Translated by Naz Senan
I see you coming through the door. Sometimes you are my daughter, sometimes my son. Other times, it is both of you together. At that moment, I am sitting on a wooden chair. With my trembling hands, I am knitting wool. As you gaze at me, the tears I’ve held back for many years fall from my eyes, as heavy as iron. My feet are pinned to the ground with the weight of a heavy mountain. I cannot lift them, and I cannot move from where I am sitting. I can see that you are coming through the door, entering the room. Sometimes you are my daughter, sometimes times my son. Other times, it is both of you together. At that time, I am standing washing the dishes, or I am cleaning dust from the paintings hanging on the walls. When I hear your footsteps, my knees become weak, and it is as if in just one moment all the bones in my body are crushed and turned to ash and spread throughout the room. I no longer have the strength to stand, and I fall.
It is hurtful to think of all the things that have happened in the past, or that could happen. It is painful and tiring. I know that I cannot get over the past, which is why I keep avoiding it. On the other hand, there are great things that I am holding onto so tightly inside of myself, that I do not even want to get over; I don’t think I ever will. But please forgive me; I do not mean that thinking of you makes me uncomfortable, but I will not lie either and say I like it. Forgive me. I want to be honest with you. I have to say everything as it is.
Tell me, have you ever experienced the same feelings? Have you ever paid attention to how a seemingly small event can have the biggest and most unexpected impact on you? Or, on the contrary, how other important issues barely receive any attention at all? This has happened to me many times. It was like holding a heavy bag full of mud or like pushing a heavy barrel, using all your strength, only to have it fall on you and crush you. You always have to take full responsibility and live according to what destiny is hiding for you.
My oldest childhood memory is from the day of that enormous shock, the day I went for a picnic with my parents to the outskirts of the city. We were sitting on a hill away from the crowd, under the shade of a large tree. My mother was pregnant with her second child, and my father kept telling her to rest and not hold anything heavy. Meanwhile, I was occupied with my new bracelet, which was made of pink and blue beads held by a plastic thread around my wrist. I was pulling the strings and counting the beads with my other hand. I kept telling myself, “The blue bead is my brother, the pink one is me, the blue bead is my brother, the pink one is me…” All of a sudden, the thread tore, and all the beads went rolling down the hill. I screamed loudly and ran down the hill to collect them, but I fell. The whole incident did not take more than a minute, but when from the bottom of the hill I turned back to my parents, empty-handed with tears in my eyes, I was shocked to see a truck lose control due to the bumpy road and run into my parents, my unborn brother, and the large tree. My world was never the same after that huge shock.
Because my father and mother did not have any sisters or brothers, I had to stay at the homes of different relatives. I had to move from one house to another. Changing places was never easy for me. But in my childhood, there were adults who could give me energy and resilience. I had always hoped that my life would change one day, and this saw me through the hardest times. I didn’t care about obstacles or trouble. I was in high school when I got married. My dream was to have my own family. I loved my husband; he was everything to me, and I lived happily with him. I became pregnant with twins — a girl and a boy — and I was so happy that I filled the walls with portraits of twins. I was so happy that it felt as though nothing could have the power to make me sad. One day, we were sitting in the yard, and I was showing my husband the new things I had bought for our twins, happily telling him, “This cute pink dress is for our daughter, and this blue cup is for our son.” All of a sudden, the unexpected happened. A bullet landed between my husband’s eyes. No words can describe this scene, nor do I even wish to describe the scene for you. From that moment on, I have been completely desolate. Before that incident, people always used to feel sorry for me, but afterwards, I could plainly see the betrayal and greed in their eyes. It was like a gang of wolves following me.
Pardon me. I know I am distracted and I talk lot. Forgive me. I don’t want to evade your questions. I know you are after answers. Be patient with me. In a while, I will give you the last remaining peace of the incomplete picture.
A few months after the birth of my twins, I fell into a great deal of debt. I was in debt to the house owner, the grocery shop, and the toiletry shop. I had many bills that were unpaid. Everyone was tired of helping me. Worse of all, they behaved as if I still had something left of myself that I could give — my body. In this sick market, humanity was the cheapest thing. I always managed, however, to spit in their shameful faces and step on their disgusting proposals.
You are standing by the door, but I cannot come and hug you or tell you that I was waiting for you for a long time or say that I was afraid of this moment. To tell you the truth, I feel ashamed. I am thrilled, and now I am crying and laughing like someone who has lost her mind. I know you are here on my doorstep to ask me an important question. I know you are looking for reasonable answers.
It was a winter evening when my twins came down with a high fever. I was crying my eyes out. I was afraid that they would choke and die because of their relentless crying. I managed to take them to the closest pharmacy, which was just about to shut its doors. I sank to my knees and begged the pharmacist to help my dying twins and give them medicine. When the pharmacist learned that I had no money and no prescription from the doctor, he simply apologized and left. I have suffered a lot in my life, but that day was the darkest of my life. I didn’t know what to do; meanwhile, my twins’ faces were turning blue. I was lost; I felt their pain. Suddenly a car stopped by us, with a man and woman inside. The women looked wealthy, with her fur scarf over her shoulders. With her delicate hands, she cleaned the fog on her window and looked at us as if she were in front of the window of an expensive shop. After a while, her husband stepped out of the car. I told him that my children were sick, hungry, and in need of medical attention. The man told me, “My sister, I have everything I ever wished for, except for children.” I do not remember precise words we exchanged, but I do remember that he left me plenty of money in a black bag. He told me not to worry. He would take my children immediately to the doctor. He left and took my children from me. I remember how shocked I was. I ran after the car to give the man his money back, to tell him that my kids were not for sale, but they left. I could not reach the car in time to stop them. So, I shouted after them, “Please take good care of them, let them have a good education, please do not separate them from each other!”
That evening, I walked through all streets of the city until sunrise, crying and holding the black bag with me. The next morning, I returned all the money I had borrowed from others. I looked at the money left. I kept asking myself: Should I keep it or spend it? Did I just replace my kids with this? Did I exchange them for this?
I kept asking myself these questions, settling on different answers each time. While I was confused about what was going on, I felt disgusted with money so much in that moment. But I also liberated myself from all that debt. I threw all the money that was left into the sewer and watched as it sank in the dirt, laughing and crying over it.
Oh my dear, did I truly believe that my life could suddenly change for the better? Fate had always turned my dreams into nightmares. But as I daydream, I can see you coming through the door. Sometimes one of you; sometimes both of you together. In the moment, I am sitting and knitting wool, pink and blue. I am knitting scarves and gloves for you and looking at the painting of the twins.
Naz Senan: Is a freelance translator, majoring in English Literature and Language. She was born in Baghdad.