Copyright © Kate Kelsen 2020.
All Rights Reserved.
In the wake of the bombing that has left Jasem permanently disfigured, he and his father come to terms with Maryam’s death, and embark on a new adventure to America.
Three Months Later
Wearing only his trousers, Jasem stood beside his bed as the nurse helped him pull on his jacket. His left arm was crumpled up into his body, perpetually curled against his chest. His cotton bandages had been replaced with sterile adhesive bandages, on his face, hand and the entire left side of his torso. The doctor was there too.
‘You’ll see the nurse tomorrow. In the meantime, these should help with the pain.’ He gave a packet of pills to Omid, who was packing Jasem’s belongings into a bag from the table beside the bed.
Like Salim’s, Maryam’s grave had been marked with simplicity, with a stone sitting at the head of the plot. Jasem and Omid took off their shoes and each placed a fresh palm frond down on the dirt. They then said a prayer for the dead, and then Jasem and Omid sat by the grave and ate pomegranate, giving pieces of the fruit to children that were playing in the cemetery.
Three Years Later-1979
The city of Tel Aviv Yafo was marked by stark 1930s Bauhaus buildings. There was a busy marketplace where people were buying fruits and vegetables from stallholders. There were museums, and roundabouts jammed with cars.
At the airport, Jasem held tight to his father’s hand, limping along as Omid led them through the terminal. It was so big, and there were so many people rushing this way and that. Finally they reached their departure gate, where they sat awhile until they boarded their flight.
Inside the aircraft, Omid led Jasem along the narrow aisle to their seats. More and more people boarded, and Jasem watched on as the plane slowly filled up. Once everyone was settled in their seats, the plane began to move, backwards at first. Jasem’s young heart began to beat quicker in his chest, his breathing shallow, and his cheeks flushed cold. Jasem looked up at his father.
‘I don’t want to leave Mama,’ he simpered. ‘I don’t want to leave her!’
The aircraft stopped again for a few seconds, and then propelled forward with a force so great it pushed Jasem’s small body back into his seat. His stomach dropped into his feet as the aircraft lifted off the runway, gravity pulling him down into his seat. A sharp pain pierced his eardrums, and he cried out in pain, clutching his hands to the sides of his head as Omid tried to sooth him. Once they had ascended and were traveling above the clouds, the pain eased temporarily, rushing back many hours later when they landed.
There had been many people in Tel Aviv, but there were even more in New York City. Hundreds of people dressed in suits and ties hurried this way and that; there were so many of them, but it was as if none of them really saw each other as they rushed around. Jasem looked up; he had never seen buildings so tall it seemed like they scraped the sky. All the while, his father never let go of his hand.
Jasem sat quietly in the seat next to Omid as they waited in the office reception area. Like the other men in the city, Omid was wearing a suit and tie, but his was not as nice as theirs. A woman stepped out of the office and sat down at her desk.
‘Mr. Gilbert knows you’re here,’ she said.
‘Thank-you,’ said Omid, smiling and nodding in acknowledgement.
The hours ticked by, and yet Mr. Gilbert did not appear. A few times Jasem caught the woman behind the desk staring at him, and she quickly looked away. Jasem pulled the brim of the cap on his head further down over his face.
‘Excuse me,’ said Omid politely.
The woman looked up from the sandwich she was eating at her desk.
‘I’ve been waiting since eleven o’clock.’
‘Mr. Gilbert’s been called to a lunch meeting.’
‘When will he be back?’
‘I don’t know. You could come back tomorrow.’
Omid smiled and nodded, taking Jasem’s hand and standing up.
‘I will be back tomorrow.’
Thank-you for taking the time to read this excerpt! Stay tuned for more tomorrow!