Leave password field empty to keep your existing password!
I've wandered around imagination and words were my only sanctuary.
Suraya would bring her different snacks in her visits. And a handful of news. Most importantly, she would let her know how many people had passed that day due to the pandemic. She seemed to be eagerly following up on the matter ever since everything began in March. “They might announce a lockdown. They're talking about banning interstate transportation.” The usual pain in Noor's chest felt like a sword being deepened into a scar as she heard this. - She was tracking down her pain. The periods seemed to be getting shorter. She had stared sweating and breathing was becoming harder as seconds passed. Her phone started ringing. It was Suraya. “They've announced a lock-down. How are you feeling?” “It's getting more painful.” There was silence on both ends. Her phone started buzzing again. “I'll call you Suraya jan.” It was Saeed who was calling her now. -How are you jan-e-man?” -It's getting painful Saeed.” She heard him gasping. - I'll be there. I'll find a way to be there. - You can't. She whispered. - They just announced a lockdown. You have to stay were you are. - You shouldn't be alone. His voice was cracking up. - There is no choice. I have to.
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.
Subscribe and stay tuned.