Trauma Bonds

Trauma Bonds

Thirty years since the war, and fifteen since the divorce. Five since we last saw each other. We meet at Au Bon Pain, to add insult to injury. We had plans for a cafe, the one by the mouth of Morningside Park we liked when we were students. Turns out that was a COVID casualty. Three years since the pandemic, or since the governments decided to stop caring about the pandemic.

We don’t live here anymore, in New York City; we arrived together and left alone. The inverse of how it’d been in Sarajevo—born on opposite sides of the city, brought together on a charter bus headed Out. I was 11, you were 12. The sky was black and the roads were empty, smoke following us like a pack of ghostly bloodhounds.

The camp was a hotel, Tito cinderblock with a view of the beach—white pebble, azure sea so beautiful it made me want to scream. One night I went to water’s edge and told it to fuck off, that beauty should be exiled from a place like this. You heard and brought me back inside. I was grateful for that, at the time.

I was already a ward of the state. When we held hands, it felt like home. I thought that meant fate, and maybe it did, just not in the happily ever after way. In retrospect was silly to think we’d be fine. My family had been killed; yours had lived. But there was pressure in that, that grateful weight. The truth is no one really gets out.

We were done from the moment I told you my story. You knew what it looked like smelled like felt like, and it hurt to have to see it so right, playback in your irises: that fire that blood those open empty faces.

Now I like the emptiness, pick the boys who could never understand. I curl up in their simple, vacant looks and rest. You do the same, in your way—endless app rotation, GPS to dark corners, no eye contact required.

We steer clear of each other’s conquests, probably because we’re still in love. Instead, we talk shit on the Dayton Accords: only America would brag about building a deadlocked government.

“More presidents, more democracy!”

“Why stop at three? Ten is better.”

“Infinity presidents!”

Laughter as relief valve; laughter as exorcism. Laughter: ill-fitting, in lieu of, despite.

Our coffee is cold. Together we walk to the subway. In the park we clasp hands, swinging our arms. It’s all still there—the smoke the stench the blood the fire the sadness, the rage, that grateful weight. It feels like home. Releasing each other, we go back underground.


About the Author

Sara Novic holds an MFA in fiction and literary translation from Columbia University, and is the author of the NYT bestselling novel True Biz, as well as the Girl at War and America is Immigrants, from Random House. She lives in Philadelphia with her family.


Photo by Moon and Others :