Author: J. P. Roquard

The city stretches out below me; a sweeping view, buildings pressed close, the old city being devoured by the new. This is my home. This is where I have always lived. This is the view I’ve sold my soul to see, sip, sip.

“Your friends are out there, aren’t they?” says Hamid.

He watches me from just inside the door. Not visible from outside, but near enough to grab me if I do something stupid; try to jump. Hamid is the kind one. An interrogator not a torturer. He’s the one who got me to talk, s-ip, s-ip.

The beer is watery. The cheapest variety of the cheapest brand, but it tastes divine. I drink it slowly, savouring every drop, savouring every minute out here in the sun, watching my city, sip, sip, sip.

They say there are people who can hold out indefinitely under interrogation. I’m not one of those people. The pain was bearable. All my life I was told these people are the enemy, are monsters. I expected pain from monsters. It was kindness that broke me. After so long in the dark, hungry and alone, a small offer of kindness was all it took, s-ip, s-ip, s-ip.

I gave them a name. In return I get to sit out here every afternoon and drink one beer. That is all it took to betray my friends; one beer and some sunshine. Not the pain, the torture, the darkness, the hours alone, knowing I will die. No, just a simple comfort; sunlight, a beer, and a view of my city.

“Do they know you are here?” asks Hamid.

“How should I know?”

“Perhaps they are watching you right now?”

Sip, s-ip, sip.

He’s right. My friends are out there somewhere in this city. My comrades in arms, my brother. Or terrorists, as Hamid calls them. But one man’s terrorist is always another’s freedom fighter, sip, s-ip, sip.

“What would you say to them? If you could speak to them now?” says Hamid.

“I do not know.”

“Would you tell them about me?”

I should not hide from the truth. They are my comrades, my brother. But what will they think of me now? Even if I survive, if I’m allowed to leave this place, I cannot return to my old life. I have betrayed my brother. Even family has its limits.

“No,” I say. “I would not tell them. They would not like to hear about a man like you.”

“Then what would you say?”

I check my beer. Only four sips left, but that is all I need for the last letter; s-ip, sip, s-ip, s-ip.
Hamid is smiling when he talks again; I cannot see but I hear it in his voice. “You know, you’re not the only one who knows Morse code.”

I should have known he wasn’t fooled, that he’d know what I was doing all along. That this luxury was just a different kind of interrogation. But it doesn’t matter. Nobody is watching us. I have no friends anymore and this is no longer my city. I cannot deceive myself with such hopes.

The message was only for me.

Hamid rises, a rustle behind me. “Come, my friend. It’s nearly time. I have more questions for you.”

I put the empty bottle down and turn my back on my city, on my home.