Hospital. Every seat is full of people holding babies, crying children, and exhausted doctors after working a 10-hour shift. It is too noisy. However, nothing could distract me from thinking about my six-month-old daughter, who is sleeping in her father's hands vivaciously with subconscious smiles, even without knowing about her illness. I looked at her face spontaneously, and she smiled again in her deep sleep. It had been 15 days since my daughter experienced the flu. Of course, the flu may seem like a simple illness, but it is a great challenge for a baby who doesn't even know if she exists or not. Besides, I don't know why, but my second daughter was born weak and had super tendency to become ill. As I was thinking about my second daughter, I relived my firstborn daughter and leaned forward to my husband whispering, "Can you call mother and ask if our daughter is OKAY?" He said, "She is okay; do not worry. I've phoned them". I know that she doesn't make a noise because she is very sensible, although she is only 4 years old. The sudden calling of my name woke me up from these thoughts. It was our turn to see the doctor. The doctor saw the chest X-ray of my daughter. I was worried about a terrifying change in his face. He shouted that we should operate on her immediately; otherwise, she might die. I was completely shocked. There were beads of perspiration on my husband's face. "Unfortunately, the surgeon is from another country, and he should be financially supported to come sooner. Otherwise, you cannot go and operate in a day," the doctor said. I was somehow relieved. "You also need to have $5,000 for the operation," the doctor added. I looked at my husband desperately. He said that he would try his best to bring money. As soon as we went out of the room, he went looking for money. I was crying and gazing at my daughter's face. At the end of the day, my husband came to the hospital with $3,000 and asked the doctor if he could give the rest of the money after the operation. "Undoubtedly, you could do it if a surgeon lived here, but now I am afraid that it's impossible." It was like, "Wait for your daughter's death." Have you ever remained in such a hopeless condition that you could not do anything, even if you wanted it to change so much? The only thing I was thinking about was ways to bring the doctor. I felt completely hopeless and began crying saying, "Does money really matter? My daughter is dying." The doctor just remained silent and went out. After a few hours, my chubby-faced daughter stopped breathing. I cannot remember how I arrived home. All I was thinking about was my daughter. I didn't believe that I really lost my daughter. My four-year-old daughter was afraid of seeing her parents in this miserable condition and hardly came and hugged me as she hadn't seen me for 2 days. I just threw her. She was so intimidated that she began crying. Both my mother-in-law and daughter were unaware of my daughter's death, so my husband hardly explained it to them. Having stopped crying, my daughter brought a big bathroom towel to her father and wiped his tears, but she didn't approach me. My husband hugged her tightly. It was the third week since my daughter's death. Losing her made me really depressed. As usual, I had slept crying for hours near my daughter's bed. But it was a man's voice that woke me up in front of the graveyard gate. When I realized I was near a graveyard, I felt extremely petrified. I had sleepwalked and came to the graveyard at about 3 o'clock. It was terrible to see countless graves and a roughly-faced man in a misty and dark night after waking up suddenly because of the abrupt voice of a man. He was not so shocked; maybe it wasn't the first time for him to see a woman in the graveyard at midnight. Having known who I am, he asked for my husband's number and called him asking to take me home. The next day was terrible for me because I became ill after I had walked barefoot and bareheaded on a bitter winter night. Until that day, I was depressed and couldn't think carefully about anything. It was my daughter who always looked after me and revived me by making me think about life. I realized that I still have my child, who cannot grow up without my care and aid, and family members who always love and appreciate me. That winter, I lost my daughter but found the reason for resurrecting at the same time. I also witnessed that every event that happens in our lives, whether good or bad, has a lesson to teach. Mine too. I learned not to feel overstressed in any condition, to appreciate what I have, and to never lose hope for the future. I thanked God, and He gave me the chance to be a mother twice again. This condition also had a positive effect on my firstborn daughter. When she realized that she had lost her sister due to the lack of experts, she wanted to be a doctor, not out of exigency but with great longing. Now, I have all the things I've prayed for in my life!
My name is Isa Mercy, I want to share a story about my life which is more like a mystery. I was born from a family of seven, and I'm the second born child, and my parent were very poor; The Isa family is a very happy family except from the fact that we lack money, money was a major problem for us. My parent lived opposite my maternal grandmother , most of the time I get to stay with her. My grandma was not happy about how we were living, so she wanted us to live a good life,go to good schools and become something better in future My grandma has a lot of niece in the city that are doing well, so she talked to my parent about it and encouraged me to go live with them, which I eventually did; though it wasn't easy for us all. Few months later I started living with my mom's cousin in the city with her two children, and I was 10 years of age then. Before I started living with my aunty, I noticed that there was something that was different, I was different from my siblings,besides in terms of behavior, attitude, complexion and even with the food they eat, and I was a weakling besides even my grandma calls me air in her native language because I have no energy in my body, and most of the time I always feel that I was picked from the bush cause everything about me was totally different from the rest of my siblings; even though it never really borders my parents besides I was more like their favorite child. But my dad's best friends didn't like me much and I didn't like them either because whenever they come around they will always tease me of being different from my siblings, and they don't know where my parent picked me from and they keep saying that whenever they come and my dad will just laugh about it that is all a joke even though I didn't see it as one. So whenever they leave I will ask my dad why I'm I so different from the rest of my siblings and he will always say,is the things that make you different from others that makes you special; so whenever he says that I will feel happy and special again. But when I was with my parent I always feel that one of them was not my biological parent especially my dad. Years past I stopped thinking about who my biological father was actually, I didn't care anymore but I started praying to be adopted by a rich parent; besides all my life I've always wish I had a rich parent, I always get jealous whenever I see rich dad's and mom with their kids, I will always wish I was their child. In Nigeria children without rich parent are regarded as worthless, their like a nobody,a lot of people look so down on them, besides these were one of the things I suffered from living with people. I've lived with people for years besides I even got a middle name which is "somebody whose father does not have money" . which is very painful and that's why I will always wish of being adopted by a rich parent. Living with people is very hard especially when your parent has nothing to offer, you "I'll suffer all your life . One of the things that have made life easy and fun for me is imagination, I always imagine having a rich parent and living a good life and what I want to become in future. Besides whenever I'm not thinking about those things I'm never happy. years passed; I was still praying and hopping to be adopted a rich parent, until May 10th 2020, when I got a shocking revelation. I've lived with my aunt for years, I'm very familiar with her and her siblings, and all her siblings are are doing well like her, but out of all her siblings,is only her younger sister that married a rich man, the man is known as the riches in-law in the family, and his very friendly and lively with people and his name is Bobby and he owns a very big house that can accommodate allot of people. So every holiday we'll always wish to go there, until it became a routine,every holiday we'll always go there and spend like two weeks there with his wife and three children, and whenever we go there I always admire him and wish I had a rich dad like him; until may 10,2020 , when I had a dream that Bobby was my biological father and not Isa . The next day I prayed to God to prove it to me if Bobby was actually my biological father, and God did and not just once but in several occasions God proved it to me that he was my biological father. Months past I went deep into the case and I discovered that Bobby and my mom with my aunty and her siblings were all neighbors until he got married to my aunt's younger sister and moved to the city. The shocking part of it is that he knows that he has a daughter somewhere else but never border to go look for her and all this while I've been praying of having a rich dad not knowing that I actually have one, but it's so sad that he never even try coming to me and I also don't wish to go to him either .
Sophie was a young woman who lived in a small town surrounded by rolling hills and sprawling fields. She was passionate about traveling and exploring new cultures, but her plans were put on hold due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The lockdowns and travel restrictions left Sophie feeling frustrated and restless, as she watched her once-bustling hometown turn into a ghost town. One day, Sophie was walking down the street when she saw an elderly woman struggling with her groceries. Sophie offered to help, and the woman gratefully accepted. As they walked back to the woman's house, they struck up a conversation and Sophie learned that the woman was living alone, with no family or friends to help her. Mrs. Jackson was a widowed senior who had lived in the town for many years. She had outlived her children and her friends, and the COVID-19 pandemic had made it even more difficult for her to connect with others. Sophie was deeply moved by Mrs. Jackson's story, and she related to her own feelings of isolation and loneliness. Sophie had always felt like an outsider in her hometown, as she dreamed of traveling and exploring the world. She saw in Mrs. Jackson a reflection of her own struggles, and she was determined to make a difference in her life. Sophie began to visit Mrs. Jackson every week, bringing her groceries and spending time with her. They talked about their lives, their hopes and fears, and they formed a deep and meaningful bond. Mrs. Jackson became a source of inspiration and comfort for Sophie. She showed Sophie that even in the face of adversity and isolation, it is possible to find joy and fulfillment in the small moments of life. Mrs. Jackson was grateful for Sophie's company, and she encouraged her to continue to explore her creativity and find new ways to bring happiness into the world. As Sophie continued to visit Mrs. Jackson, she learned more about her background and her life experiences. Mrs. Jackson had been married to a soldier who died in combat, and she had raised her children on her own. Despite her hardships, she had always remained hopeful and resilient, and she had found joy in simple pleasures like gardening, reading, and spending time with friends. Sophie was inspired by Mrs. Jackson's strength and resilience, and she realized that she too had the power to overcome her own struggles. Mrs. Jackson's story showed her that life is a journey, filled with twists and turns, and that it is up to each of us to make the most of the journey, no matter what challenges we may face. In the end, Sophie realized that her relationship with Mrs. Jackson was one of the most meaningful experiences of her life. She was grateful for the chance to make a difference in the life of another person, and she was inspired by Mrs. Jackson's resilience and hope in the face of adversity. And although she still dreams of traveling the world, Sophie knows that there is beauty and wonder to be found in her own hometown, and she is grateful for the chance to live a life filled with love, laughter, and hope.
It's the first thing I see when I sink my toes into the warm sand of the beach in Cancun. Not the children I hear splashing around on the beach nor the shutters of a camera, coming to life with a startling burst that only lasts for a second. But the crash of the waves. The shimmering hues of blues and greens that bleed into each other seamlessly, extending outward in a never-ending path towards the horizon. Every inch of it basking in the sunlight. ‘The ocean.' It's breathtaking, and I can't help but gasp as I stare at it, the sight unreal as I take it all in. I've never felt so eager to do anything as I'm feeling now, wanting to jump into it's depths and let the ocean take me wherever it wants to go. So I leave my parents behind and run towards the lapping water of the ocean, tossing my slippers into the air and jumping into it. It's a magical moment, falling into the ocean's embrace. Feeling the pressure of the water as it greets me with a cold kiss. For the past two years the only body of water I'd seen was the pool that my mother and I used to go and swim at every week. But it was never the same. It was too calm, lacking the ferocity of the ocean that I'd cherished. ‘I missed you.' I surface out of the ocean, pulling out of its embrace. I feel the salty water trailing down my face as if wanting me to dunk my face back in. ‘Patience, I just need a breath.' But as I look ahead of me and see a series of waves rolling out towards me, I know that patience is the last thing on the ocean's mind. I smile. ‘I guess you don't think I've got the guts, ocean.' And so despite my father's yells to stay with him, I swim further and further from shore, a slave to the call of the ocean as it beckons me into its depths. ‘I want to go further.' It's like a rollercoaster as the waves lift me and I feel a rush of exhilaration as I let the ocean drag me into its depths. ‘I wouldn't mind if you just took me with you and made me yours.' But I quell this desire as I think about my parents. The future ahead of me. The ocean is one of those things that makes me forget everything around me, which is often why I have to remind myself to remember. The pain of my past vanquishing as soon as I set my eyes on it. The desire to dissolve in it as I relish it's presence, the feel of the cool water like a caress. ‘I've never felt so envious of salt.' And despite the fact that the ocean has taken countless people's lives, those that had made the mistake to succumb to its lull, it's one of those things that I would willingly leave everything to be beside every moment of my life. ‘I'm in love with the ferocity of the ocean.' I don't know very much about it, but I'm in love with every inch of it from the depths of my heart. And I've always had the desire to reach the bottom of it. To greet a humpback angler fish or a fang tooth. To see those beautiful and fascinating underwater creatures that everyone else calls terrifying. But how can we judge if when we haven't even met these creatures? It's kind of like how humans tend to view everything through a biased frame, one devoid of love or acceptance. But that's what I love about the ocean. Because unlike how Uranus banished the Giants, the ocean is accepting and generous to the creatures it gives home to, regardless of their characteristics. I reluctantly pry my gaze away from the ocean and let my eyes linger on the sky as I pump my arms to stay afloat. The bright sun has dipped lower into the sky and the path of maroons and violets that the absence of the fiery orb has left behind tell me all that I need to know. It's as if the sky was giving me a warning, a warning that's reaffirmed by my father yelling, “It's time to go!” When I turn my head, I see my mother waving at me, beckoning me to come back to shore. I feel a rush of sorrow at the thought of leaving the ocean, the thought that all I'll have of the ocean is a figment of my memory, of my imagination. ‘I just reunited with you hours ago.' I shake my head and ask my parents for a few more minutes but they say I need to get ready for dinner. I stay there and float in the middle of the ocean for a few seconds, feeling the salty wetness of the ocean all over my skin, but I relent when I hear my mother yelling my name. I feel the pull of the ocean on my clothes as I wade back to shore, as if the ocean doesn't want me to leave either. Waves start crashing madly against the rocks as I step back onto the sand. ‘I'll be back,' I think at the ocean in an effort to calm it. But I don't know if I will.
It was one year ago that I was on campus, tending to my own school-business, doing landscaping whenever I was called and I was living the lesbian life with my close friends. Despite COVID-19 scarringly scaring the whole world, I silently had prayed that COVID-19 would be quelled and scrubbed away by a few months max. But it was the ides of March when I was in math class, we were supposed to demonstrate another Euclid prop but everyone was freaking out. While I was consoling with words like "we will all make it out fine" and all, my head was spinning around like a carousel. The carousel of headaches, fears, anxiety and sorrowful eyes spinning all around me, yet I consoled them because their pains always stung more than mines. Though I was not them, I felt how their hearts where trembling; though we were all quaking, some of us took the toil to console the weeping souls amongst us. The dark cloud of dread loomed over us, suffocating our minds, plaguing our hearts and blinding our foresight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, the math teacher came in bearing a wailing student on her shoulders. We all took our assigned seats and our math teacher quietly stated that we wouldn't be having class today: all at once her words relieved but depressed us. After a few unbearable moments, our teacher continued: "Students, I do say this with a heavy heart, the rest of the in-person semester is cancelled. Due to COVID-19 entering the USA and being transmitted in every major state, the governor [Michelle Lujan Grisham] has lock-downed the entire state. The administration has decided to hand out boxes and packaging tape in the following days, so administration advises everyone to prepare to get out of campus grounds asap..." My acquaintances around me exploded in tears when our teacher spelled out the worst scenario we were all mummering about. I let their heads fall on my shoulders and I could only hug them while whispering reassurances that we shall make alive and well. Our teacher spoke again after a long pause: "There is some good news: us teachers are preparing now to help out in storing your packaged boxes. We understand that not many students have the funds to rent a storage, less in having a car to drive to a storage. If that's anything assuring, then I hope those words can ease your trembling hearts. With no more official words to pass down, class is officially dismissed... for today." My teacher and us four other students sticked around to console the destroyed souls; one by one the majority of the students left. Then it was just the five of us, consoling each other assured that no other eye nor ear would bear witness to our depressed hearts and shattered minds. Then two students left because of scheduling, so it was us three students remaining talking about the recent events that transpired. We all had our predictions on how long it'll last and how everyone will contribute to "sitting-put" so as to quickly end the accursed pandemic here in the USA. Yet I was there ruminating – more than a year ago – fully expecting the worse scenario with all the reports about over-burdened hospitals, anti-quarantine "protests", with the amount of people dropping like flies and, no less, how the world around us was fairing horribly like us. However, I tried to console them with my teacher and telling them that we might overcome it soon if we lock-downed everything; I, however, knew that was never gonna happen nationwide. And with me and the teacher left, we simply walked out and she offered to store my stuff in her attic which I accepted immediately; after a short talk and the last of many goodbyes, we said our goodbyes as we departed for the day. Despite sounding like a cliche, the grey clouds were really blotting out the lovely blue skies who were wanting to break through and embrace us. The sun tried slicing our fog of dread, but its light could do us no justice in our misery. And here was ole me, slowly treading as the wind gently blew on my skirt. My tired body could handle it no more, and so I crashed onto the nearest bench; unto it did I sang sorrows and weeped wearily, its cold unmovingness bearing my emotionally-battered body. As my head rested on that wooden bench, I saw many hustlers hustling to and fro their rooms trying to escape this city at all costs. Then in my blurry view did I see something trod towards me, I wiped my tears to get a better look at who was coming. Finally, my shining light came to me. Chester the golden-retriever came to lick my stained face and rest her head near mines. Despite the language-barrier, we communicated through our movements alone. Regardless of how much I tried shooing her, she persisted to wait out my grief. With her gentle tug, she slowly relit my soul and lead me from my wallows. Reminding me that we must be there for others as they shall be for us. Further reminding me that there was always another day.
I couldn't tell you about the first time it happened, not even if I wanted to. I don't remember. But I can tell you about the nth time it did. It was probably the same setting as the first time; mother sending me to buy something for her from one of the many shops that littered our street, him hearing our front door close from whatever planet he was on at that moment, me walking down the staircase that linked our first floor apartment to the outside world. I almost never make it to the end of the stairs before he materializes as if from thin air. In truth, he always got there before I did, nothing special about what he was except I was at the age when everything seemed to have a magical meaning. There is never any form of verbal greeting, I think we both preferred it that way. It lasts for about ninety seconds, less if there was someone coming our way because the staircase was a two-way street. It linked us to the outside world and them to us, and quite often, people exercised their basic human right of freedom of movement and ventured into our world. This time though, this nth time, I was not in the mood to please anyone or be a good girl as they sometimes called me yet I couldn't say no. He wasn't hurting me, not doing anything I hadn't consented to, even if not in words but in thought. Resisting wasn't even a concept that was an option to me. I should be grateful, I thought. People didn't do these things with people they didn't like. Yes, he wasn't doing anything TO me. He was doing it WITH me. He didn't find me repulsive like everyone else seemed to. I should be grateful. And I was. Very much so. So why did I never talk about it with anyone I knew? Why did I feel dirty when he would zip his trousers up, pat my back and exit without a word? Why did I want it all to end as fast as possible when this time it didn't take ninety seconds but one hundred and fifty-six? Why was I even counting? Why did I fear for the day he would tire of rubbing himself against me and try to go further like his friend once did? My nine year old brain had no answers for me. My teachers said I was a genius but they were wrong. A genius would know how to say no and make it sound like law. A genius would have found some way to make it all stop because they are too intelligent not to. I could not do any of those things. My teachers thought they knew me. They knew nothing. And I knew nothing too.
The wind blew a gentle breeze, the pool water was rippling, and the sun was shining without a stormy cloud in sight. The day started as it normally did. I woke up around 9:30 am, ate breakfast, and pulled out a good book to read. As usual, Mom came in an hour or so later and told me to pick up my room and to make my bed. Once I did these things, I went back to reading until it was time for lunch. After lunch, I changed into my bathing suit and headed out back so I could go for a swim. The cool water would feel good on my sweltering hot skin. I had to apply sunscreen, then let it sit before I could get in the water. Once the sunscreen settled, I got on the edge of the diving board, preparing to do a back dive. My hands were over my head, my knees were bent, ready to jump. I leaped backward, sinking in the water. I stayed under for a few more seconds with my eyes open, looking at my siblings splashing underwater. Then, I came up for air, climbing the ladder, doing it all over again. I dried off later so that I could get ready for the festival. It was taking place in the evening, so it would cool down, but not much. The temperature would still be in the lower 80s, so I had to dress for the occasion. I decided on wearing my denim shorts and a t-shirt. My family saw some friends. My older brother, Jase, saw his friend and his parents, so we went over to greet them. After a few minutes, my dad got a phone call. I assumed it was a conference call, but after a while, his eyes started filling up with tears. Dad never cried, so I knew something was wrong. My parents were talking in hushed tones, looking at Jase's friend's family from time to time. I remember it so vividly, the tears carving paths down Mom and Dad's faces, me crying because I was scared. “Annabelle, you and your siblings will be staying with the Keith's for the rest of the night, and we'll pick you up later, okay? Something bad has happened.” I can hear Mom's voice, but nothing else. What could have happened that was so bad? I nodded, and went with Jase and his friend, making sure my younger siblings followed. I was walking further and further away from the shrinking family I have. I was walking with a normal family, with normal kids. I couldn't help but wipe my tears away, hoping I'd fit in with such an average group. For once, I wish I could live in the land of statistics and averages, just so I didn't have to feel my hands shaking. So I didn't have to feel the hot acid escaping my eyes. I tried to have a good time at the festival, but all I could think about was the sorrow in Mom's eyes. I lurked in the shadows, watching as Jase laughed. How could he laugh when there is sorrow beside him? I wasn't mad, but I remember being confused, anxious, and scared. Why was Jase laughing? When we arrived at the Keiths' house, I followed Jase and Grason out to the trampoline in Grason's backyard. I got on the trampoline and started bouncing, hoping I could laugh and be as carefree as Jase and Grason. Soon enough, I was laughing and smiling as if nothing was wrong. Oh, how easy it was to smile like that. My face was carved into a grin and glowed brightly as a Jack-O-Lantern. I felt guilty for laughing. How could I be happy when something tragic has happened? I had a gut feeling that someone had passed away, but I didn't know who, and I didn't know how. I went back inside and watched TV while sitting on the couch. I saw Kenzie and Elijah playing with the dogs. It was all okay. It was close to 10 pm when my Aunt Sarah came to pick us up and take us home. Mom and Dad were not yet home, so she made sure all of us were safe and under the roof we were used to living under. Aunt Sarah called us all into the living room, and she tried to break the news to us gently. “Have you been worried about Josh?” She asked tentatively. Josh is my Dad's youngest sibling and my uncle. "Josh died. He passed away earlier today.” I saw tears in Jase's eyes, and I had tears running down my face. None of us had expected such a sudden death for such a young person. He was only in his 30s. What had he done to deserve such a horrid end? The next morning I had asked Mom how Josh died, and she said she didn't want to tell me at the moment. I understood that, seeing that the information was still so fresh and that everyone in my family was pretty close to him. “Annabelle,” Mom came into my room a few hours later“Josh committed suicide.” Josh purposely killed himself, shot himself in the head, just to escape his being on Earth. I wept as I held on to that thought. He died on PURPOSE. Suicides happen all the time. I was aware that some people wanted to die, I never thought it would be Josh. He was always there for me when I hit my lowest lows. He always listened when I needed to vent. He was my hero. I guess even heroes have to die sometimes.
That night, as Hamzeh entered their apartment and laid eye on Noor's big, round belly, his face did not show any expressions of surprise. He took off his shoes, mumbled his usual “Salam Noor jan.” and followed Saeed to their tiny living/bedroom. Noor went to the kitchen to boil up some water and bring them some tea. As the water was boiling, she stood near the door. All her ears could pick up was mumbling and “state”, “supervisor”, “drive”. The moment she entered the room with the tray, Hamzeh stood up. - I won't be disturbing you anymore. - Please stay baradar jan I just brought tea. He nodded his head no while mumbling a couple of “thank you”s. As soon as they were alone, Saeed took the tray from Noor and put it on table. “He said there is an open position for supervision.” He put a cup in front of her. “His close friend is also a supervisor. It doesn't seem like a scam.” He slid a couple of biscuits to the plate. “It's in the neighbor state.” He placed the plate in front of Noor. “It's a four-hour drive.” Since the beginning of this conversation, Saeed hadn't locked eyes with her even once. Finally, he rose his head. “We have to work it out Noor jan. I'm sorry.” She remained solid. Again a wall of silence appeared to be surrounding them. “I don't want to ask you to be strong beyond what you're going through right now.” Saeed was the first one to break it. “This seems like our best option for now.” “When will I be able to see you?” Noor's voice stopped the silence from building further. Saeed's eyes turned to her, his gaze was still anxious but Noor's question, or simply she addressing him at that point, made him feel less guilty for a second. “On weekends.” Noor had placed Saeed's sack on the bed, slowly packing some essentials for him. She had put one hand on her belly, stroking it gently over her maxi. Apparently Saeed had to share a room with a couple of other workers who supposed to commute on a weekly basis. She packed a box of masks and some cold medicine. They kept saying that what this new virus does to the body is similar to a cold, but worst. Saeed had to leave at 6 AM tomorrow morning. They both tried to go to sleep for at least a few hours, but it did not felt like an option at that moment. Saeed was running his fingers through her locks and brushing them against her cheeks from time to time. Her belly was pressing right next to his, as if the baby had already found its spot to sleep between them, while they'd be protecting it like two human shields. He closed his eyes, his hand still resting in her hair. “I'll make the life that I promised you to have with me.” Noor wrapped her arm tighter around his waist. “I know.” - Her doctor had predicted that she'd go through labor around the second week of Saeed's absence. Her chest started to feel heavy the moment Saeed got into Hamzeh's car. It was the first time that she had to be left alone after they'd moved to this country. Both of them. There were plenty of nights they both had to stay late at work, but there was always the other person to come home to. But not this time. Nothing felt or looked promising. Not for them. And apparently, not for the world that surrounded them. Every time she'd turn on their tiny TV, there was death news because of a deadly virus that could enters one's body by doing something as necessary and simple as breathing. There was a baby growing inside her. They were already on a financial strain. Saeed wasn't supposed to leave her side. People were dying because they were breathing. She did not want to keep her hopes up one them just to have them being torn down again. - Hamzeh's wife, Suraya, checked up on her twice a week. She had only seen her once before this whole situation happened. It was literally their first week in U.S. when they invited them over to their house to spend a day together. She remembered having a whole conversation with her about many things, from the stores back in Afghanistan they both used to shop at, to how cold are the winters here. “It's OK if you cry yourself to sleep every night. Just don't let him see your tears. He might play strong in front of you but he is as scared as you are. Saeed is just like Hamzeh.” This sentence never left Noor's head.
Her mind kept repeating all the glorious things her mother and grandmas have told her about their own pregnancy experiences. But the more she tried to convince herself that things are normal or eventually will turn out to be, the more it felt unreal. She had seen in movies that when someone tells their partners about their pregnancy, it's often a happy moment of shedding tears of joy and holding one another in the sweetest embrace ever. But this news kept making her more and more anxious. She felt guilty. Was God punishing her for wanting things more than she should? All she could think of was how their heated moments now only agitated her. All he did was to grab his pack of cigarettes from the front pocket of his uniform and lit one. He sat by the window, staring at the empty street, holding the smoke in longer than usual. He tossed the pack in his hands a couple of times, his gaze completely zoned out. “I shouldn't be smoking. It's bad for you.” - Noor spent most of her time in bed after work and Saeed didn't pushed her otherwise. In fact, the lingering silence between them appeared to be the peacekeeper for now. Noor's body was going through daily changes and nobody could handle none of it on her behalf. They haven't had talked anything through since three days ago, when she announced that she was pregnant. “I'm leaving.”, “I'm home.”, “Do you want dinner?” were the most spoken words between them. And also the sound of Noor breathing as she drifted into sleep every night. Saeed had never fallen asleep before her. He needed to know that she has entered the safe zone of disconnection first before following her into the same dimension. Noor finally decided to call home. She didn't want anyone else to know yet. She couldn't "fake smile" her way out of the congratulations and the questions she herself did not have any answers to. She needed a way to hush her constant anxiety for at least a couple of minutes. And she needed guidance more than anything else. Her mother picked up after three rings. “Noor jan is that you?” Her voice seemed to be the only thing that hadn't changed around her. “Maman jan…” She covered her mouth with her palm as tears immediately started to roll down her cheeks. She wasn't going to play strong. She wasn't going to lie when every thought in her mind ended up to be a cry for help. “I'm pregnant.” These words dug their way out from between chokes of air and subs. “Does Saeed know?” She managed to spit out a syllable equivalent to “Yes”. Her mom was silent. It felt good that she didn't try to stop her from crying. Her quietness was comforting her. Facts wouldn't at the moment. She cried and cried till her eyes felt dry and her eye lids felt too heavy to stay open. “What should I do?” A new grip formed in her throat right after she spoke these words. “Do you have a pen and some paper nearby?” Her mother didn't ask if she wanted to keep this baby or not. It really didn't feel like an option to her. She was going through enough suffocating guilt already and constantly blaming herself for not being careful. Handling something that was so distant from whatever she had learned to believe and handling two burdens instead of one was far from her current state. That night when Saeed came back home, she showed him the paper. Her mother had asked her to note down some key precautions she should be taking. They were both sitting on the edge of the bed, Noor's gaze was slightly switching between her own entwined hands resting on her lap and Saeed's fingers, holding the paper. “Noor jan.” He reached for her hands and squeeze them with his usual, familiar, warmth. “We will work it out.” Her morning sickness was almost gone as she entered her second trimester. However, moving around was becoming a new challenge. Saeed would drop by the store every evening so they could walk home together. That night, as he was helping Noor to put on her coat, he said:” Have you heard that the virus has entered U.S. now? They said that we should wear masks from tomorrow all day long.” - Saeed's step-brother, Hamzeh, who lived in another suburb located in a two-hour drive, payed them a surprise visit on a Sunday evening. Noor had a feeling that Saeed had already told him what was going on. When they first came here, Hamzeh was in fact the first person who sat both of them down in his house and talked them through on how financial dynamics really work here. Him reappearing at their door like this had only one meaning. He already knew they were in trouble.
“To Noor-e jaan-e man hasti.” She could still hear him whispering these words into her ear, holding her tight to his chest, running his fingers through her dark brown locks. Earlier that night, as the Imam had finally announced them husband and wife, the loudest echo in her head was the sound of her own heart, beating so wild that any cheering or loud Afghan folk songs seemed almost faded. But now, as she was laying in his embrace, the only sound she could hear was the beating of his heart. In her mind, she silently prayed to Allah, asking Him to always bring them back to each other, no matter what comes up their way. They've been growing up together as playmates, classmates, family friends, and each other's “almost” secret, unspoken love. When Noor graduated from high school and got accepted into Kabul university, it was harder than ever for Saeed to hide his feelings for her. She was the light of his life, not any of those boys cruising around the university in their fancy cars. That night, when Noor heard Saeed's dad talking to her dad about them getting married, her thoughts and heart beat were all over the place for the next couple of days. That was always the risky part of trusting her heart: fairy tales like this might be the fine line between possibility and reality. Noor wasn't usually a pessimist. She had figured out a long time ago that she lets her heart decide for her instead of her head most of the time. She had also seen the fair share of pain that these decisions could bring her. Falling in love with Saeed was one of these decisions. It started from her heart and before she knew it, spread out through her whole body. Keeping her feelings in her secretive comfort felt relaxing but she wasn't sure if she can hold on like this for any longer. Saeed knew that Noor didn't want to start a family in Afghanistan. That was what they'd both agreed on. Getting married back home and officially starting their lives in the U.S., where Saeed's step- brother, Hamzeh, was sponsoring them. Everything seemed to be working out in the most magnificent way possible: marrying the only person they'd gladly gave their hearts to, the tiniest details about their wedding ceremony working in their favor, and having all they needed for entering the land of opportunities and starting a new chapter in their passports. Things working out this easily felt too good to be true. - Financial challenges were the first ugly side of moving to a different country. Saeed was working full time in a factory and Noor had picked up a couple of shifts in their local supermarket. They'd both wake up in the dark, and come back home in the dark. Everyone had told them that this was something they'll go through. The only thing that mattered was to survive it. There was no turning back. Or it's better to say that none of them even wanted it. - Three days of morning sickness in a row. She had managed to pull herself together and carry out the first two days. But today, pain and stiffness was glistening down her arms and legs like never before. Saeed had already covered her body with three woolen blankets but she couldn't stop shivering. The room kept spinning around her head and the thought of getting up and going to work sounded like a crushing tower. Her body felt drained, as if none of her physical resources were enough.  Translation from Farsi to English: You are the light of my life.
It had started with a beautiful day in My hometown where I have learned such a beautiful lesson that I will never forget. Even though everyone was smiling, the sun was shining and children were playing happily, but my eyes were sparked by only one person; the one who was sitting under the tree with a smiley face, asking for a penny, to buy a loaf of bread saying Good Morning to everyone passing through him, I did not know what the first action should I make, wondering if I can ask him how is he doing? Is he okay? Why he ended up like that? Many questions came into my mind, because of that smile. How can any person be happy while he keeps always crawling from one street to another begging people for money and food? I was imagining myself if I were in his place my whole life will turn to a hell based on sorrow and grief. How can I smile while myself, and my spirit is telling me to cry, I would never endure this feeling, so I went toward him and asked all that came into my mind? With a sweating body and a trembling voice I said : Good morning, he replied with a grin on his face, wakey for a pretty lady I smiled sadly, and asked why? Why are you being so fake, pretending that you are having a good time and happy while you are not? Your eyes show you within pain and your hidden tears !? He answered me why are you so sad? don't you have everything? mm …Your eyes are telling something had happened? I was surprised by his answer asking curiously: how did you know? He told me we all have emotions but it depends on us if we like to show them or not. Yes I'm sad and you can bear neither my feelings nor my pain of having no shelter no family and no friends, but I try always to overcome the harsh memories I try to be positive and look to things from another perspective, I asked again but why? He told me because I believe in miracles I believe that there is someone who is always stalking and tracking me when I'm sick or sleeping I asked with wonder what makes you sure about that? he said because I feel it and for me, this feeling of being safe and protected means the world to me even more than being happy. I asked with amazement but who is that "someone"? He replied back with confidence he is in the sky watching me every day and I'm pretty sure that one day I will get what no buddy else had before, I will live with my own family and play with my kids because this life is not the one it is all fake, am sure that there will be something prepared only for poor people who did not have the chance to be like you or any ordinary person in this life. One day we will all die and none of us will take his money or glory to his grave, we will be alone there; in a place where we all be equal in. I started crying, and with a faint voice, I admitted: I wish all people think like that. I do not know why should we care about our good looking, job salary and what the others say about us, why do we care that much hate in our hearts why..? He answered softly because the truth hurts and hard to be accepted. I will give you advice my dear try to keep it for the rest of your life; just be who you are and if you want to do something that people think is weird while you really want to do it, just do it and never care about them .like smiling even when you are begging, as I did today although it was unfair to you? I surprisingly answered... how did you?... he gave me a tender smile and said yes This Life is so "UNFAIR" was what I have seen In your eyes.
“Rohit, Rohit…, where are you? Where are you Rohit, come quickly, wear your clothes”. His father, Mohan called out several times, but Rohit did not show up. Rohit was just 2 years old. It was 6:30pm, the sun had just set. People were getting ready with candles and kerosine oil lanterns. It is a backward Indian village and people still don't have electricity running. This summer the village just got the electricity poles erected, however villagers were still waiting for the electricity to come to their houses. One day Rohit‘s mother decided to pull the electricity wire from the Newly-erected power lines pole to connect to a bulb in her house. Unfortunately the electricity was flowing through at that very moment. Electric shock caused the immediate death of Kamla. Another big disaster happened when Rohit followed his mother, who was lying dead on the ground, holding the naked wire in her hand. Rohit touched her and died immediately too. It was a small, close knit village. Everyone knew everyone.The whole village was weeping at the sight. Sadly no one could go through greater agony than the three daughters, Kamla left behind her. The whole family was mourning the death of Kamla and Rohit. The youngest daughter was just 3 years old. She did not even understand what had happened to her mother. People tried to console her, but everything went in vain. Life still has to keep going on. Slowly the other daughters learnt to live without their mother except the little daughter Chandi. Finally Mohan decided to re-marry a woman named Hira, so that kids can grow up with a female figure, who will at least try to love them as her daughters. Hira was a kind and beautiful woman. Hira loved all the kids with her whole heart as her own kids. So far so good, until one day the reality unfurled and she found out that her husband already had a vasectomy. She was in disbelief as to what cruel game god has played with her. She felt cheated and angry for the terrible injustice.The frustration started coming out at kids in the beginning, and eventually it became obvious that step mothers can never love as your own mother. This was just the thin end of the wedge. Bigger problem was somewhere else. Perhaps it was the agony of not bearing her own kids. Hira felt her life was ruined, she wanted to see her own flesh and blood. Nonetheless her motherly instinct was very strong. She wanted to have her own kids, but she wanted to love her step kids too, just the way she loved them before. Very soon it became a domestic gossip in the village as to how unfair Mohan is to Hira. People started accusing him of committing a crime for not being honest before he married Hira. In the meantime kids were oblivious to the emotional roller coaster Hira was going through. Kids took Hira's anger as a temporary adjustment to her new life. Mohan felt guilty for causing this pain to Hira. He soon realized that Hira will never forgive him, and his kids will live without a mother's love again. Sadly, what is done cant be changed. In villages divorce is not an option. Well, Hira was very bitter, and if one believes in restorative justice, this is it. She was entitled to “Her Female Body” and have her own kids. She felt deprived and Mohan was guilty in her eyes. Ironically in-spite of everything, Hira loved Mohan a lot. At the same time she did not want to be a mean mother to her step kids. With all these emotions, Hira became the perfect picture of what it says “repression breeds sublimation”. A moment of tranquility set in. Hira started to look at the bright side of her life. On one hand her step kids may not be her own, on the other hand she got such beautiful daughters; all grown up, without any pain.The daughters, who love her so much that they even forgot their own mother now. She thought that with everything that has happened to her, she can either feel sorry for herself or treat what has happened as a gift. She accepted her step kids with all her heart and never wanted to separate from them. Hira realized that the word “Maa” has no boundaries, no discrimination, it is the purest of all, the word which her daughters call her. Hira found a new dimension of her life and felt, “the wheel turns and turns and turns: it never stops and stands still.” She will always love these kids as her own flesh and blood from now. This incident happened long back in 1988 in a village in India where I lived as a child. But the memories still haunt me even now. Whenever I see a charging cable or a wire hanging from the electric outlet, I get scared. So many years have passed but the memory is etched so deeply in my heart and brain, that I never let my daughters go near the electric outlets. On one hand science and technology can be so useful to humankind, on the other hand a small mistake can ruin everything. This is the evidence right here and I always keep this in my mind.
Who am I. What right do I have to feel this way. Millions have died, some struggling to live, while others going through the most ineffable sufferings. Precious and dear lives have been snatched away by a very well-known adversary, death. Yet still, here I am, with the mere audacity to feel what I consider as - sadness? Here I am, with the absurdity of my emotions and the insanity of my thoughts. I have been in this deep, dark pit too before: shutting out any form of light and reveling in my own emptiness. It was that way until someone was brave enough to venture into the pit and save me. Well, it's different now. Social interactions are now perilous in such a way that it must be avoided at all times. Our natural desire for consolation and comfort in tough times was shifted to simply video calling and messaging. As convenient as it may seem, months with almost zero human contact turned out exasperating and troublesome. I, for one, deeply sunk into my own personal bubble where it seemed like there was no one else but me – no one to save me this time. All these humanitarian disasters, social crises, and global conflicts are unraveling in front of my very eyes. In all honesty, my so-called “problems” are trivial and insignificant in comparison to the chaos of this world. Stressing over the lack of food while others long for at least a biscuit to munch on. Complaining about my pathetic life when others are mourning over the loss of their loved one and fighting for their lives. Although I hate to admit, it is extremely tempting to just overlook all these and focus on my situation – to cancel out the noise in my surroundings. Indeed, these inherent instincts of mine start to kick in. Several news on social media do not seem to bother me as much as I believe it should. It became a personal struggle for me to remain alert on all the contemporary issues while handling my very own issues. After all this, I have come to a realization. I am not to let my pride and selfishness get in the way and cloud my judgement. I should not neglect the important things in these world just because of my needs. However, on the other side of the spectrum, any emotion or feeling that we may experience must not be disregarded and just pushed to the side. We are human beings with natural tendencies to feel sadness, anger, and confusion. Our very existence validates it. Although setting these aside may appear like the simplest and most apparent thing to do, we are unknowingly causing ourselves more harm than good. The first step we must take is to fully accept all these negative things as part of ourselves. Personally, I was caught up distracting myself from all the sadness until it consumed me, bit by bit. I forced myself to become happy, believing that being sad was not and should not be an option for me. I detested the feeling of extreme loneliness and somehow wished I'd never felt that way, which eventually led to hatred towards myself. “I don't deserve to be sad because of some stupid and petty reasons.” “I need to be happy, so others around me can be happy.” I tried, but no matter how much effort I put in, it would never truly work. Sadness, depression, anxiety, among many others, does not just simply disappear. Acknowledging my emotions played a huge role in this battle, realizing that it is okay to not be okay. Small steps toward the goal may not be a lot, but together they contribute to being completely “okay”. Even if it is as simple as taking care of yourself or doing something you love, do it. If it's listening to music or reading that book you've always wanted to read, do it. It is all about how we deal with what we feel that matters. When I chose to put it aside, it was still there and I never overcame it. Recognize it, face it, and let go of it – that makes all the difference. My worth is not defined by what I feel, I know that now. The reality is this – we are all human beings with our own varying problems and circumstances. Some are at the very peak, enjoying the best times of their life, while others their lowest and darkest times. Everyone has their own timelines; we must never compare our failures to others' successes. Who am I? Well, I am me – a daughter of the King of Kings and that is enough. What right do I have to feel this way? I have every right. My emotions are valid, and yours are too.
Losing a pet is a difficult and painful event for anybody, but also losing a partner makes it nearly unbearable. In 2016, my sister and I each had our very first show horses. Captain and Merlin became the center of our lives as competitive equestrians. We retired Merlin, my sister's horse, in 2018 after I stopped competing, and my sister resumed her riding on Captain, my horse. All was well until March of this year when Merlin was diagnosed with a neurological parasite that attacks the use of the hind legs. On the evening of July 8th, he took a turn for the worse. In the dim light of the next morning, my mother came into my room. In a quiet voice hoarse from recent crying, she told me that a friend of ours would arrive at noon to dig a grave for Merlin and that the vet would arrive shortly thereafter. I found my sister in the pasture with him, her eyes were red from previous tears, and the dark circles marked underneath proved that she spent most of the night outside with her horse. We sat together on the fence in the silent comfort of each other's grief. Watching him graze, I felt overwhelming guilt at the fact that he remained oblivious to his dwindling hours. How could we do this to him? And yet, how could we, in good conscience, allow him to live every day unable to even stand upright? I felt my heart break a little more with each passing minute. As the morning grew older and the sun climbed higher, Merlin lay down while my sister sat in the dirt with his head on her lap, stroking his face as he dozed off. Four years of hard work, dedication, love, pain, laughter, and tears held them closer than touch could allow. Anyone who looked at the two of them together in such a mutually vulnerable position could see it. Unable to dwell on them much longer, I busied myself by making a garland of Texas Bluebells my mother had picked earlier in the day. The bright violet color and the sweet smell of the flowers occupied me until our friend arrived with his small tractor to dig the grave. Another friend arrived unexpectedly and comforted us by saying, "The Bible says that Jesus will come back on a white horse, so that must mean horses go to Heaven, too." Before the vet arrived, my sister took Captain to be with Merlin in his pasture one last time. Those two have been the best of friends since the first time they were introduced to each other. In the short minutes they were together again, they never left each other's side, and for a bit, we were transported back in time to when we first moved them home together with their nose touches and familiar whinnies. When it finally came time, Captain was standing at the gate as he watched us all walk away. We draped my garland across Merlin's neck and placed one of his ribbons on the halter as we took our final pictures of him. With the vet, we walked Merlin to a secluded opening among the thick trees behind our pond. The clearing was filled with vibrant Bluebells and bright yellow Buttercups. The trees which surrounded us blocked most of the wind, which made the harsh afternoon sun sweltering. The sound of cicadas droned on as we said our final goodbyes to Merlin, our sweet and lovable Merlin. After his final breath, I felt a cool breeze sweep over the field. In such a secluded and sealed off location with little natural circulation, I am thoroughly convinced the breeze was Merlin's spirit saying goodbye. The vets and my mother all left so that my sister and I could be alone before they buried him. It was only after they left that my sister, who had been crying quietly most of the day, truly and unreservedly began sobbing. We sat outside for what felt like hours but could not have been more than ten minutes. Finally, my sister gently kissed his head, and we both stood and hugged each other, an act of affection we seldom share. With one final glance at our beautiful horse in the field of Bluebells, we walked back to the house. After a shower, some rest, and plenty of water, I looked through our last photos of Merlin. Like many people in my generation, I decided to post something of the matter to social media. I loaded the photo, but I could only just stare at it for the longest time. How could I express the depths of my grief with only a picture? How could I convey the impact that Merlin's life had on mine? It was impossible. My sister and I were the only two people in the world who could look at that picture and know the life, the connection, the memories that it held. Regardless, I posted the picture, not for my small audience, but for me, to help me understand that Merlin now lives only through the memories of the people who knew him. Though it was such an upsetting and saddening thing to experience, I know that Merlin was loved as much as any horse could be. I also know that he loved us, too. Why else would it hurt so much?