Fiction Park

The Arabian Dream

  • After returning from Al Ismailia for the first time, the only face that I could remember was yours. I remembered you not because you were the most beautiful amongst the Al Ismailia girls. I remembered you because you were the first Al Ismailia girl who ca
- VINAYA GHIMIRE
The Arabian Dream

Nov 9, 2014-

Iraq was messy and we were so messed up. However, I still remember Iraq. I remember the summer of 2003, our engagements with the drone attacks and holding the outposts, and the bullets and bombs we escaped.

On weekends, I went to Al Ismailia. It was always crowded with the locals, but, it was my favorite hangout. The men, who would otherwise sport a long, wide-sleeved gown with an elongated hemline and a soft collapsible cap of white muslin pressed with red felt, appeared wearing tight T-shirt tucked inside jeans. The men were old but the girls in Al Ismailia were young, some even looked like they were not beyond their teenage years yet. The only thing common in those girls was that they wore exotic dress with lots of frills and embroidery that revealed almost everything.

After returning from Al Ismailia for the first time, the only face that I could remember afterwards was yours. I remembered you not because you were the most beautiful amongst the Al Ismailia girls. I remembered you because you were the first Al Ismailia girl who came to my table. Had I seen you outside Al Ismailia, I could have never recognised you. Perhaps, in your life outside Al Ismailia, you wore burka. In that case, you could’ve seen me through the veiled eyes, but I would have never known the woman in all black who just passed by me was you.

As evening matured, you left the danced floor and climbed on the tables. I did not blink when you danced on my table; actually, I was glued to your movements.

I was besotted by you, totally besotted. Sadly,  I did not know how to strike a communication, until you made it easy for me. You asked me why I always came to the bar alone. I did not know what to say, your Arabian accent was ringing in my ears, and it felt good. You asked me about my family, about America, about everything.

The incidents of interrogations, rounding up men we brought into the barrack flashed in my mind.  I wish I could have shared with you everything that was classified.

I did not have the courage to ask you out, but one day you told me to talk to the manager and pay the fee. When we were in the hotel room, you said I was not obliged to pay you extra, but I can if I want.

I was mentally calculating the remaining banknotes when your laughter interrupted me. You smoked and emptied glasses and talked about your childhood in Bagdad. I was wondering if you always talked with your customers about how you and your brothers sold cheap DVDs to the westerners.  

I was just eighteen when I enlisted, and by the time I was 21, I was in Iraq. I was living amongst men who pasted their wife or girlfriend’s photo on the gun.And eventhough the first thing that came to my mind when I woke up  was how to get away from this place, I had to serve my country.

Every day we pushed deeper and deeper into the city. Every weekend I went to Al Ismailia. On the days when I was unable to visit you in Al Ismailia, I always thought about you. I remembered how you spoke English with a heavy accent, I remembered how you giggled. However, I never told you I missed your smile, I missed your warmth. Never in my life I had dated a girl, let alone sleeping with one. You were the first girl I had known so close.

I waited for the weekends to see you, to sit next to you, to talk to you. Whenever I met you I felt my chest go heavy, I felt pain, but it was sweet pain. Whenever I was with you, I wanted to weep in your lap, I wanted to release my pent-up emotions. Your caressing comforted me and made me forget that I killed people and that I feared death every moment. Your smile reminded me that there are good things in this world, that life is worth living.

Sometimes, strange thoughts came in my mind. I saw you in my home in Oklahoma. You are combing a little girl’s hair. I enter the room, walk towards you and kiss on your protruding belly, I feel your hands on my head.

I wanted the war to end so that I could return to you forever. I hated my father for leaving my mother for another woman. I disliked my mother for abandoning me for the sake of another man. I wanted to remain with you, always. I wanted to live with you, I wanted to grow old with you. I was killing your countrymen. I was destroying your country. However, I wanted a life with you. Was this thought unusual?

I came to this country with a perforation in my heart. I was a lone soul who had nothing to hang on to. You gave me hope, you healed my emptiness and you made me feel strong. Before, I did not know what love was. Abandoned by mother and father, rejected many women and girls, I had never experienced any kind of love. I thought love existed only in poetry.  

On April 9, Saddam left Bagdad for us. I had always wanted this war to end. The final war ended after three days of continuous gun battle and air raids. When the world was celebrating our victory, I was in a hospital.  

I was discharged after two weeks. I did not go to the barrack, I walked towards Al Ismailia. It had been almost a month since I had last seen you. I was excited, I was going back to my life, back to my love. The sense that I had someone out there was so exhilarating. I never had this kind of feeling.  

I walked across the rubbles. The visibility on the street was poor because dust and ashes were everywhere. In some places, fire was still burning. It took me an hour to reached Al Ismailia, which otherwise would have taken 15 minutes. Or perhaps, I made rounds and rounds of the same place unable to recognise Al Ismailia.

I looked at Al Ismailia, it was nothing but a mound of bricks and concrete. A passerby explained that the building was air raided when the staffs and customers were inside. I heard your cries, I felt your agonies. I died with you.

I killed you, we killed you, America killed you.  I did not want the world to see my tears. I tried to rub my eyes with the right hand. Suddenly, I realised that my right arm had been amputated.

Published: 09-11-2014 09:01

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