Kenan looks up at the ruins of the National Library, thinking of how this building used to represent the society he was so proud of in Sarajevo. The men on the hills destroyed the library early in the siege, then shot at the firetrucks that arrived to try to put out the blaze of mortar fire. Kenan remembers seeing a fireman crying in front of the building, unable to slow the destruction. He feels like that firemen whenever his own children ask why the war has started. All he can say is that the war will end someday and they will all survive.
The library isn’t essential to the city’s survival, but the men attacking the city know that the library is an important site for the morale of the Sarajevans. If the men on the hill can destroy the library, they symbolically disrupt the spread of culture and knowledge in the city. Kenan mourns the loss of these ideals, wondering how to raise children in a world where the values of civilization are under attack.
Kenan reaches the Seher Cehaja Bridge and hides behind one of the library’s arches while a couple begins to cross the bridge. They make it across without incident, though Kenan is sure that they are still in danger. Another woman approaches behind Kenan and asks if the bridge is safe. Kenan shares that a couple just made it across, though that is no guarantee there is no sniper. The woman lifts her own water bottles and asks if Kenan is headed to the brewery. Kenan nods and decides it is time to go. The woman stays behind to rest.
As Kenan watches the other couple cross the bridge, Galloway again emphasizes how alone all the Sarajevans are in their desire for survival. The safety of the other couple, for the moment, does not mean anything for Kenan’s own survival. In the same way, Kenan and the woman do not work together towards their shared destination.
Kenan is glad to be moving, oddly unnerved by his short conversation with the woman by the library. He jogs to the bridge, zigzagging randomly. His water bottles thump, making Kenan even more paranoid at the loud sound. He makes it to the end of the bridge, stumbling on the pavement before finally making it to a sheltering building. He looks back across and thinks he sees the woman laughing at him, as if he had been the woman’s guinea pig for the safety of the bridge.
In the high-stakes atmosphere of the war, Galloway shows how the civilians of Sarajevo cannot afford to unite with one another. The woman did not truly care about Kenan’s safety—she simply needed to know if she would be safe making the same crossing. Her concern is only for her own well-being.
Kenan sees a café that legend says was rebuilt across the river when the city diverted the flow of the Miljacka. Kenan wishes the men on the hill would come down and rebuild all the buildings they have destroyed. Kenan picks up his bottles and grabs Mrs. Ristovski’s containers, again cursing their lack of handles.
Kenan again thinks of past tragedies that Sarajevo has survived, hoping that the old Sarajevo will be resurrected. Yet Kenan still does not see that his responsibility in rebuilding is to begin to help others instead of focusing on himself and his family.
Kenan remembers first meeting Mrs. Ristovski when she came over to the apartment the first day that Kenan and Amila moved in. Mrs. Ristovski brought a fern and a long list of do’s and don’ts for living in the building. When Mrs. Ristovski’s loud voice woke Kenan’s young baby, Mrs. Ristovski sniffed at the noise. After that first visit, Mrs. Ristovski visited every couple of days, as the fern gradually died. Others in the building said that Mrs. Ristovski poisoned her gift ferns, but Kenan defended the old woman. Mrs. Ristovski lost her husband in WWII and Kenan knows that grief marked her permanently.
Mrs. Ristovski is an example of one possible future for all those who survive the Bosnian conflict. She has permanently lost the ability to interact compassionately and kindly with other people. Though Kenan excuses her behavior because of what she has suffered, Mrs. Ristovski is a sad fate for anyone. She looks out only for herself, finding that the easiest way to ensure physical survival even as her emotional relationships suffer.
Kenan sighs, wondering why he still deals with Mrs. Ristovski’s prickly personality. He gets up and starts toward the brewery, climbing the final hill alongside more people with bottles and containers. A large truck with a water tank forces Kenan to the side of the road as he approaches the water spouts. He already dreads the trip back home.
Kenan’s own compassion for other people has been stretched thin by the long, hard days of the war. The drudgery of simply surviving has exhausted Kenan so much that he finds it hard to care for other people.