For the twelve hundred hostages, most especially Timur Kasumova.
It’s a bright morning. The sun is smiling warmly on the just and the unjust as they busy about their daily routine. I personally have nothing much to do but get to the Post Office, send a permission slip, authorising Voicenet to publish one of my poems in their anthology. This done, I would come back home and work on my computer.
As I approached the Post Office, a TIME magazine caught my attention at a newsstand. Though I did not stop to pick it up but I glanced at it and on the cover read, “Slaughter of the innocents" in bold red. Then I walked away.
Walking away from such caption if it be a graffiti in a subway is easy. But when it is boldly written on the picture of a young boy, say age nine or ten; a frigid boy clothed in a blood stained panties, blood gushing out his nose and he’s crying passionately, I must say it is not easy to walk away if you are not heartless.
Paying for stamp, affixing it to my mail, dropping it in the big box from which letters would be sorted out; I couldn’t get the little boy out of my mind. In fact, I almost messed up the stamp while thinking of that little stranger on a cover page.
Heroes are meant to appear on a cover page. Then what makes this boy a hero, I wanted to know? What if that boy is my son, will I walk away from him? What if that boy needs me to know what has happened to him? I can’t help from thinking of so many what ifs.
When ifs begin to stream into my mind, fear grips my heart. That moment I felt my heart taking twice it normal pace. I wanted something desperately, I wanted to go out to the Newsstand and pick up that face staring at me.
I got to the stand, but he was gone. The magazine was gone. It wasn’t sitting where I saw it the first time.
“ I saw a mag right here and it- its gone. It’s a TIME . Of a little boy. "
“I sold it. " The vendor said smiling.
I almost strangled him for that.
“Can I have a copy please?"
“ Sorry, it’s dated for September 13 2004. Don’t have another copy. "
He tried selling me a current edition. But I declined.
I could have ordered that same edition of that little boy if I had a credit card. I would simply go online; place an order for that old edition. But I can’t because I stay in that part of this planet where credit cards are like some UFO.
I tried other Newsstands but to no avail. That edition is sold out. All what these vendors are trying to do is sell me a current edition. I was left with no choice than to vanish into the rush crowd like every other person and try to come back to be who I am—A writer.
But instead of going back home to stare into my white screen monitor, I took a cab and went down to the beach only to sit on a bench watching the waves and thinking about that little boy who survived the Beslan school siege in Russia.
After about an hour of living in oblivion, I heard a voice.
“Mind if I sit" she asked
I shook my head like I was being distracted by my girl friend while watching a football game. She sat beside me saying, thank you.
“I’m Helena Williams and you are?"
“Alfred, A. Z. Alfred" I took her hand as she says pleased to me you. I responded.
We sat in silence for say five minutes. And she broke it again
“I’m an editor of a local magazine"
“I’m a writer and a poet" I responded
“ I’m here to read through some mags. Just want to be away from the office. I like doing it here from childhood with my mom. So, what are you doing here, thinking on a book or what? She asked pulling out some magazines from her big blue bag.
She froze, waiting for me to answer her question. But I just stared at her because I couldn’t find a word. Finally I simply said, “Just thinking. "
We both chuckled.
She placed some magazines between us, took one and buried her face in it.
I stared into space, wandering into the little boy world again. My eyes caught the magazines sitting beside me. And there it was, the edition of TIME that brought me here in the first place. I took it up. She looked at me puzzled.
“ Can I read this? Been looking for it all day"
“Sure. It’s an old edition, you can keep it"
I thanked her, took it and walked away.
Back home, I flipped through the ads, politics and other pages that has nothing to do with my new friend. I got to the page with the caption, “Defenseless Target" and below the caption it reads, “close to 350 die, half of them children, after the Chechen rebels take an entire school hostage. " And I realised that I have more than just a little boy to meet.
Despite the fact that my friends have increased in number, my heart was captivated by a nine years old boy who was among the other twelve hundred hostages who celebrated the first day of school. And were kept hostage for three days. He was among those who were stripped to their panties. He was among those who were forced to either thirst to death dehydrated or drink their urines if they needed to live. He was among the little children who should be playing video game in front of some TV but were left with no choice than to stare at bombs, which designed the school’s gymnasium like some festoon of flowers. He was among those whose life the guerrillas have chosen to sacrifice to achieve their stupid desire. To make it worse for him, his mother was also held hostage.
Elena Kasumova, a teacher in the school, was strong from the first day when the school was taken hostage. But the third day, her hope was running out and that was when the unthinkable happened. She got more than a hope from her nine years old son, Timur Kasumova.
When Elena had chosen to give up, believing herself, her son, Timur and many others were going to thirst to death. Her son crawled close to her, massaged her feet, kissed her and told her stories about all the water and juice they would drink when they would be free from the hands of the guerrillas. He comforted her, renewing her strength to hang on.
And now five months later, as I sit here writing this inspiring true life story, I know Elena and her son, Timur, are somewhere in Russian (if they are still there) drinking all the water and juice he had told her about while trying to forget that painful experience.
Though you have read this story but what I’m trying to say to you is more than just the lines. You need know one thing. When tough time (challenges) comes your way and you have exhausted all your strength, there is always a little more strength within, which you need to break through. Timur Kasumova did that in the face of a hopeless situation some months ago. He hung on to the strength within.
Coming soon, “Haiku with love"
An inspiring poetry collection by A. Z. Alfred.
To be published by Author House, USA.
A. Z. Alfred is a writer and a motivational speaker whose greatest pleasure is observing the world through a window while listening to inspirational songs.