Yesterday morning 2017-Idaho 

Coffee made its customary drip drip and steam rose from the machine as it processed my morning cup. It had taken 30 minutes of washing and preparing, numerous mugs were rinsed and inspected, ultimately being set aside. An alternate cup of instant coffee sat on the counter growing cold among spoons and dots of peppermint creamer. The routine of this first piping hot mug of coffee always seemed the hardest; dishes littered the counter and sink as I did my best to make one safe and delicious serving. I paused and a feeling of despair gripped me, it was just a cup of coffee, a simple task. I refused to give up or backslide to the previous winter when I exited the kitchen most days, exhausted and empty handed. A text to Foof meant I had been unable to complete this project and a request was made to pick me up on her way to work, purchasing a large black coffee. I rinsed the plastic reservoir one more time and waited for the water to warm, treasuring the moment but also wondering why this undertaking was so difficult.


He picked up the instant coffee and turned it from front to back numerous times. His eyes grew wide as he read the contents and then blankly stared, “So you are drinking American coffee now?” A light hearted yet sinister tone abruptly brought me back to the reality he had created and the usual guilt that followed. A slight grin crossed his lips accompanied by a chuckle and that telltale look of disapproval. I felt foolish and tense wondering how I could have been so selfish to purchase this item and not gain his approval beforehand. My lower lip quivered and the thought of this small action bringing more unrest to our household became unbearable.

It had been three years since we were forced to leave the Western compound which resulted in a move to a tiny housing group of sorts. It seemed as if we were back where we had started so many years before and a feeling of hopelessness left my intense awareness dull and fractured. A strange and foreign rebellion had been silently creeping from the back of my mind to the front. Simple things escaped me and the household’s sense of balance that allegedly teetered on my shoulders was somehow off kilter. I made numerous errors in predicting his moods and yet somehow it all seemed pointless as eruptions could be triggered by the slightest move. I stood tensely waiting for a reprimand but instead he pointedly set the jar down and stated what he felt was quite obvious it was up to me and I should do as I pleased, as always I was free to make my own choices.

Given his words of approval I bought tiny jars of instant coffee and after a few months passed safely, I drug out the machine he had purchased for mom and dad’s trips to our home in Saudi. I made a fresh pot each morning and used a mug mom brought me from back home. Sipping coffee after getting the kids off to school became my new routine. Piles of laundry, dishes, vacuuming, picking up and preparing a home cooked meal began after that initial cup. A small window of opportunity had afforded me this little pleasure, reminiscent of late nights in college years sitting at local restaurants enjoying the company of friends.

An air of confidence slowly built piece by piece and with it the realization that I was indeed a free being. One day I was the ever pious wife and the next I was a daring woman who boldly sat in front of him drinking coffee. I knew the day was coming but dared to enjoy this new era while I could, not thinking of the repercussions. Little hints were dropped and ignored until it all came rushing out. “So you sit drinking your coffee, showing me you are American, better than me”! With each syllable his voice raised and his fist slammed on the counter.  After that day the coffee maker was bagged  and put in storage and instant coffee remained hidden in the back of pots and pans.

2008 Al-Khobar

The door slammed, footsteps clicked on the marble floor and his voice boomed as he called for the children one by one. A timid voice echoed through the stairwell answering him, aiming to calm any tension that had not dissipated after his departure. A sense of panic wrapped in recent rebellion sent my mind into a dizzied state. I was sure that he was right, the recent tirade had been fueled by my insolence and a cup of secret coffee.  I grabbed my mug and tucked it in its usual hiding place, between my thigh and the arm of the recliner. A burning trickle made its way down my outer leg and yet went unnoticed.  He walked past and glanced at the chair not acknowledging my presence in the room or in this world. I had become “one of those women that he hated” and there was no going back.