Just as his mom tucked him in, kissed his forehead and was about to turn around and leave the room, the little boy pulled at her sleeve.
– Mom, I have a secret to tell you.
She smiled tenderly. She knew he was looking for an excuse to make her stay a little longer. He’s been having so many nightmares since his father went to jail.
– Really? What is it?
– No, I need to whisper it in your ear.
– But we’re alone in the room.
– I don’t want the Teddy bears to hear.
She leaned in, humouring his childish whim. He wrapped his little arm around her head, pulled her hair back with the other hand and with a trembling voice he whispered as low as he could:
“Daddy is in the hall. I can see his shadow. He’s carrying an axe”
The number hit her as she opened her eyes. The warm October sun filtering through the curtains gave her a sense of relief as she breathed out in anticipation of the unknown. It’s the end of an era.
From the bathroom came light noises of splashing and gurgling. She grabbed her cell phone to check the time, it was ten minutes to eight, her husband had apparently overslept.
Perhaps he’s not planning on going to work at all today. She thought.
Trying to keep her expectations in check, she shook that idea off. After all, it wasn’t the first time he ran late. No expectations, no disappointments, She reminded herself reluctantly.
The bathroom’s door flung open as her husband hurried out in a semi-panic state. “Second time this week.” He said as he went around the room with desperate attempts at multi-tasking. “Perhaps if traffic isn’t so bad I can still make it on time.”
She stared at him with half-closed eyelids as he sat on the edge of the bed fumbling with a sock. “Damn thing!” He uttered under his breath. Catching her sleepy smile with the corner of his eye.
“I’m sorry. Good morning, honey.”
“Good morning. Looks like a bad hair day already.”
Taking things too literally as he always did, he reached a hand and stroked his black mop of hair. She felt inwardly ashamed knowing she was fishing for a compliment, one that never came.
How could it be a bad day when you were born on it? She could think of a hundred other things he could say that would brighten up her day, none of them included “dandruff” and “stupid barber”, like what she got.
He mumbled on about his boss, meetings and parking spaces. A moment of silence lingered in the air as he leaned in to kiss her forehead, smelling of the cardamom scented toothpaste she hated, a fact he never fails to forget.
As he left the room, her eyes transfixed on the door, waiting for him to come back. To remember. To almost forget. The sound of his car’s ignition pulled her out of her wishful thinking.
Having your morning coffee alone on your 30th birthday must be one of the saddest things for a woman, she thought as she sat in the kitchen, half awake, sipping at a cup of Turkish coffee and scrolling down her Facebook timeline. A post about a refugee who had lost her son in the sea sent pangs of guilt through her chest. She closed the application immediately, not to be opened again for the rest of that day. Just for today, she thought, I am the center of my own universe.
She looked at the clock on her phone again. It’s still early, perhaps he will call once he has a chance to catch his breath. She reasoned. It’s just a matter of time – or timing- she was positive. He couldn’t forget her birthday, that would be preposterous; not just because it was only their second year of marriage, but also because he had forgotten it last year. As much as she resented it, and resented him for it and for not even trying to make it up for her, she cut him some slack on account of his career shift. It wasn’t an excuse, but it was at least a reason.
She pulled herself up from the chair sluggishly to wash some dishes from last night as she contemplated what to do for the rest of the day. It was her first day off in months and she felt like she earned it. No chores today, that was the number one rule, soon to be broken by the heap of laundry needing to be stuffed in the washing machine, and the aftermath of her husband’s daily shaving job on the bathroom sink.
Several calls came in from some friends, her expatriate sister and her parents. Nobody offered to take her out as they all assumed she’d have other plans. She had already hidden her birth date on Facebook to avoid the influx of birthday wishes by those who didn’t matter. She left the house at around noon, stopped by a small restaurant for a snack and a cup of tea before proceeding to her manicure appointment, and then did some window shopping. This was the height of indulgence for her.
A couple of things caught her eye, but she refrained from buying anything. A pair of running shoes were the hardest to resist, a bit too expensive but surely what she needed for her daily walk. The ones she had were too worn out, as signaled by the pain in her back. But she refrained again, thinking of the Rolex she’d been saving up to buy as his birthday was in 3 months and she wanted to get him something nice. She’s never seen a man with so much love for watches and such a lack of punctuality.
Then as if summoned by some telepathic power, his name flashed on her phone’s screen. Finally…
– Yes, hi. Sorry I left in so much hurry today I totally forgot to tell you I won’t be home by supper today. I’ll be late a couple of hours so I thought I’ll just grab a bite at work.
She paused for a moment.
– No problem, I wasn’t planning on cooking today anyway. I figured I’d make it a day off from everything.
– Oh, great then. See you tonight. Love you.
– Love you too.
She felt the blood boiling up to her face as she hung up. She didn’t know whether she was more angry he still didn’t remember it was her birthday, or because he didn’t bother to ask why she was taking the day off. How could he be so apathetic? Unless…
Her face lit up. Perhaps he’s being slick for a change. The idea appealed to her, she didn’t make any effort at suppressing it. She felt a new bolt of energy surging through her, and she found herself heading back home.
She put the laundry out to dry, watched a political talk show where guests hurled insults at each other, folded the laundry while watching a movie about a whale that needed to be rescued and sent back to the ocean and talked on the phone with her cousin who wanted to welcome her to the 30’s club.
She looked at the clock on the wall, it was around 6. He must be home soon. She opened her closet and picked out a dark blue satin dress. Admiring her figure in the mirror as she tried it on, she thought that cutting down on carbs for the past two weeks had done her good. The last thing she wanted as he started her fourth decade is a dress that didn’t fit.
She opened her jewelry box and put on a silver necklace with a butterfly pendant, which matched her silver high heels. She thought if he wanted to take her out, she’d be fresh and ready, if not, there’s no reason she shouldn’t look good on her birthday.
It was almost 8 and he hadn’t shown up yet. She leafed through a book to pass the time, and just when she was about to call him, the phone rang.
– Hey, sweetheart, I’m so sorry I got caught up at work.
– No problem. When will you be home?
– Actually I just remembered tonight is the Classico and the guys are all going to watch the game at a coffee shop near work.
She didn’t say anything.
– But of course I could just come home.
– No. She said quietly. It’s okay. I think I’ll just go to sleep early tonight anyway.
– You’re the best wife in the world! It would be two hours tops, I promise.
– Take your time.
– I love you.
– … Take care.
She changed into her pajamas, made herself a cup of tea and sat to watch an episode of some crime drama that gave her the chills. Suddenly her phone vibrated with a text message that had the same effect.
“I COULD NEVER FORGET. HAPPY BIRTHDAY.”
Thoughtful bag of crap. She thought as she deleted the message from her ex and tossed the phone as far away from her as possible.
She flipped through channels for what seemed like an eternity, switching between heart-wrenching global news, mind-numbing celebrity news and sitcoms that didn’t make her laugh. Sometime around 10 she heard his key turn in the lock.
– I thought you’d be asleep.
– Well, it turned out I wasn’t sleepy after all.
– Good for you. I’m exhausted. It was a long day.
She didn’t say anything.
– Real Madrid won. 2 to 1.
He nodded. She realized he wasn’t on their side anyway. Just as he was about to head to the bedroom, he turned around and faced her.
– Aren’t you coming to bed?
– I think I’ll stay up for a while. You go get some rest.
He nodded again and disappeared in the corridor. She could hear him splashing and gurgling in the bathroom as she sat in the silence of the living room, mute and motionless like a dusty sculpture in an abandoned ruin site.
The sound of his snoring pulled her back to reality. Dragging her now numb feet, she went into the bathroom to brush her teeth, but there was only the cardamom toothpaste, which she grabbed and threw in the waste basket. With a heavy head, she slipped under the blanket beside him. Normally, she wouldn’t have a problem with his snoring, but tonight she desperately wished for a pair of earplugs. She turned to the other side, facing away from him, trying to tune him out. He was getting farther and farther away, finally falling out of earshot as she drowned in her own thoughts. The last idea on her mind before she sailed away into deep sleep was that, come tomorrow, she’s going to take that money she’s been saving up, and she’ll go get herself those running shoes.
“So, that’s it?” He sister said as she came into the room without knocking. “One bad interview and you’re shutting yourself up in your room?”
“I found that to be the safest course of action.” She said calmly, without taking her eyes off her phone.
“Ummm, lying on bed all day while browsing facebook does not qualify as ‘Action’, you know.'”
“I’m not on facebook,” she replied, unmoved. “I deactivated my account. Too many happy people.”
“Those shameless monsters!” Said the sister sarcastically with squinting eyes.
“No…” she sat up. “I’m serious. The whole thing is like a giant microscope. Everything looks bigger and better than it is. A trip to the beach looks like the trip of a lifetime, a simple gathering of friends at a local café seems like a dream, a high-class velvety fundraiser makes it feel like they’re gonna end world hunger. And you’re sitting there like a peeping tom with a pair of binoculars, observing the mood changes of people you couldn’t care less about, browsing carefully picked photos of beautiful people with big, wide smiles going on and on about their friends and their jobs, all the while reminding you that you don’t have any of those things…”
“Well then get up and go find yourself some friends!”
“I don’t want friends!” She slumped back onto the bed. “You’re missing the point.”
“Then get up and go find yourself a job.”
“Tried. Didn’t work out very well.”
“How bad could it be? I don’t understand. We all have bad interviews, that doesn’t…”
“I really don’t want to talk about it.” She said sharply, avoiding eye contact. “I’ll get a job when I get a job.”
“Yeah, but based on my humble knowledge of the labor market, jobs don’t usually come knocking on your door.”
“Invaluable information, thank you.” She raised her eyebrows in mock astonishment.
“Suit yourself.” He sister finally surrendered. As she left the room, Dina got up from the bed and walked towards the big window. She pulled the curtain slightly aside and stood there staring at nothing in particular, thinking that her sister had a point. What’s next? She’s has graduated a year ago and she’s yet to find a decent job.
Suddenly, her gaze froze, she felt the blood draining from every vein in her body, and her muscles turned to stone. There with the same yellow smile and the stench of smoke she could smell without smelling, stood the man responsible for her latest phobia. But he wasn’t alone, along with him there was a woman dressed in an elegant navy dress, wearing her hair down, and two children who ran and jumped in front of them. They were clearly a family, and a happy one too.
The moving truck didn’t leave much for speculations: those were their new neighbors.
“3 scoops, on a cone. Dark chocolate, double chocolate and chocolate mint.”
The guy at the ice cream parlor stared at her for a few moments, trying to figure out whether she meant what she said.
“Hello!” She blurted out pettishly.
The ice cream guy went to work right away. This didn’t seem like a girl who appreciates her ice cream taken lightly. He quickly scooped out the globs, stacked them on top of each other with little tact, and stretched it out to her.
“Not so fast.” She said, still upholding the same scowl she came in with. “Syrup, and lots of sprinkles.”
Spoiled grump. He thought to himself. A girl who doesn’t lighten up at the sight of 3 scoops of chocolate ice cream is probably one with deep issues, the kind of girl that’s not very easy to please.
“I suppose this is your lunch.” He said teasingly.
“Are you saying I’m fat?” She snapped. “Look.. Kareem or whatever,” she glanced at his name tag, “I might be a little bit on the chubby side but I definitely won’t call myself fat, and I know what I’m doing here. Besides, who are you to call me fat? Look at yourself looking like a broom stick despite working in an ice cream parlor. How is that possible? You people drive me crazy!”
“We… people?” He questioned.
“Humans!” She snapped again.
He didn’t retort, just carried on with his colossal task silently. She felt a pang of guilt. Why was she taking her anger out on him? She shouldn’t have done it half an hour ago at that fiasco of a job interview before she stormed out of the office.
The footage played back in her head.
“We don’t have vacancies right now, but I’m willing to help you if you’re willing to help me.” The 50-something man behind the desk shot her a smoke-tinted yellow smile. It took her a few moments to register what he said, aided by the reflection in the glass panels of the wall unit behind him.
She felt her stomach turn. Suddenly she didn’t want that ice cream anymore.
“It’s for you.” She worked-up a smile as the young man behind the counter handed her the finished work of chocolaty art. “Enjoy it.” She said as she ran out of the shop clutching her stomach before emptiying it all out on the sidewalk.
To be continued…
لم يكن موت س.ص حدثاً عادياً في قريته النائمة في زاوية منسية جنوب النهر. نزل الخبر على قومه الذين لم يألفوا الفواجع كحمم قذفها بركان نائم ذات نهار عادي، عادي جداً. لعل تعطأشهم لفاجعة ما تضمهم معاً وتضفي بعض الإثارة على حياتهم الراكدة جعلهم يبالغون في تهويل المأساة، أو لعلهم أحبوه فعلاً كما شهدوا لبعضهم.0
قال البعض إن زوجته ما أن سمعت بالخبر حتى أغشي عليها وتطلب إيقاظها ثلاثة فحول من البصل ودلوين من ماء بارد، وحلفت ألا تغادر بيته، الذي هو بيت أهله، حتى يدركها الموت فتلحق به. وقال البعض ذاتهم أن أمه لم تذق الزاد منذ جاءها الخبر، وظلت ساهمة لا تنبس ببنت شفة سبعة أيام بلياليها، ولما نطقت طلبت أن تزور قبره الذي لم يُعرف مكانه إذ مات غريباً وحيداً في أقاصي الأرض. يروي آخرون الواقعة كما يلي: في الليلة السابعة لسكوتها استيقظت الأم المفجوعة في آخر ساعات الليل هلعة مفزوعة وراحت تهز زوجها الذي، كما يُقال، صار ينام ست عشرة ساعة في اليوم منذ جاءه خبر ولده، وراحت تصيح وتطالبه بأخذها حالاً لترى قبر ولدها بعينها وتلمسه لمس اليد.0
أما أخوه الوحيد فأصابه ما قال مختصون أنه حالة من الاكتئاب الحاد الناتج عن الصدمة، إذ لم يعد يكلم أحداً من الناس وعزل نفسه داخل سيارة أخيه القديمة التي ما انفك يحاول إقناعه ببيعها، وغدت الآن تراثاً لا يبيعه بكل أموال الأرض.
في أول أيام العزاء توافد أهل القرية شيباً وشيباناً إلى دار الفقيد ولم يكونوا يتركونها حتى العشاء. أعلن مختار القرية تبرئة الفقيد من َدين كان له برقبته، وحذا بقية أهل القرية ممن كانت لهم أموال تجارة مع الفقيد حذوه، بينما راح أصدقاؤه يذكرون قصصاً تقشعر لها القلوب في شهامته وجسارته.
لم يلبث وكان هذا الحال حتى حلّ الشتاء، وكأنما غسل الشتاء الحزن العالق في الهواء فبدأت القرية تستعيد روح اللامبالاة شيئاً فشيئاً، والحزن الطويل يضجر الروح ويعطل سير الحياة، والحي أبقى من الميت كما يقولون، والنسيان نعمة، والعزيز يبقى حياً في القلب، وإن جاء ذكره تلين ملامح الجالسين ويقول أحدهم إن روحه قد طلبت الرحمة.
لكن الحزن ظل ضيفاُ ثقيلاً في منزل أهل الفقيد، ولما لحق أمه وأبوه به إلى ديار الحق تربّع الحزن وأعلن نفسه سيداً للبيت بلا منازع. ارتأت أرملة س.ص أنه لم يعد مناسباً بقاؤها في المنزل وحدها مع أخيه وزوجته فتصبح خادمة لهما، فما كان منها إلا أن انتزعت نفسها من منزل الزوجية الذي حلفت ألا تتركه أبداً، وغادرته بدموع عيونها. إلا أن الدمع ما لبث أن جف إذ توافدت نساء القرية لمواساتها كأنّ المرحوم، بإذن الله، قد مات مرة أخرى. وتضمنت عبارات المواساة لفتات لطيفة إلى عمرها الصغير وجمالها الذي لا يجب أن يُدفن مع مع دُفن، وأحقيتها في أن تواصل حياتها وتفتح الباب لدخول السعادة من جديد. وهكذا وبعد أشهر من الحداد والدموع وتوافد المعزيات، خلعت الأسود ووضعت الكحل واستقبلت الخاطبين، ولم تلبث أن تزوجت وصار لها من الأبناء اثنان خلال عامين.0
أما أخوه فصار له من الأبناء ثلاثة، واضطر إلى بيع سيارة أخيه التي عاهد نفسه ألا يبيعها أبداً، لكن تذمر زوجته وتكاليف الحياة أرغمته على ذلك. غرفة أخيه صارت غرفة لأكبر أبنائه بعد أن قام بطلائها من جديد بألوان زاهية لتطرد الحزن المقيم فيها منذ سنوات.0
وهذا ما كان من حال القرية والأهل بعد أربع سنوات من خبر رحيل س.ص، والذي لم يعد بعد كل ذلك الوقت أكثر من اسم يتذكرونه بشيء من الحب أو الصعوبة أحياناً كلما طلبت روحه الرحمة.0
وفي شتاء العام الخامس حدث ما لم يخطر ببال أحد. يحلف أحدهم أنه رأى رجلاً يركض من جهة النهر كأنه رأى شبحاً، وما هو بشبح، ولما رآه رجال القرية المتعطشين لحدث جديد يكسر رتابة حياتهم ركضوا في الاتجاه المعاكس، فلما رأوا ما أفزعه أسقط في يدهم وتبعوا الشبح بصمت حتى وصل إلى منزل س.ص سابقاً وطرق الباب.0
يُقال إن شقيق س.ص عانقه ساعة كاملة قبل أن يستطيع الأهل القرية أن يفتكّوه من بين ذراعيه. تناقل السامعون الخبر الذي سمعوه على لسان العائد من الموت حتى لم يعد أحد يعرف صدقه من كذبه. البعض قالوا إن عاصفة ضربت مركبه فقذفته الأمواج إلى جزيرة عاش عليها يصارع الوحوش البرية ويأكل أوراق الشجر والحشرات حتى وجدته سفينة تجار من الهند. وفي رواية أخرى يُقال إنه سقط عن جبل أثناء ترحاله وفقد الذاكرة طوال تلك الأعوام، لكن الرواية الأقوى تقول إنه تعرض للاختطاف على يد جماعة من تجار البشر وعاش في العبودية حتى جاء فرج الله.0
لم تثر القصة فضول أهل القرية طويلاً، إذ أن أخبار الحياة لا تعدل أخبار الموت إثارة في عرفهم. وما هي إلا أسابيع حتى عاد س.ص هو س.ص ما قبل الفاجعة، وبدأت أفواج الدائنين تتوافد إلى الدار كل منهم يطالبه بما كان يدين له به قبل رحيله وبأموال تجارتهم الضائعة، ولما لم يفلح في سدادها خسر الصديق تلو الآخر وبدأ الناقمون عليه بالتكاثر.0
تذكر سيارته القديمة فسأل أخاه عنها، إلا أنه أخبره بأن سعرها لم يكفِ حتى سعر الطلاء لغرفة ابنه البكر، التي تعب في تجهيزها كثيراُ بالطبع فطلب من س.ص النوم في الصالة مراعاة لمشاعر الولد وخصوصيته، ما لبث أن بدأ ينقل له تذمر زوجته من وجوده في البيت مما منعها من أخذ راحتها في منزلها، فما كان منه إلا أن غادر المنزل لعله يجد مأوى في منزل صديق أو قريب.0
ولما كان أصدقاؤه قد قلوا ومن بقي منهم تذرع بضيق داره ليعتذر عن استقباله، فلم يبقَ أمامه سوى ابن عم له، قصده كملجأ أخير، فما كان منه إلا أن خرّ صعقاً حين فتحت زوجته – السابقة- الباب تحمل على خاصرتها طفلاً لا يشبهه.0
هام على وجهه ليلة أو ليلتين قبل أن يتجه ببصره إلى النهر الذي أعاده إلى هنا. اعترته رغبة في الجري حتى يصل إلى منبعه، لكن لم تكن به قوة لذلك. نهض ومشي بخطوات بطيئة، مشى طوال الليل، ومع طلوع الفجر شوهد في القرية للمرة الأخيرة، راحلاً عنها بلا عودة هذه المرة.0
In the course of years during which I’ve been blogging, I’ve written a number of short stories, English short stories. Those stories have a special place in my heart and I’ve always felt it was wrong to have them buried in the blog archives and wanted to bring them back to the surface again. I thought of publishing them, in print, but then I’ve ever been fond of the idea of publishing an English book in an Arab country. So, after some search and asking around I decided to go with e-publishing, putting those stories in an e-book and offering it for free.
You can download it here in several formats [click on the picture to go to the book page]:
You can also check its page on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19375988-small-lives
“I hate you! All of you!”
He said the words as he stormed out of the house into the small garden, heading almost thoughtlessly to the shed that sat in the farthest corner away from the house. It has become a frequent scene by now and they have gotten used to it: when he gets angry at his family he gets angry at the world, and that small tool shed becomes his prison of choice where he can let his anger simmer silently until it boils up and overflows, and he could find it in his little victimized heart to forgive them for whatever they did to him, which he usually chooses to forget, if he gets hungry or lonely enough.
“Come out of there, don’t be such a baby!” His sister’s voice came from outside.
“Go away!” He yelled.
“Okay!” She saved her breath.
He sat there for a couple more minutes before he heard the familiar knocking on the door.
“This is getting old, you know” His mother’s voice seeped through the cracks in the wood. “What do you sit doing there for hours? We get it, you’re angry! Come out and let’s talk”
“No!” He fired back. “I’m not coming out of here, ever!”
“Oh, really? I assume you intend to be raised by cockroaches then, Tarzan style!”
He cringed at the thought of the six-legged little monsters, but he manned up and yelled again as if she was at the other end of the yard.
“Yes! At least they will love me!”
“And we don’t?”
“No, you don’t. Nobody loves me!”
“Well, I kind of like you, you’re a cool kid” She replied as he heard her sitting down and leaning against the wooden door.
He said nothing.
“Of course we love you, silly!” She said after a beat. “You’re family, we have no choice. I may not like you at this very moment, making me squat under the sun in this weather begging for you to come out, in fact I might even have had thoughts of wringing your neck, but you know I would never do it, because I am your mother, and I love you, it’s in my DNA to love you, so just come out and take some advantage of that already”
“Okay” She said as she let out a long breath. “How do you want me to prove it?”
“I don’t know, ask this DNA of yours!”
He heard her shift her position, he heard the old door creak as she rested her back on it.
“Okay, let’s see…” She said slowly as if she was preparing a speech. “You know how I told you I wouldn’t buy you that bicycle because it was too expensive? I will talk your father into buying it. I’ll also let you stay up late playing video games tonight, just tonight! And I’ll let you skip school tomorrow. How does that sound”
He said nothing, he didn’t sound so pleased.
“Okay…” She said again, as if she was gasping for breath, and then she started again, words flowing out of her mouth as if she was reading off a paper…
“Tomorrow morning, I will wake you up early, and then you will try to go back to sleep, but I’ll tell you that I made you your favorite breakfast, fried eggs with cheddar cheese, and you will still want to go back to sleep but I will keep tickling you until you get up. We will laugh until I’ll tell you to hush and listen to the sound of birds outside, then we’ll go brush our teeth together because I know you wouldn’t brush them properly unless I watched you. After that we’ll have breakfast, you know which dishes we will use? Those ones I keep in the guest room and we never use because I always say they are for guests…”
“And we never have guests”
“Yes” she chuckled. “We never have guests! Then you will tell me about that funny friend of yours at school and I will pretend to be amused although I don’t get half of his antics. After that we will watch a movie together, I’ll want to watch Beauty and The Beast but you will insist on watching Cars for the tenth time. Then I will try to get you to do your homework but you will want to read a story instead, so we read a story and then it’s lunch time, I’ll take you out for lunch, just the two of us, and we will have your favorite burgers and you will spill ketchup all over your shirt, which will make you feel bad for being like babies so I will squeeze my sandwich willingly that ketchup will drip out of it all over my shirt, just to show you that it’s okay. Then we will have a walk in the park, we will sit on the grass and try to make shapes out of clouds. You will tell me that a cloud looks like a shark, and I will agree enthusiastically although it looks to me like a half-eaten apple. We will look at people around and try to imagine what their stories might be, and when we get bored we’ll just head home where your father and sister will ask us where we’ve been and we won’t tell them, it will be our little totally uncalled-for secret. Then we’ll do your homework together and you’ll tell me how much you like that math teacher and I’ll feel so jealous but I’ll be happy knowing that you’re in good hands at school. Then I’ll tell you to go put on your Pajamas, and you will complain but I will tell you that I’ll make you a Nutella sandwich for dinner and before I know it you will be in your PJs nagging me in the kitchen. After we brush our teeth together you will ask me to read you a story, the same story I read you every night and you never get bored of, then you’ll ask me to tell you some of my childhood stories, and you will laugh until you fall asleep while I ramble on and on before I realize you stopped listening half a century ago, that’s when I’ll kiss you goodnight and pull the blanket up to your chest, which I’ll do three or four times during the night as I’ll keep waking up to find that you pushed the blanket to the floor, and I’ll just let out an impatient groan and then kiss you again on the forehead, while you sleep dreaming of God knows what mystical creatures that live only inside your head”
She paused, “How does that sound?” She asked.
“Not bad, I suppose” He tried to sound less pleased than he really was.
“Okay, great” She said as he heard her get up. “Now get out of this box and come home. I’ll make you a cake”
He heard her footsteps fade away, when he couldn’t hear them anymore he opened the shed’s door slightly and looked around. It was clear, he got up and ran inside, passing by the living room where his father and sister were.
“I think it’s about time I removed that shed” His father said gravely.
“Leave it, apparently it’s helping him cope. You know that isn’t easy on him”
The father sighed and went back to watching his TV show, but he noticed something missing. He looked around and then realized the boy must have taken it. He walked to his room, knocked on the door, and when there was no answer he opened it quietly. His son was lying asleep on the bed with his back to the door. As he approached him he could see that he was holding the picture between his arms, he lifted it up slowly from his grip as not to wake him up and put it on the nightstand beside him.
“She must be here to greet him with her familiar warm smile every morning as she used to” He thought to himself as he looked at the picture of his late wife with the black ribbon cross the upper left corner of the photo, then pulled the blanket over his son ,and left the room.
It’s so dark in here. My eyeballs are trembling, their pupils dilating frantically in desperate search for the tiniest spec of light.
But there isn’t any, and I have to accept it: I’m plunged into darkness.
But how did I get here? I’ve been dreading this for so long. Everyone knows what a coward I can be when it comes to confined spaces, and this is the worst of my fears, or maybe it shouldn’t be? Because in the darkness you can’t tell how spacious or enclosed a space is.
But why am I so afraid? Why do I feel like I’m suffocating? I knew this was coming. I knew it the moment the doctor asked me to sit down for the news.
“Didn’t you notice the mole earlier?”
“Then, why didn’t you have it checked out?”
I didn’t answer, although I knew the answer. He thought I didn’t think much of it, but I did. I was just too afraid to face it.
Now as I lie here in the darkness, I know there are bigger things to fear. I just want to get out. No. I want to go back in time; to the time where I could’ve it nipped it all in the bud. God! How much I would give just to hear the doctor say: “It’s a good thing you came now; it’s nothing surgery can’t take care of”
But that wasn’t what he said. And now, months later, I’m here in this dark, bleak, cold hole alone. Oh, how I want to see them again! How I want to hear their voices, stroke their hair and kiss their cheeks! But I’m in here alone, and I know they are outside, praying for me, maybe shedding some tears every now and then.
My mom has always been the strong one. When I told her the news, I expected it to hit her like a thunderbolt out of clear sky. But it didn’t. Instead, she told me I needed to fight with all my power, and therefore I had to stay strong, really strong. She even joked that death might not be the worst thing that could happen, because if I lived I might wish to be dead after she took the time to punish me for not going for a check-up earlier and thus causing myself to go through all that.
But what happened had already happened, and I can’t change it, but I would give anything right now to hear my mother scolding me. Anything at all, but I know she now probably has a lump in her throat, and tears to fight back. Not because she’s ashamed of crying or because she deems it a weakness, but because she knows that this is that last thing the children need to see.
The children. I can almost see their faces and hear their giggles in the pitch darkness. I prepared them well for everything, too well maybe since the youngest one who’s barely four has hopes now that I’ll be going to the heavens to bring him all the gifts he wants. The other two were wearier and it’s hard to reassure them, so I thought it was better to have them know the truth.
This is the truth, a pitch-black hole.
But distraction was a much-needed quick fix. My husband took them out almost every day, and I would insist that he didn’t stay with me during chemo so that he could take them some place to get it off their minds. He was reluctant at first, but then he saw that it was the best choice for everyone. To tell the truth, I didn’t want him to see me in that shape. I couldn’t let him see me collapsing and vomiting and, sometimes, crying. That’s not an image I want him to have of me.
I closed my eyes and tried to remember the sound of his breathing at night. It was my lullaby. I tried to recall his smell, his smile, but suddenly his frown materialized before my eyes. “How could you do this to me? How could you do this to yourself?’
I know he blames himself for not pushing me enough to do an early check-up, and it tears me inside. It tears me that I caused him so much pain, because that’s one thing I never wanted to happen, ever.
How could I be here, in this darkness, without him?
I felt a sudden urge to scream.
I closed my eyes, the darkness was now filled with familiar faces and places. I saw my home, the little sofa in front of the TV, my children laughing hysterically while watching Monsters Inc. for the umpteenth time. I look out the window and I see the garden coming alive with shades of green and white daisies, and I savor the breeze coming my way, filling me with life. Then the door opens and the children run towards their daddy yelling and cheering.
“How was your day?” He would ask. “Anything Special?”
I start to pray. Please let me go back. Please.
I open my eyes. It’s darkness again.
I feel a cold tear on my lips. I close my eyes and pray again. No more wondering. No more questioning how I got here. All I want now is a second chance. Just another chance.
I feel my body moving, I open my eyes hesitantly. It was there, I could see it, literally at the end of the tunnel. I was going towards the light, or maybe light was coming towards me, it didn’t make any difference, because the darkness was gone. My pupils were in shock and my eyes struggled to catch up with all they’ve been missing. Yet, my body was now trembling with anticipation, and soon it would be trembling with joy, and the cold tears of fear and regret would soon be warm with happiness and gratitude, as the voice of the doctor came echoing with words never in my life have I dreamed of hearing.
“The MRI scan is clean. Congratulations, you’re cancer free”