Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: On Violence, Lost Boys, and Being Long Gone

What will always affect me most about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wasn’t that I was there that day. It wasn’t that I ran the marathon or worked at Mass General, or even anything about being Muslim. Looking at that kid is looking at all my other “kids.” All the ones I’ve hung out with, dated, tutored. The same hair. The same build. The same immigrant family story with skeletons in the closet. I want to shake him. I want to scream at him. Every other boy I knew just like him that cried or screamed or got high or drank or screwed around with girls or bitched about the U.S. is in that kid, except they kept fighting.

Whether I liked or respected them or not, they’ve tried to fix it. Make it better. Fix themselves or their families or campaign or protest, even if I don’t agree or don’t like them. With their stupid giant hair and the coiffed eyebrows. All of them have tried to keep moving forward. Even in the tantrums, none were ever so angry they put a bomb next to an eight-year-old. They didn’t go to a 7-11 and buy some drinks after committing terrorism. Not the ones who have no family left alive, not the ones who were homeless, not the ones who grew up in a war zone. I want to slap him and punch him and tell him if he had held on he would have broken through it. The stupid apathy of thinking you know everything at nineteen.

That you can escape your parents and your past. You can change your name or get a better job or find some girl to love. You can turn all that hate into sports or a career or move away and never come back. He could have been anything else in the world; none of them ever got so angry they pissed their life and a bunch of other people’s lives away. The waste of it is what gets to me — the absolute waste of a life and a chance. The bombing happened in 2013. Two years on, all those boys have grown and changed — in school, graduating, working, dating, living; maybe not into what I want or like, but into something beyond what they were.

Impatience and stupidity. He could have been anything. Don’t tell me it’s about immigration or religion or health or war. All the rest of them tried, are trying, fighting their demons. I mourned the day they caught him — skinny ass kid like the other skinny boys I know, hair still giant, even under a hat. I mourn a little less today, feel almost nothing. And, when he dies, I won’t feel anything at all. I remember once a boy the same age with the same hair telling me, “I have asylum because everyone I love is dead.” And it being fact. No one in his life is left alive due to genocide in some country no one really cares about. That boy isn’t someone I like or am close with, but he never chose to put a bomb next to an eight-year-old. Then look at him. Then walk away. Not running, but walking slowly — all the time in the world to waste his entire life.

“I look back on who I was then. A young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I wanna talk to him. I wanna try to talk some sense to him. Tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone…” -Shawshank Redemption