The name “Burhaan” is fictitious and so is the city, “Smoketown.”

Skinny Love by Bon Iver.

I had a dream last night that I met the ten year old you again. You had that blue clip-in extension pinned to your hair. You know, the one you wore at that birthday party we threw you at the Smoketown townhouse. You were holding your friend’s hand—Burhaan I think his name was. He was two years old, a few years shy of witnessing his parents lose their lives to the Talibs gunshots in his modest home in Kabul. Both of you had solemn and telling expressions on your faces. It was as if you possessed foresight about the kind of plight you were both set to endure.

I watched and studied your silhouettes, as both of you walked out of the fog, until you presented yourselves to me. I was overwhelmed by the sort of pain you feel when you just want to sit down, crouch, and hug your legs, while rocking back and forth vehemently. You didn’t say a single word but something about the vibes you were sending me kept me from acting on compulsion, which was to capture you both and keep you in my protection.

I invited both of you to stay at a cottage I had built. I kept saying that it was just up the road. But you wouldn’t respond. I asked you both repeatedly, as I feverishly paced my eyes to and from your faces, studying you endlessly. I desperately wanted to be your keeper. But the white noise wouldn’t relent.

Remember that one friend I told you about? The one who told me about her father’s middle aged friend with children and a wife of his own? Well she showed up as well. She appeared in a form just shy of five years old. She presented herself at an age before his dry mouth, incensed by the stench of cigarettes and chai, ever encroached on her passive mouth. It was before the rough and violent contact of his sandpaper skin ever violated her plump-milky complexion. She gently took Burhaan’s other hand. She appeared somber and ready for it as well.

I pleaded with you all. I said, I had room and board for everyone—that I had enough chickens and cows to live off for centuries to come. At ages ten, two and five the atmosphere should have been taken by the illumination of laughter and nuisance. But the white noise wouldn’t relent.