Amir Dies in Yemen

A short story:

So it’s New York, right? Manhattan. Lower east side. I’m a psychotherapist. I won’t tell you what my speciality is, don’t want to cloud your judgment. But I’m a psychotherapist and I’ve got this patient. New guy. Called my assistant and said he was really depressed, wants to kill himself maybe, needed someone to talk to. Assistant sets up the appointment and boom, he’s there. Nice guy. Nice looking, I mean. Healthy and a full head of hair and one of those business casual kind of vibes. Jeans and a button down, shaved this morning. And he shakes my hand and I tell him to sit. Sit down, on the comfy chair. That’s what we call it. I get the stiff one, yknow, so I pay attention. He sits in the comfy chair doing something with his hands. I say a bit about myself, about the office, just to get him comfortable. Ask the usual insurance questions and all that. Assistant handles most of it, but I go over it with them from the get go just so, yknow, anyway. We get to it, the little silent bit. And I ask him, So, what made you come in today?

And he says: I’m sad because Amir died in Yemen.

Okay, I say. Talking real slow, like I do with all of them. Not like now. This is my real voice.

Okay, I tell him, you feel sad.

He says, Because Amir died in Yemen.

Who’s Amir? I ask.

And this guy, he says, I don’t know. I’ve never met him.

You’ve never met Amir? I ask.

Never, he says.

Why are you sad? I ask. If you’ve never met him.

Because he died, he says.

How did he die? I ask.

He says, I don’t know.

When did he die?

When he was eleven, he says.

Amir died when he was eleven?

Yes, the guy says.

How do you know he died? Was it in the news?

I’m thinking, Yemen’s been in the news lately, hasn’t it? Those places always are.

The guy, he shrugs. Maybe, he says.

You read about it? I ask.

He shrugs. I don’t know, he says.

What do you know? I ask him. Not like that. Like a reality check kind of thing. That’s a thing in psychotherapy, validate the feelings, check the facts. So I ask him, what do you know?

And he says, I’m sad because Amir died in Yemen.

Well, I say, you know you’re sad. Couldn’t it be caused by something else? How’s your home life? Your health?

No, he says and shakes his head. It’s because of Amir. Because he died.

I give him the usual questions. Asking if he’s felt this way before. If he has any other concerns with his health. If he’s sure, really sure, he’s sad because of Amir.

And he says he’s got nothing wrong with him and a happy life and a good job and all that. But he can’t get it out of his head. Amir died in Yemen.

And I’m talking to him and wondering who the hell this Amir kid is. Why did he die in Yemen? Was he from Yemen? What do they even call them… Yemenites?
Yemenis. That’s the one.

Was he Yemeni? Must have been, I guess. Not like a lot of people go on vacation to Yemen these days. Could have been a soldier’s kid, but they don’t bring their kids to Yemen with them, do they?

So maybe he’s Yemeni and he’s eleven. Eleven years old. I don’t have kids myself. My sister’s got two boys, ten and nine.

And I’m thinking, they’ve still got a year or two. And they live in Jersey and not in Yemen and there’s not a war going on in Jersey. There’s a war in Yemen, yeah?

So maybe this guy’s one of those bleeding hearts. Just trying to make a point about the war and all that. We bombed Amir and he voted for the son of a bitch or he didn’t and he feels guilty because Amir’s blood is on his hands and all that. Yknow like His blood is on all our hands. Don’t turn your face away and all that.

He’s all, look at it. I’ll give it a name. Amir. Amir’s eleven and he’s dead and now you have to feel sad too.

What makes Amir the symbol of this shit? This guy, he doesn’t even know who Amir was. Just says he was eleven.

Maybe Amir wasn’t even a good kid. Maybe Amir was Al Qaeda in training. They’ve got Al Qaeda in Yemen, don’t they? That’s like the next frontier or something. Maybe Al Qaeda recruited Amir and by the time he died he wasn’t even Amir anymore. He was just a terrorist. They get them young, don’t they? Those suicide bomber kids. Just makes you sick. They’re just kids.


Maybe he wasn’t in Al Qaeda. Maybe he was just some kid, and now he’s dead.

Maybe he didn’t get bombed, though. Maybe he got cancer. Maybe they didn’t have doctors in Yemen where he was. Maybe the doctors got bombed. No, they don’t bomb doctors. Do they?

Maybe no one got bombed. Maybe Amir just died of natural causes.


Maybe he had a heart problem. The kind of thing they’d fix in Jersey but in Yemen they don’t have the technology. Or the doctors.

Maybe he got hit by a car. Maybe it was a hit and run and they don’t know who did it. They’ve still got cars in Yemen. People still get run over.

Kids, even… Yeah, they do. Kids get run over in Jersey. In Manhattan, even. Kids get run over everywhere. New York, Yemen. People still die.

Even when they’re eleven.

Maybe he didn’t get hit by a car though. Maybe he killed himself. I’ve always said, you gotta let people want to kill themselves. No good comes from telling people they can’t want the things they want.

Maybe Amir was depressed. Maybe it was because of the war. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe he wanted to kill himself. Maybe his life was full of so much pain, so much hurt that he couldn’t even imagine growing up. Maybe he wanted to. Maybe he wanted to be a soldier. Maybe he wanted to be a doctor. Maybe he wanted to be a therapist, so he could help people too. Help people like him.

This guy in my office, he says, I’m depressed. I want to kill myself. I’m sad, I’m so, so sad, because Amir died in Yemen.

Because Amir died and now that’s it. Because maybe Amir liked soccer. Maybe he liked dancing. Maybe he was learning English. Maybe he knew the English word for Sad. Maybe he died before they taught him how to say Happy.

Maybe he was happy. Maybe he lived eleven happy years in Yemen with his goats or whatever they have there. Maybe he loved his Mom and Dad. Maybe they loved him. Love him still. They must. Maybe he knew that, that he was loved. I hope he knows that.

I hope Amir knows that he was loved. That someone thought about him, wanted him to be happy. Hell, if no one else did, I want him to be happy.

But he’s dead. Amir’s dead. Amir died in Yemen. And he’ll never hear me tell him that I want him to be happy. That I’ve never met him, but I want him to be happy. He’ll never know that I’m…

That I’m sad.

I’m sad because Amir died in Yemen.


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