Rifles hang over the children and the long gun barrels drag, making lines in the dirt behind their small feet.

The older boys carry rifles high on their chests. The simple act of endurance becomes a badge. Together, the boys are a collection of stones—-hard, dark, shaped by time and collision. Their days blend. Weeks are marked by distances marched, months by bombs, and seasons by rain.

When they break, they find a low hill with a tree large enough to hide them from the sun. They sit and chat softly of killing and strategy but never smile. Those who still can, conjure the fragments of home their memory retains; faraway villages blurred in the waves of heat and the smell of river. One of them, a boy nearly seventeen, imagines the world beyond his. What he sees is not a place, but a person.

He sees his binary—his counterpart; towards whom the balance of their mystical union favors; granting them so much joy in life and he so little.

A girl.

She lives in America’s Midwest whereupon the grass grows a lush green fur. She has a delicate name, Lilly or Aaliyah or Marceline. She uses magical words in regular speech—dalliance, effervescent, bungalow, mellifluous—words he does not understand but believes can be strung together to define her spirit. She has never killed. Upon her skin the sun does not scald or attend, but warms and inspires. His counterpart smiles everyday. He imagines her dancing in a green field where a little white house pops up from the earth like a flower. She leaps into the air. Her feet begin to tuck beneath her. Her hands aim towards the clouds and a breeze moves nearby. He stops her there in his mind—suspended, where she is so free she believes she can fly.

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I am often asked what I do for a living; the simple answer is, I make stuff. I make stuff with my bare hands, with code, with colors, with words. I aid in making the people around me realize their optimum selves. I make my mother proud. I try to make my kids happy and encourage them to contribute more than they consume. I make sure self comes first. I make money. I make my own luck. I make a pretty solid french toast. And I do all that I can everyday to make the world better than it was yesterday.