ENCOUNTER

 

Engineered paradise designed for the discrete meeting of both user groups.

THE SOLDIER

 

I was only eighteen when it happened. I was artillery support for various helicopter missions during the 2009 intifada. Our unit was stationed in Hebron, where our mission was to locate and exterminate crucial Hamas leaders that were thought to be hiding in civilian homes, schools, and mosques throughout the city. During the briefing we were told that the intel was excellent and the mission would be relatively straightforward. It was believed that a senior Hamas militant, Ahmad Qassem Al-Abadla, had been hiding in a civilian home in downtown Hebron. Qassem had been the mastermind behind the suicide bus bombings in Tel-Aviv, and this was the first reported sighting the IDF had of him in months. We were briefed one last time at 04:00 hours and set off in to the darkness, the mission had to be completed before sundown and the first call to prayer. 

 

We found the home easily and began easing into a position that would minimize the blast radius. In that final moment. A young woman came out onto the roof. She was getting water from the tanks on the roof. I looked back at my commander, and told him there was a civilian. He said that the value of our target outweighed civilian casualties and we were to go forth. I tried to aim as far away from the woman as I could while still targeting the residence and then pulled the trigger. I hadn’t noticed the woman was pregnant until she fell back and I saw the outline of her dress drape over her round belly.

I will never forget her. The way her curls framed her face as she lay on the ground. Her despair. The way she grabbed her belly as the helicopter flew away. I had never seen something so horrific. She haunts me everyday. But hopefully my torment will be lessened today.

 

Today is the day I atone for this grave mistake. After months of research I have finally been able to locate her husband and after weeks of hesitation and deliberating, I decided to contact him. To my surprise he answered and conceded to meet me. Our meeting at the encounter center is in twenty minutes and I’m riddled with nausea and anxiety. I arrive early. As I go up to the appointment counter to receive my room assignment, I barely notice the impressive volumes above me. I try to distract myself from my own meeting by imagining what encounters the moving shadows are having. Are they pleasant? Are they productive?

 

Upon entering the assigned elevator, number 4, I start to panic. What could I possibly say to this man? I reach level 2 within seconds, step onto the landing of pod 6 to a great surprise. The pod is occupied. I can see a silhouette thought the translucent concrete. It seems I won’t have the time to gather my thoughts... I take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and open the door. 

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