The bench


For those who have followed my story it has been a long time but here is a new addition.  If you have not read my story you can read other instalments found under, flashback love-true story.


Riyadh, June 2003

I walked back into the store, carrying little Dee who was now fussy and tired. The last splash of water had been dripped into her mouth but now she insisted on full hydration. She was a small girl for her 2 plus years, tiny features, dark brown eyes and olive skin gave her the appearance of a doll like figure. A smile crossed her lips as my arms held her tight. The clerk glanced our way with a curious and questioning expression and the usual worries swirled through my mind. I scanned the aisles and picked up my pace searching for a chair or bench inside the comfort of the air conditioned store. We had exited and reentered the premises numerous times in the same fashion, searching for water or a place to take cover from temperatures that hovered at 105 degrees.

I finally returned to the bench just outside the swooshing doors hoping that it was still vacant. I could not bare the idea of being mistaken for a beggar, being escorted to the door and possibly to the street. The two hour mark approached and anger welled up inside me, sending the inevitable tears that came with standard humiliation. He had insisted that I accompany him to pick up his mail. He would drop me at a nearby store to browse and he was sure the exercise would do me good. It would take him fifteen or twenty minutes and a quick look through racks of clothing would be interesting, even fun. A steady drip drip of sweat had now pooled, leaving my face and scarf wet. The bench that had offered comfort, now seemed hard and heavy as if marks were being sewn into my legs and thighs. A twenty minute wait had stretched into hours, leaving me to wonder if I had misunderstood instructions.

I scanned the Main Street for his vehicle just as I had for the previous seconds, minutes and hours and finally it appeared. I wiped my eyes, straightened my scarf and prepared to stand. The weight of a tenth pregnancy-overdue by two weeks had pushed me to my physical limit.  I mustered a fading smile, reminiscent of years gone by and hoisted my daughter into the car.


Don’t make mama cry!

When Osama and Yusuf came for visits during their time at University it was a huge adjustment back to the old reality. This story is based on a visit one summer.


“Don’t make mama cry” I gulped down tears and scratched at my chin, holding it steady to prevent the quivering that seemed to grip my hands and face in recent months. Those words had become a common theme and echoed in my mind repeatedly. The green school table was modern and bright, a cheery reminder that life moved on and the world still turned as we sat behind four cement walls of isolation. I could hear my son on the marble stairs, a repeat in time continued to play, adding a new refrain with each changing episode. But now he was strong and confident, his voice could be heard echoing from the roof landing down to the basement room where I sat at the school table.”You have satellite in your room, the kids and mom should have it too“.

He was now a grown man, living out his dream of attending University in America. He stood on the landing of the villa that lead to the outside roof area where he had instructed the technician to make a new hook up.  A nervous smile planted on his face, he calmly addressed his father, who stood on the stairs, raging and flailing, stepping up and then down, slamming his hands on the rail. Distance had brought about a new perspective and a resolve to not accept the edicts that randomly vacillated between unhinged and lunacy. He reasoned with his father in a firm and unrelenting tone that had grown from a two year old’s first words, “Don’t make mama cry” into a calculated and strategic counterclaim.  He had been out in the “real” world and his eyes were open to the stark reality that he felt was akin to a silent prison.  This quick trip to visit during break had been stressful and rules regarding placement of household furniture, specific words, foods and gestures, now seemed to be more unreasonable than he had remembered. A lifetime spent watching, following and protecting had now risen to this occasion where he would defy his father.

I looked around the basement room, no doors or exits and now no way out. I sat scratching my chin, biting my lip to prevent the dreaded tears that were seen as manipulation. The clicking of his ship ships (Arab sandals) now turned to missed steps as he bolted down into the basement room. Dirt mixed with sweat left traces of my smudged fingerprints on the glossy school table, signaling my mind into a state of patterned fear. He lunged towards the table, yelling and screaming, grabbing my  preschool class papers, holding them as props in his tirade. He paced and then pounded the table, waving the documents in my face, ABC patterns and farm animals. I shuttered and stumbled to remember the words I was to speak, “I am sorry I will not do that again” but no words came. He repeated the phrase I had heard since that day when my little toddler dared to follow him up the stairs in the modest Seattle home, “Lynn, Lynn, Lynn, Do not turn my kids against me!” and with a swish he tossed the worksheets into the air.



Morning villa


Kitchen area, fan and brown window

That night our 10 boxes had been lined up along the empty living room wall. As tired as we were the kids and I ripped open tape and rummaged through each box to find the new, fresh pillows I had purchased and brought along. At the time it seemed like a strange idea to buy pillows, but I did anyway. I also packed 2 blankets passed on to us years before by a man who finished school and left everything he owned in his vacant apartment to go back home. They were big rough blankets, light and dark browns with images of horses or some type of animal. We found the blankets and pillows and made a make shift bed on the floor. We slept in the men’s mejalis (sitting room for male guests) or any other room, it didn’t much matter as each was interchangeable with the other.

Sleep came easily to us after hours of traveling, the kids had laid on their seats resting their heads against each other. They slept intermittently throughout each flight. For me it was different, my 20 month old daughter had no seat so she sat on my lap,which at this point had shrunk down to a small space. I shifted between having her on my lap and letting her sleep on the floor in front of me in the bed the airline provided. This meant a quite ridiculous picture of a woman, 8 months pregnant resting her legs up near the food tray because there was no other place to put them! Then when Foof woke, having her sit on my small space of a lap while I rested my weary feet back on the floor. What a site!  I didn’t sleep much just a nod off here and there when my head would jerk forward waking me from the few minutes of sleep I was able to catch. So, sleep overtook me quite easily that night. We all snuggled up next to each other as we always did at home and slept on our make shift bed.

I awoke with that feeling when you are on vacation or visiting Grama when you think you are home but then realize your surroundings are not the same. I peered out of one eye to see that things had not changed and were as I had remembered them when I went to sleep. My two older children were not there so this woke me from my heavy sleep. I turned on my side, hips throbbing, I crawled to a position that would enable use of my hands. I slowly stood and straightened out my body.  I roamed around the villa to see in the light of day that things looked the same, but every line on the walls, each crack through the plywood and lack of furniture was much more evident. I felt a sudden twinge, that sick feeling when you panic and question, your mind bolts and races and wanders. I then composed myself and tried to remember that I was a God fearing, good woman, we came to this place not for glamour or fun but to start a new life, to raise the kids in a safe environment, to learn a new language and culture. Yes, this was the right choice and I would carry on and make things the very best.

I called for my boys and finally they answered, they had been used to playing in their play house in the back yard, running through the green grass and riding bikes. So, they had gone exploring looking for that place to play. Directly out of the brown door were the stairs that had led us to this place, going up was the roof which was surrounded by tall ( 5 to 6 foot) cement walls. Downstairs was a small courtyard where a car would be parked, but now was empty.

With the boys safe and occupied, I made my way back into the living room. It was hot in the villa with no a/c and everything closed up. I walked to the wall and peered up to the brown, plastic window. I reached up and pulled until it opened.

A small breeze gently caressed my face, the sweat beads dried on my forehead and I felt a momentary relief. The next thing was water and food, I went to the kitchen, a room with a sink and a counter next to it, a small drain in the middle of the floor. Where would I find food or water? Was the water in the sink drinkable? The children would wake soon and they would be hungry. On the counter a small sack from the local bukala (neighborhood store) inside were several bottles of water and a melted container of sticky mango ice cream.