It has been ten minutes since the sniper fired and several people have crossed the intersection with no problem. Dragan is hungry, wanting to cross and get to the bakery. But another part of him urges caution and Dragan shifts back further behind the railway car. A woman approaches, and Dragan recognizes an old friend of his wife’s, Emina. Dragan dreaded dinners with Emina and her boring husband Jovan before the war and he hopes to avoid her now.
Though Dragan is surrounded by people in the street, he feels profoundly alone. He seeks to continue that isolation by avoiding Emina. In the stress of war, Dragan wants to focus only on the physical needs of survival. He feels that he has no energy for pleasantries with a woman whose company he has not enjoyed in the past.
Emina sees Dragan and rushes toward him. Dragan briefly considers rushing into the street to avoid saying hello, but keeps himself from risking his life that way. Dragan greets Emina, as Emina asks after Dragan’s wife Raza. Dragan explains as much as he can, but there is so much sadness in his life now that he cannot bring himself to talk about. Dragan worries over whether to ask about Jovan, unwilling to bring up possible tragedy in Emina’s own life. After standing in awkward silence, Dragan finally asks. Emina explains that Jovan joined the army.
Dragan’s fear of caring about other people almost goes so far as to endanger his own life. Though he keeps himself back from that edge, he still cannot bring himself to fully share the burdens of the war. Dragan and Emina are less alone than before, but Dragan still insists on carrying all his pain by himself rather than splitting the load with his community.
Dragan tells Emina that a sniper has fired at this intersection, and Emina seems genuinely concerned that people may have been hurt. Dragan can’t remember the last time he allowed himself to truly care about the violence. Emina decides to wait a bit before crossing, as she is in no hurry on her errand to deliver medicine across town. Now that the hospital has few supplies, Radio Sarajevo advertises for drugs that the hospital needs, and people with expired or unnecessary prescriptions respond. Emina has heart medicine from her late mother who died before the war started.
Emina has somehow avoided the apathy and insulation that marks Dragan. While Dragan has disconnected from the rest of the city to protect himself, Emina still cares about other people. Now that the city services cannot help the Sarajevans, Emina is part of the group trying to rally together to help each other through this crisis.
Emina asks Dragan if he has heard about a new production of Hair that is trying to get many Sarajevans out of the country. Dragan remembers when all one needed was a visa to travel the world, but now it is almost impossible to leave the city. He had originally stayed to keep his family’s apartment and his job, but now he wishes he had left with Raza and Davor.
Just as Dragan feels isolated within the city, the siege has also caused a blockade that keeps the city isolated from the rest of the world. Dragan feels as though no one is reaching out to Sarajevo in their time of need, leaving them alone to wait out the war. The distance of Dragan’s family increases this feeling.
Emina firmly claims that the world will have to send help soon, but Dragan knows that Sarajevo is on its own. For months at the beginning of the war, Dragan tried to act as though life would return to normal. He finally had to accept that this was his life now, after an old bakery client who lived through Auschwitz killed himself rather than experience another war. Dragan wonders when people will learn from suffering, rather than causing more of it.
Those in Sarajevo who survived WWII once hoped that the violence they suffered would at least have some influence over people’s choices in the future. Instead, it seems that the world has learned nothing from the past and Sarajevo is doomed to be nothing more than another sad chapter in history. Galloway points out that the world did not help during the siege, but he hopes that his book will at least educate readers about these events so that they might help others in the future.
Dragan and Emina look around at the gray streets, and Emina comments that the war has made her walk down many streets she had never been down before. On one of these new streets, Emina met a woman who was picking cherries from a tree in her yard. When Emina found herself with extra salt, she decided to share it with the woman. In return, the woman gave Emina two pails of cherries. Emina longs for the days when that kind of sharing and kindness was routine in Sarajevo. Dragan thinks that the men on the hill would be content to make them all forget how to act civilized, if they cannot kill everyone in the city.
Where Dragan sees nothing but gray, Emina sees opportunities to find out more about her city than she knew in her old life. Emina forms communities that help each other, something that has sadly become a rarity as all the civilians of Sarajevo become consumed with looking out for themselves. Dragan connects this spirit of care with civilization, seeing Sarajevo as a place that once hoped to uphold and increase these values. The men on the hill destroy the city just as much by attacking those ideals as by physically dismantling the buildings.
Dragan decides it is time to cross. About a quarter of the way across, Dragan feels a bullet rush by his ear. He is stunned that the sniper missed, and rushes back to safety behind the boxcar. Emina hugs Dragan as he falls to the ground. He can’t believe that he has finally been targeted, or that he has survived. After a few calm minutes, Dragan jokes that the sniper isn’t a good shot. Emina laughs about Sarajevo roulette as Dragan counts his blessings that he is alive.
In the aftermath of the attack on Dragan’s life, he seeks human connection from Emina. The humor, rather than showing that Dragan doesn’t care about his brush with death, helps Dragan remember that his life truly is worth living because he has the chance to feel kinship with other people.