The war didn’t come to the streets of this city. Not this time. Perhaps another. Still, little boys dress as pilots, with wings on their tunics and pistols in the holsters of their Sam Brown belts. Serious-faced girls wearing nurses’ caps and aprons paint the flyers’ flesh wounds with food coloring before applying bandages. Nobody cries. Nobody dons angels’ wings. It’s just a game.
The street is damp, littered by shattered apartment walls, overturned flower pots, the empty helmets of absent soldiers. This war is ending. A boy in dirty clothes and ragged shoes picks through a sprawl of broken rifles, while his sister examines a sewing basket thrown from the next street by a blast. Overhead, the latest occupiers change flags on the higher parapets and rooftops. There are ripples of cheering and impromptu celebrations.
The streets are safe for civilians now that the guns are silent, the bombers made redundant. The clean-up is well underway, with rubble gathered neatly and papers checked for fugitives. Up the street, a man with a briefcase glances at the camera, as does a closer woman holding another man’s arm. Some things can’t be undone, set right, like his shattered eyes or the burn-scars distorting her left leg