He is falling in lots of ways, but to his amazement none of them seem to hurt. Nothing hurts anymore, nothing can, nothing ever will again, not since the strange, surreal day nearly two years ago when the bomb went off, and the building came down, and his mother said, 'Oh', and died.
Ahmed remembers it vividly, but always at a distance. It is like he is watching it on a super high definition television. The picture and sound are like crystal, but there is nothing more, nothing to touch. No sensation of being there, no sense that it is happening to him. The smoke looks like nothing, like someone is blowing leaves, and his mother seems puzzled by the spreading wetness on her hijab, and she is saying, 'Oh,' and then she is gone.
Everything since then - his father's decision to leave, the struggle to get out of Syria as the country slowly imploded, the days in boats and trucks and drab, drear camps stretching to weeks to months to more than a year - everything since then seems like a mistake, somehow. It is happening to someone else, not to Ahmed. Soon, someone will realize there has been a mistake. Soon, they will come, the people who are in charge of such things, and they will take Ahmed away from this strange city, and back to his home - which he loves - and his mother will be there and then he will be able to hurt again, to weep for the impossible, awful dream that had mistakenly swept him up. But not until then.
He is falling out of love with his father, who gave up his country and the memory of his wife, who gave up everything to live with a brother he hates in a small flat in West London, and the shop below where he plans to sell kebabs to people who don't give a shit about any of that. He is falling behind at school, and he is falling off roofs, off of fire escapes, off of a bridge one time in Hounslow at midnight, because he is convinced that he can reach down far enough to finish the picture he is painting, spraying in green and yellow and chrome to glitter over the canal in the moonlight forever. His friends say they have him tight, but when the police come, they drop him, and Ahmed falls fifteen feet into the filthy water.
'Things will be better,' his father promises every night, so often that Ahmed loses count. 'You will see. We will open the restaurant, and we will make money. This is just the start. You will see.'
But all Ahmed sees is a million buildings of brick and stone and cold concrete, the endless miles of alien London stretching so far into the distance that there is no possible way out.