My friend and Iraqi colleague's son walked into the newsroom tonight and banged his head against the desk gently.
"I'm bored," he said and looked down.
For a few days the rambunctious 13-year-old's been down. For security, he's lived in the hotel where our offices are housed for a few months.
After school he runs up the three flights of stairs and eats lunch with us. Then he heads up to his room that he shares with his mother and sister, unpacks his backpack and does his homework. At night he comes down to the newsroom and watches movies, listens to music or plays video games.
I suggested playing with his PSP or listening to his iPod. He looked down thoughtfully, consdering what I'd said.
"Sometimes you want a real person to hang out with," he said. "I just want one real friend."
Naively I worried the kids at school were being mean.
"What's wrong? You don't like anyone at school?" I asked.
"No. It's just a part of me is always a secret," he said. "I can't have a real friend."
Even if he befriended someone, he couldn't bring him or her home to play. No one can know his mother works as a journalist. Not only does she work with us, she and her family live here. Working for a foreign news agency could put her and her children's lives in danger.
He isn't lucky enough to have the typical teen-age angst. At 13, most kids start to resent their parents and rules. They fight for a little bit of independence.
"I wish I had those problems," he said. "I could get killed coming home from school."
He talked about his dreams. He wished that he could sit outside in the garden on this cool windy day. He wished that he could go to the movies and one day have a girlfriend.
But in Baghdad, even this Baghdad that has gone from terrifying to a little less terrifying, these dreams are not within his reach.
A month ago gunmen came to his school and shot three guards during his last period. The U.S. Military came and the students ran out the door to catch their rides. That day he made it home safe. Tomorrow, he doesn't know.
The burden he carries is not fit for a 13-year-old. But this is not an R-rated movie; you can't keep the children out.