I am running down the street in South Salat, soft shoes brushing against the cobbled stones, as the wind wrestles my abaya behind me and thrusts the veil covering my face into my eyes. The winds have picked up, I saw it coming. Maybe it was the pregnancy but I could sense the sudden change in the weather almost immediately.
It was not just the chill and gust that came with the wind. It brought with it, war too. War. First in my home, I can still see the roofs of my brothers’ mouths as they spread them wide, tongues lashing at me, spitting at me and yelling curses at me. Their violence filled the gurfa with a stench that tickled my nose and caused the tears to stream down my face faster than they would have normally. They wanted to kill me. If they find me now, they would kill me.
My mother sat at the dining table leaning on Hushra, my older sister, wailing and crying out to Allah, asking him for forgiveness for whatever she did to deserve me. Hushra clicked and clucked her mouth, begging mama to stop crying, telling her it wasn’t her fault that she gave birth to a demon. Me?
My father sat silently at the other end of the table, lost in his thoughts, gazing somewhere and nowhere in particular. I looked to him for some hope but I knew that he had forgotten me already. He did not turn to look at me as I knelt on the floor, instead he looked at my brothers and nodded at them once before leaving the room.
And there, death hung like a stranger in the room, it loomed in the atmosphere above me waiting to consume me, I could feel it. It turned the pallor of my skin a shade of ivory only dead people carry and caused the taste in my mouth to sour like unripe prunes. Finally, I was dragged away into my bedroom, where the door was locked and I was meant to await my certain end.
In the midnight, the other war started. The taliban came knocking at the door, a hundred youths- all young men, whose blood had churned hot and heavy inside them. They were ready for murder. I heard them, my brothers, tell these men about me. Telling them it would be an honor to wipe away filth from Allah’s eyes themselves. I shook with fear, would they leave me in the hands of the taliban?
More voices came instead, screaming ‘treachery, betrayal!’ I recognised one voice among many and my heart wept. They took my brothers out into the city and left me at the mercy of my broken heart, so I decided to break out, stealing a page from the memory book of my childhood days of hide and seek, times when females were allowed to be outside on their own. I took my secret path and here I am, running.
These men have caused me much confusion. The bump underneath my abaya weighes me down, and I fold my hand under my potruding belly as if to alleviate the weight. I know finding Zuhail now would be no help at all, he would deny the child within me and turn me over to my brothers immediately. Adding the sin of ‘lying against a religious man’ to my sac of mis-deeds. Still, something in me longs for him.
How stupid I am! I wish I could find him now, as I did then. I would run these same streets to his apartment, there I would remove the beard on my face, unwrap my taqiyah and he would laugh as he kissed my lips running his fingers beneath the black dishdasha I oftened borrowed from one of my brothers. He would then pull me onto his mattress and make love to me, calling me his one and only habibi, and trailing kisses down my face. Afterwards we would lie there and talk till I had to run these streets back to my parents’ house.
Now he is among them, the holy ones, raging a holy war and what about this child? if the father is so holy, is he not holy too? I am running away from Salat Central. My brothers who protected me and looked out for me now look to kill me cold-blooded, in the square for all eyes to see and all ears to hear. I would be made an example, of what happens when women are way-ward. I did not mention Zuhail because they did not ask me. They did not ask me who fathered this child, did I do this by myself? hypocrites!
Now Zuhail walks among them, shouting holy words with them and I am the impure one. I have run past Salat now, away from the city. I do not blame him alone ofcourse, but why do I get death and he gets life? when it was the both of us that conceived this life? I see now the folly of my naive mind and maybe just learning the lesson is not enough. If I were given the freedom to live, my life would be bound to this child still and I will forever carry this lesson for as long as I live. Yet I am to be killed, with no opportunity to speak of my mistake.
By now my brothers should be returning home to drag me to the square, my feet are beginning to ache and if I am found here by myself at this time, I will be returned home. I cannot run any longer, I must face my fate. No good muslim woman will take me into her household, lest I defile her sight before Allah.
I am sitting on the streets outside South Salat, not long now and Iblis (The Devil) will be answering these questions that are clogging up my mind.