We buried Zahra in March. I stumbled through my final exams, sleepless, bleary-eyed, insomniac. All I knew was that I had to get through the exams somehow, because that was my future. But I also knew I couldn’t stay there one minute more than I had to. If I did, I would either have to fade into the background, wither away, or end up like Zahra, bloodied under a mound of dark earth. Because these are the only modes of being in this place if you’re a woman. They chip away at your life, until there is nothing to be chipped at.
On the day of the last exam, I packed a bag and left. Just like that. I didn’t have a plan. Looking back, my memory is a bit fuzzy about how I got from the village to the central bus station in Haifa, and from there to Tel Aviv. But I made it. What followed was a period of obliteration of the self. I had to erase myself wholly before starting to sketch myself back into life from nothing.
I only knew these things: I had to become completely independent if I ever wanted my freedom, and in order to have my freedom, I had to cut all ties with that suffocating place. And that, included my family. It was the one thing that hurt me most, but I had no choice. Once I reached Tel Aviv, I called my mama. My body shivering, I told her the truth. She screamed, she threatened. But I made my heart into stone. Then she begged and, finally, she cried. She’s lost one flower, and now a second. I told her no, you buried one, and you will not bury another. And this is the only way.
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– khulud, 2017 | manuscript in progress.