A man told them that their 19-year-old son Sabri, their boy who loved reggae and chatting with his mother about world events, had died on the same day Ben Ali had fallen ill.
She realized those pains in her stomach were the inverse of giving birth to Sabri: They were her body telling her that her child was dying.
In Calgary, between the soccer practices and the hours at her accounting job and the potlucks with the neighbors, Christianne Boudreau spent every spare minute watching Islamic State videos, her nose pressed up against the computer screen. But Boudreau barely registered any of the bloodshed. Three days earlier, she received word that he had been injured outside Aleppo, but she was convinced that he was dead.
She sat in the basement of her middle-class home in her middle-class suburb, a bare room that once belonged to her eldest son, Damian, and watched men posturing with big guns like teenagers. She was focused on the faces behind the balaclavas, trying to spot her son’s eyes. Sitting alone that evening, nervously puffing on a vaporizer, she couldn’t stop herself from sending a Viber message into the ether.
In April, I visited Christianne Boudreau in Calgary, and she told me how hopeful she had been when Damian discovered Islam.