When The Air Strikes

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I had a list of things in my mind, ranking from favorable to unbearable.

-Surprise party


-Sick friend/relative

-Death of a friend/relative

-Announcement of a chronic disease in the family

Syria was nowhere on the list for the same reason that suicide wasn’t- it was recklessly stupid. Nikki drove me home and I have no other recollections to jot down. All I remember is getting out of the café, climbing on my bed, listening to Nikitha tell Nona that she had to take the train so it’d not be possible for her to stay for dinner. I cannot recall anything. The next morning I woke up feeling like a drugged person, except now instead of ending up numb I was extra sensitive to every inch of my seen and unseen existence exposed to the outside world. I wanted to take it all in, curb and die.

I replay last night in my mind. Every little detail. There must be something that will help me motivate my mind to send signals to my body for it to be lifted. Something, anything. Nona walks in the room with my breakfast and the landline sticking between her left ear and shoulder. I move my eyes across the room trying my best not to meet hers, when I let out a little scream. Losing her balance, Nona drops a glass of juice on the carpet. I run to the kitchen, get a paper towel, lay it across the spilled juice, grab my phone from the shoe rack and begin dialing. I had Nikki’s number on the tips of my fingers because I typed, deleted and retyped it several times before finally calling her. The paper towel has soaked up most of the liquid, turning an oddly satisfying shade of yellow. Nikki picks up the call really fast. I can’t talk like this, sitting on the bed watching paper soak juice. I need to get fresh air to ventilate my brain. The sky is lined with stone like grey clouds, it’s amazing that they even let light hit the Earth. I open up my window and take a deep breath. Half my alveoli freeze in reaction, but it still feels good.

“Hello, Zara. Are you alright? You were shivering like crazy on the way back home.”

“Yeah just some chilling news, I guess,” I say only half joking.

Nikki laughs. Her voice rings a lot of bells in me. It’s great to be crawling back to regularity, even if it is short lived, even if it is fake.

“Nikki, how are you sure my parents are in Syria. I mean, official work could be anywhere around the world. The whole globe is newsworthy, you know.”

“I told you, didn’t I? Your father didn’t switch off his location on the device he used to send the mail to Andrew. They’re in Aleppo, Zara. Have you been watching the news lately?”

“No, not really. I have been a little caught up these days, you see”

“Okay, can you come to my place in fifteen minutes? I need time for the house to be possible to inhabit properly functional human beings.”

“Yeah, sure. Can I bring Hanna with me? And maybe Luke? He has extremely dirty footwear, but we can ask him to discard them a few meters away from the house. I mean, that’s what his mom makes him do. And you can totally deny the request. I understand. Also where are you living these days? It’s been quite a while since I last paid you a visit.”

“I’ll text you the address. My apartment is three blocks away from yours. I don’t think you’ll need the car, you can totally walk the distance. And besides fresh air is always good for those oxygen sacks.”

Without saying another word, I hang up. My hands are freezing from the deposition of cool droplets on the skin. Come on England, it’s summer.

I put a pen and pad in my bag and sling it across my shoulder. Just in case, I tell myself. Hanna is waiting for me. She’s leaning against the lamppost on the side of the road. The flaps of her coat are swaying and she’s humming a song through her airtight pursed lips. My feet put themselves one after the other slower than usual, like they have a mind of their own which knows that as soon as I stop I’ll have to tell Hanna all that I know. I stop about fifteen centimeters away from her, and she mutely slips her hand in mine. We’ve walked to the end of the road when my phone makes a little funny noise. I read the address and turn right. Hanna follows my lead so effortlessly that I’ve got to pause and look at her to appreciate the presence of mind. Her nose is maroon.

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