When The Air Strikes

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Farewell

23

“Okay, we’ll be leaving,” Ashraf announces, “You can all call your families right now, because we’ll have to discard all our devices beginning from five minutes from this moment. Marcus it’s alright if you want to see your father again. Aisha why don’t you go say bye to the boys?” He then walks outside the café with Marcus. Ashraf is talking to him like you would to a baby, convincing him to let it all go now. Both of them are almost the same age which is a constant reminder of how my age has nothing to do with my efficiency at finding mom and dad. Outside, an old man is standing by a pillar- it is Marcus’ father. They both hug each other for a long time and when Marcus is back his eyes are watery. Everybody sees it, but no one says a word not even Harper. Aisha has her finger directly pointed towards her elder son’s chest and when she’s done scolding-cum-briefing them she breaks down too. Her little son kisses her on the cheek and the older guy wraps them both in a group hug. Wiping the remains of her tears from her face with the end of her scarf she says goodbye, pushing them away almost violently. Harper and Samantha are talking to someone on the phone, so is Zian. Samantha passes her mobile to Ryan when she’s done. Pa and Anita are just sitting very still. After a long pause Anita calls someone too, it’s short and quick. Pa is still motionless.

Outside the mall, a minibus is waiting for us. I turn around to catch a last fleeting glimpse of Dubai Mall. Considering all the important things I’ve lost the last week, the farewell to the mall seems stupid, but I feel sad leaving it behind. Some things are just too hard to understand- quantum physics and the crazy ways of the human heart.

I left breadcrumbs all through the hike-
it was easy to find the camp later.
I am bread-life is hike-where’s the camp?

Luke and I sit at the back of the bus, somebody else joins us too. I do not recognize the face, but lately I guess I’ve become less observant. “Hi, I am Akif,” the face says, “And you are?” Luke sits up haphazardly, “Luke. I am Luke and this is my friend Hanna. We’re here for the documentary.” That sounded so stupid, I had to pinch the inside of my palm.

The sun is still shining crisp. It’s sad that these nice people who’ve put themselves at stake to reach out to others get to see such a dull part of me. This makes me wonder- how many parts are actually there to me? I am a pie chart, there are fractions of my being- the daughter, the friend, the rebel, the loud, the ignorant. And down the line the chart just gets more crowded. It’s hard to decide what part of me has brought me here- or maybe parts. It’s even tougher when I think what piece of Luke’s inner existence pushed him through. This keeps my mind off other stuff but not for very long. Luke and Akif, make most of the small age difference they have between themselves and talk all the way. After some time Akif pats Luke on the back and goes and sits with Ashraf who’s already discussing something with Ryan and Zian. We’ve reached our destination because our vehicle is slowing down and a sudden realization befalls the entire bus.

As soon as I pick my rucksack from the luggage store a ball of cold fire begins circling my stomach. “I am going to puke,” I whisper to Luke. He runs to Ashraf who points at a door at the end of the lounge we’re now in and we sprint towards it. Inside the washroom the cleaner gives Luke a severely disgusted look. I can’t see if he’s embarrassed but the other women in the washroom are. I’ve created this huge mess around the toilet. I clean it up a little and repeatedly apologize to the cleaner lady. She’s still mad at us but Luke is bothering her more than the reflux of my breakfast so I ask him to leave. I am so close, I tell myself, but do I want to get closer? For the first time in life, I don’t care for the right timing, for the dark of my room or the silence of the movie theatre or the comfort of my mom’s hug. I just start crying. It’s not tiny sobs but huge power packed spasm of the diaphragm and audible wailing. The cleaner lady gives me tissues and says something in her native language, then Arabic and finally English, “Okay-okay. Okay?” I nod and leave, a huge wad of paper clenched within my fist.

The whole group is waiting for us when we come out. It just can’t get sadder. Harper puts her arm around my neck, “Hey, Zara it’ll be alright.” As a reflex action I hug her tight and she lets me, she laughs a little, her positivity engulfing me. I don’t remember anything that happened after that. Honestly, it’s a complete blackout. It’s not a way of saying, I really don’t. The only recollection I have of that day, is letting Harper and Marcus hold my hand and lead the way.

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