A coward can never be a hero. I am that coward. They carried me home upon their shoulders. If only they knew the truth. But a dead man cannot speak, and I would never reveal what really happened. Asim’s burial was quick. Nothing much was left of him. His aged mother shed ample tears and his elder brother shoveled the dirt. Down went Asim into his damp grave, our secret buried alongside him.
We were soldiers. The attack had taken us by surprise. Cornered against a steep rock face, our chances of getting out alive were slim. But Asim was the optimist. He was also the brave one. As we lay flat on the ground, the stony gravel cutting into our faces, Asim reminded me that every problem had a solution. It was just a matter of finding it at the right time.
I knew death was coming. The wind whistled its tune in my ear. But Asim didn’t hear it. He was too busy finding his grand solution. Bullets zipped past us, bouncing off the rocks. Some so close that I could feel their deathly vibrations. I peed my pants. Isn’t that what cowards do?
And when Asim rose, his rifle in his hands, he resembled a fearless mountain lion. I think he called out to me. He even shook my arm. But I heard little and felt nothing at all. Everything had blurred. He screamed my name, asking for cover fire.
The ground was shaking. Or was it me? They were coming. How many? I would later find out, only three. Asim had already killed two. And he would have killed the third if I hadn’t hurled the grenade towards them. Where had it come from? Had Asim dropped it? Dead men don’t answer. Cowards live to lie.