Aisha went home to pack their suitcases. Each person was allowed only one small overnight bag. The driver had met with them and explained the details.
“Do not look anyone in the eyes. Keep your heads covered. Bring cash. And do not speak unless spoken to.”
Aisha tried to decide what to put in these cases. What would they need for the rest of their lives? She put in the oil painting her mother made, but then swapped it out for a jacket. Her wedding photo went in, but she took it out in exchange for a picture of her grandparents. Underwear beat socks, but socks beat hat.
“I’m scared. How can I possibly bring children into this nightmare?” Aisha had asked.
“Things will get better,” Khalid had said.
But they didn’t get better, and soon even Khalid had to admit that Iraq might never be safe again.
“We will leave,” he’d said.
Aisha had been waiting to hear these words for months, but she knew not to press on. Time had taught her to plant a seed and sit back and wait. If she pushed he would resist — this was Khalid’s way.
She looked around at all the items on the shelves and in the drawers. It all seemed insignificant. There were so many things: books that they’d already read, movies that had been watched, clothes that didn’t even fit, and so many knickknacks.
Aisha and Khalid didn’t know where they would go after they made it to Jordan. They were allowed to stay for only three months and they were not authorized to work. The one thing she knew — they could no longer stay in Baghdad. Since Saddam’s army had invaded Kuwait, chaos had set in. Gangs had taken over parts of the city, and looting and crime were rampant. She had wanted to have children, but it was no place to raise kids.
She busied herself with packing and dreaming of their new life as the radio blared in the background. “We will overcome this. We are fierce warriors. Allah is on our side. Kuwait is rightfully ours. It was the British that took Kuwait from us, and now these infidels are living like kings while we exist like beggars. The Kuwaiti people have stolen our land, our riches, and now they are stealing from us again. It is true; they are slant drilling in the Rumalia field. I have seen this…”
Aisha turned the radio off.
Toothbrush beat deodorant; it was getting easier. Her eyes fixed on the beautiful jewelry box Khalid had bought her for their first anniversary. It was marble with an inlayed picture on the lid; tiny marble shards made up an image of a gray heron. She picked it up and rubbed its smooth surface with her fingers. Aisha set the elegant box back on the dresser and placed her hairbrush in her suitcase. She repeated an old Arabic proverb, “Close the door from which the wind blows and be calm.”
Amy Corbin has been published in filling Station, The Cynic, Ascent Aspirations, Shine, Every Day Poets, Every Day Fiction, Haruah: A Breath of Heaven, Ignavia Press, Flask and Pen,The Battered Suitcase, and Flashes in the Dark. She will soon be published in Short Story Library, Smokebox, and Boston Literary Magazine.