I stare at the fence through the green monitor for twelve hours and think about people that don't exist. We know each other well, the made-up people and I. But Nadav says that's the opposite of thinking about another person. We drive in the Humvee along the fence because Nadav is an officer and he has to check on the older girls, the ones at the checkpoints and guard towers. The base's gatekeeper asks for my pass and I show her that I've signed off a vacation day. It was a little hard to do, because the base never has enough watch girls. Before we reach the bus station, I ask if it's bad that I only think about myself. Nadav has forgotten he told me that once. He says that everyone's sold on the idea that if we're different from what others think us to be, then those others are different from what we think them to be, and that I'm the only person in the world who's not sold on that idea because I only think about myself. I don't know if that means I'm bad or good. I want a burger. Two.

Person B
After it is all over, after I am safe, I open my eyes and everyone can see that I am alive. I am the only girl in a hospital room full of injured men from my country, which is a big place and so they are strangers. They are silent but I scream, because I can, because I want water. The doctor woman from the little country comes over and asks a question in the language of the little country and the translator translates. She wants to know how I escaped Sudan. She wants to know what I was thinking. She gives me water in a cup. She means, the translator explains, what I was thinking when I threw my body on the fence that was made of little knives. I was not thinking. It was not my decision. I felt her. She was there. Mom. Mom. Mom. A million times and again and another time and more. She was a giant and a young girl and a grape and the wind all at once. She was there and then she was not. The guide who took us out of Sudan said that in Israel, in the little country, they do not believe in magic. They believe in people. In the little country, believe what they believe, do as they do.

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