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The Diaries of Marya - Part 1

We're travelling at a high speed. Bright lights are flashing past my window. I love it when Vappa drives fast. We can go at this pace only here, in Sana'a. I hate it back in Kerala. I hate having to go there during the holidays. All the tiny roads and the tiny houses. Whenever people talked about ancestral homes, I always imagined big, palatial buildings like in the picture of the palace in Riyadh. But my ancestral home in Kerala was nothing like it. Not even close. The dingy, damp and dark, one storey building with it's slanting tiled roof made me feel more suffocated than ever. I like it here in Sana'a. We're Muslims and we belong in a Muslim country. Vappa says we might be able to move to Riyadh at some point. How I'd love it there. I'd actually get to see the palace!

Umma is beginning to panic. There's something ahead of us. We're going too fast and it's dark outside. I want to scream to Vappa to do something. I can see it, I can see why Umma is panicking. I can see because I'm scared too. I'm too scared to move. "Vappa, stop the car!"

I'm swimming. No, I'm floating. There's something oozing out of me. I hope I didn't wet the bed again. This smell is peculiar. It's like when my lips get too chapped and break during the winter. I'm not at all comfortable. I think I'm floating in my own urine. It's oozing out of me. I could concentrate if only someone stopped all this banging. Please stop banging on our car, I just want to float. Wait, this dark room makes sense to me now. What time is it? Is it morning already? There's some light coming through those double doors although they're locked. Whoa, who the hell is banging on those doors so hard that light actually manages to creep in with every bang?

Right. It was just a dream. And goodbye, afternoon siesta. Goodbye, beautiful Sana'a. Even a nightmare about an accident in Sana'a is more charming than the reality I'm about to face the second I open that wretched double door to my room in this stupid traditional ancestral home. "What is it?", I ask my glaring Vappa. He looks like I'm the one who forced him to wake up. Judging by the cellphone in his hand, I guess one of my friends called up to talk to me and, in the process, disturbed his afternoon nap or whatever it is that he religiously does with my mom every afternoon after they put us to sleep. Every single friend of mine in school has a landline. We're the only weird people who had to return from a foreign country with a cellphone. The one and only cellphone that is always with Vappa and that which we're all expected to share. Well, if we had a landline, he wouldn't have had to go to all this trouble now, would he? So I grab the phone from him and go back into my dark room and lock the door once again. This is the only place where I will be left alone and I don't want any of those stinky kids in their diapers crawling all over my space.

"Hello?"

"Hi Marya, it's Shyam. Do we have any homework for tomorrow?"

Him again. Ever since I got here, this Hindu boy has been calling me up and acting weird in class. God, he annoys me. I just want to hang up. But I can't climb into bed now. My bed is wrecked.

"No homework, Shyam. And I'll have to call you back."

Thank Allah for periods. Thank Allah for the wreck on my bed. Now I have to clean up and don't really have to feel guilty about hanging up on him. Nobody is going to clean this bed-sheet for me. It's disgusting. All the blood, the mess. And of course, we don't even have a washing machine. Because this is stinking Kerala! How I miss the huge washers and dryers in our apartment in Sana'a! The huge fridge full of food. Life was simple. And then Vappa decided to move back here to this horrible place, this stinking house and this depraved life. I need to go find myself a pad. Why does Umma have to keep the pads in her room? I bleed too, now. I need my own set of sanitary napkins in MY room!

"Umma! I need to grab the pad! Umma! Open up! I need a pad."

No answer. Nobody's going to open this door for a while now. They're probably at it again. I had to sit through that lecture on how babies are born the day I got my periods last year. I was only 10, for heavens' sake! She could have told me later. She could have explained just the part about how I'll bleed every month. Now I know how Maha and Mumtaz and Mustafa came into this world! I was seven when Maha was born. Nine and ten respectively when Mumtaz and Mustafa came screaming into this world. I guess the last three attempts were to get Mustafa. He's the one who gets everything he wants, after all. Mom says he's going to save the family some day. That baby, though? I'd be all grown up by then and I'd have a job, wouldn't I?

"They wouldn't be born even. My sisters."

I guess we wouldn't be so poor if he was just born instead of Maha. They'd never be born, even. My sisters. We'd still be in Sana'a or Riyadh as Vappa had promised. Life would have been good. And I wouldn't be having these thoughts about my sisters' non-existence while bleeding into my panties, waiting for the door to finally open.


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