The Friendly Sniper

My father gave me this bullet. We lived on the top floor of our apartment building in West Beirut during the civil war. We were just a few blocks away from the sea. We had electricity only four hours a day at times and would have to walk the 8 flights up and down. On the roof of a building just half a block away for a few months we had a sniper who attended to his perch with a sense of duty. He was up and ready in the morning for the hours before noon. Though he would appear intermittently during his time there it was always then. As if he had other things to do. Perhaps a little grocery shopping with his wife or a trip to the office or maybe to return home to kiss his kids and make them lunch – we never knew as we never recognized him on the streets below. His keffiyeh kept his face well covered.

Each time my father saw him he would walk on to our balcony, wave and give him the thumbs up. The only time I saw him I ducked and crawled quickly away from our floor to ceiling windows. My father decided to call him the friendly sniper. After a few weeks the friendly sniper got tired of my father waving and giving him the thumbs up. So he shot at him. This bullet hit the wall of our apartment just a few inches from my father’s head. He dug it out of the wall when the friendly sniper disappeared for the day. My father claimed that it was just a warning shot. He was the friendly sniper. And that was the last day we saw him.