Illustration by Rachel Lee.

Boy was depressed mainly because his mother and father had decided to name him “Boy.” As a seven-year-old, Boy ran away from home, but he only made it to the next-door neighbor’s front yard. At nine, he attempted to steal all his parents’ savings but took all the fake money from the family’s Monopoly set by mistake. He didn’t get very far with that. He was not thrilled with his life, but he was too dumb to make any changes.

After graduating from Winthrop University in South Carolina, Boy decided to find himself. His therapist told him it was the right thing to do. He had spent four years at Winthrop completely wasting his time. He received his MBA in undeclared with a minor in plumbing. He never held a job, never explored any internships and had zero extracurricular activities. He was often seen visiting the campus library, but he is illiterate so no one was ever quite sure what he was actually doing there. He made no friends and never talked to his professors. When it comes down to it, all Boy did there was waste his time.

In order to find himself, he decided he needed to go elsewhere. Get out of South Carolina. Get away from Mother, Father and Cousin. Boy decided the best place to find himself would be Syria. Had Boy not been illiterate, he probably would have known that Syria is not the best place to visit right now. But once Boy had an idea, he followed through. That was just about his only good characteristic.

He flew into Aleppo International Airport, and he really did enjoy his flight. The only low point of the trip was when he pulled out the Planters Peanuts he had packed in his carry-on bag, the woman next to him swatted it out of his hands, perhaps because of a peanut allergy or a distaste for Planters Peanuts. The last time he had boarded a plane was when he was in Mother’s womb on the family trip to Italy.

When he stepped onto Syrian soil for the first time, Boy was mesmerized. He’d never seen anything so beautiful in his entire life. He’d had a cute girlfriend once, but that didn’t last long.

Boy had not been aware that the majority of people he would come across spoke only Arabic, but he was a very expressive kid, so he got by okay. He decided to crash with some college kids at the University of Aleppo. They couldn’t understand him, but they thought he was funny-looking so they kept him around. Boy often hung out, throwing the frisbee and playing bocce ball during the day. On weekends, he would go to the local pool with his new friends. He became close friends with Rasheed, who kindly let Boy sleep on his floor. They didn’t have an air mattress, but Boy found it quite comfortable.

Boy and Rasheed were competing to make the best staircase on an Etch A Sketch when Mother called. She said she wanted him to come home immediately because she had read the headlines on Al Jazeera and become worried that Syria might actually be dangerous. Boy made the counterargument that nobody in South Carolina had ever wanted to play Etch A Sketch with him, but Mother was not convinced. Boy put up a good fight while keeping his voice steady. He had a strong thesis and made all his points clear while providing evidence and a conclusion sentence for every point he made. He really had learnt something in college after all. But Mother had made up her mind.

“So you can make up your mind, but you can’t make your bed like I can,” said Boy.

Making his bed was one activity Boy had always been exquisite at. But Mother did not appreciate this comment one bit. She told Boy she was booking him a flight home as they spoke, but the website of the Aleppo International Airport was in Arabic, a language Mother was not well-versed in. She had intended to figure out the language, but never did. She was taking basket-weaving classes Monday through Friday while raising her youngest son, Cousin, so she was never able to spend the time she needed to on Rosetta Stone.

Feeling liberated, Boy was able to make the clearly superior staircase on his Etch A Sketch. Rasheed was a competitive lad, so this ground his gears. Rasheed told Boy he also sucked at bocce ball, but Boy didn’t understand a single word. After slamming his Etch A Sketch on the ground, Rasheed told Boy he could no longer stay in his dorm room. Due to the language barrier, Boy did not receive this message well. He understood Rasheed was angry, but he figured he would patch things up when they returned to the dorm.

That evening, after supper, Boy walked over to Rasheed’s dorm. Hearing the knocking, Rasheed opened up before slamming the door in Boy’s face. Dumbfounded, Boy kept knocking. He knocked and knocked, but to no avail. He walked sluggishly out of the dorm and into the streets where he continued to sulk.

​What happened to Boy, nobody knows for sure, but chances are he is still sulking in Syria. The last sighting of Boy was on the front page of “Al-Thawra,” a Syrian newspaper. He had unknowingly been participating in a protest against Bashar al-Assad, who Boy thought had died years ago.

Email Jake at [email protected]

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