Khaled Ansari was waiting for me in our chartered cab, fifty meters away. He sat in the back, with both doors opened for the breeze. I wasn’t late, and he couldn’t have been waiting more than fifteen or twenty minutes, but still there were ten cigarette butts on the ground beside the open door of the cab. Each one of them, I knew, was an enemy crushed under his heel, a violent wish, a brutal fantasy of the suffering he would one day inflict on those he hated.

And they were many, the ones he hated. Too many. The images of violence that filled his mind were so real, he’d told me, that sometimes he was nauseous with it. The anger was an ache in his bones. The hatred locked in his jaws, and made him grind his teeth on the fury. The taste of it was bitter, always, all day and night, every waking minute, as bitter as the taste of the blackened knife he clamped between his teeth, as a Fatah guerilla, when he crawled across broken ground toward his first kill.

‘It’s gonna kill you, Khaled, you know’

‘So I smoke too much. So what the fuck. Who wants to live forever?’

‘I’m not talking about the cigarettes. I’m talking about what’s inside you, making you chain-smoke them. I’m talking about what you’re doing to yourself by hating the world.

Someone told me once that if you make your heart into a weapon, you always end up using it on yourself.’



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