I’m just going to post it. Enjoy.
Category – Creative Non-Fiction
Very loosely based on a true story.
I slam the car door shut and press the lock button on the key. Sigh. I wrap my scarf securely around my neck as I look around me. Snow. Everywhere, coated in white icing. Everything looks like a sugar cookie. I search for a sun desperate to peek its way through endless clouds. I zip my jacket and stride towards the yellow building. I hate every step, I hate that being here makes me feel broken. I’m not broken. I peek under my gloves to find the time, as usual, I’m early for my 2 o’ clock, but it doesn’t matter, because I know he will see me right away.
“It’s been what…6 months now since you moved. What brought you to Edmonton?”
Therapists and their loaded questions, not one has ever just asked a simple question with a simple answer. No, it always has to have an undertone alluding to your childhood, or mommy issues, or daddy issues, or, well, you get it.
“Seven,” I reply evenly.
“Is that number significant to you? A lucky number perhaps?” He asks genuinely.
“No, it’s the number of months I’ve lived here.”
I look around the spacious cliché office, you know, nice long sofa for the “client” and throne like leather chair coupled with a matching ottoman for the therapist. The bookshelves cover three of the four walls, each shelf carrying various masterpieces from the psychology world.
“Can I smoke in here?”
“No,” he replies, obviously annoyed at my unwillingness to play his mind game.
“You know, they let people smoke in doctors’ offices in Cairo.”
He rifles through his papers.
“Ahh yes, Egypt, the country where they got your blood type wrong and a doctor tried to trick you into taking anti-anxiety pills. We do thinks a bit differently here. Let’s talk about Egypt.”
I rub the back of my neck nervously, no, wistfully, no agitatedly. “Have you ever been?” I dodge back.
“Yes, just once. Lovely people. A bit polluted. The Pyramids are glorious. My wife and I … um we went about 20 maybe 25 years ago.”
I smile politely.
“So?” he pushes.
I’ve got to try.
I look for a photo of his wife, for anything personal that distinguishes this man. Nothing.
“I moved to Cairo 10 years ago. Everything was really great and then a revolution happened and…” I trail off. I will not break in this office, not here, not today. I breathe.
“I heard about the January 25th Revolution of 2011. We were following it on the news. It was a brutal, brutal affair,” his eyes take me in as he analyzes every nuance of my body language, “I never pegged you for a politico.”
“I’m not, it’s just the last year and a half has supposedly been hard on me. My husband thinks that anyone that endured what I did should be forced into therapy.” I put my finger quotes away.
“And what do you think?”
“I think you should try to keep your spouse happy.”
He chuckles, as I smile shyly. I start to warm up, not a lot, but enough.
“December, 2009, was what I thought would be one of the best months of my life. My husband and I found out we were pregnant. Finally. We had been trying for so long. It was amazing news,” I start to feel the pain swell up in the base of my throat.
“Everything was perfect, I had just launched my company, and now we were pregnant. I felt as if for the first time the stars had aligned and the deck was in my favor. I found out the news in an airport bathroom while waiting for my husband to arrive from a business trip. The first thing we did was buy a little onesie that said 50% mommy 50% daddy 100% love.”
“Three weeks later, everything changed. Protests were emerging in the capital with numbers that were truly unprecedented in Egypt. I lived just a couple of blocks away from the square where everyone would congregate. Tahrir Square it’s called, which translated means Liberation Square. What a joke.”
I put my head down in my hands, pushing my hair back with my fingers. Breathe. He stares at me passively almost afraid to say anything for fear that I might curl back into my shell. He reflects the sadness that he’s sees in my eyes.
“The President at the time thought the best course of action was to spray endless amounts of expired tear gas into the square and surrounding streets. He wanted to fumigate the area and suppress the people like they were cockroaches. The streets were littered with slices of onion and bottles of Pepsi and Coke. It was the best remedy against the gas,” I start to taste the bitterness, my stomach starts to tumble as I continue on, “long story short, tear gas and pregnancy – turns out they don’t mix. I remember my eyes always stinging, and my throat was always so scratchy. I was constantly coughing. On the bad days it was straight to dry heaving. I went to a doctor for a blood test to see what was going on, the test was, well it was wrong. They got my blood type wrong, and it was a mess. The doctor promised me that the baby would be fine, he sent me on my way but not before giving me an endless supply of medications with an even longer list of side effects. He said there was an above 90% chance everything would be ok.”
I bite my lower lip.
“I fought my hardest, I did everything I was told to, everything,” I whisper.
“It was a lie. He lied. It was an impossible case.” My voice starts to crack.
He passes me the box of tissue. His voice is very gentle at first, barely audible even. He nervously clears his throat then says, “miscarriages are very common, I don’t know the exact statistic, but they say they are just so common. And don’t worry, the chances that you will go on to have a safe and successful pregnancy are very much in your favor.”
“Oh, I know. Actually, I got pregnant just a couple months after we lost her. I know in my heart that she was my baby girl. I have a baby now, a beautiful boy. The love of my life actually,” I can’t stop beaming like an idiot.
He looks relieved, then concerned again. I read his thoughts and put them at ease. “I don’t actually smoke. Well, I do at times like these. I haven’t had a cigarette in over 3 years,” I’m babbling.
He puts his hand up and puts me at ease, “I’m not hear to judge you, please, keep going.”
“Ok, so miscarriage. A few days after we lost the baby, the country was a mess. People were beaten to death. Hundreds of cans of teargas would be tossed into crowds by the hour. People were so desperate they started to throw Molotov cocktails back. The city, once filled with life and prospect turned into a toxic fog like inferno. The square was peppered with the blood of those who had fallen, whom had fought to liberate a much corrupt Egypt. We had no choice. One morning, my husband’s family in Italy told us we should leave and fly to them as soon as we possibly could. We only packed one suitcase. That was all we were given, for all of our valuables. We didn’t know if we would ever come home again. We had dogs, we had a life, we had friends. Thankfully, we had someone to take care of our pups. But can you imagine? Just like that, everything had to fit into one bag. The technology blackout hit us on the way there, cell phones, land lines and Internet was cut. We got to the airport silently hoping that we wouldn’t be attacked, mugged or arrested. Soldiers lined the streets in a meek attempt to maintain the peace and some semblance of order. All the terminals were filled with frantic families tearfully trying to escape. Not knowing if they would ever be able to go home again. We finally got to Italy, but to our dismay, our one bag was lost,”
Just inhale, I’m not broken.
“Yeah, I hate it when airlines lose luggage.” We stare at each other in silence. The moment starts to stretch, our gazes fixed on each other, then in an act of pure humanity, we both burst into laughter. He leans over his chair and reaches for a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. I stare as he pours generous amounts each, he leans forward to pass me mine.
“Please, keep going,” he starts sipping slowly.
“We lost our bag, and we landed in Italy. That night was terrible, I begged the employees to help us find out one bag with everything we had left. They tried to help, but when something’s not there, it’s not there. We stayed there for about 2 weeks glued to the TV. We witnessed the fall of a dictatorship and the potential rise of a new military rule. At that point in time we were happy that the power vacuum was filled and we thought it would be ok to go back home. Egypt wasn’t the same. There were tanks on every main street and armed military officers everywhere. The police had disappeared during the revolution out of fear for their lives. The people needed to protect themselves from the thugs and escaped prisoners so they bought guns, and not like your average hand gun, no, AKs and other automatic weapons. It was only a matter of time before the chaos came rolling in. There were the works, kidnappings, murders and muggings galore. The city was unsafe. Massive protests would be staged every other weekend, each one with more causalities, more fatalities.” I feel the anxiety build up in my chest and bubble into my throat. The tears start to build and pour out of my eyes like sweet release. I hug the tissue box tightly.
“The stress started taking its toll on me. My body started to ache for no reason. I went to a doctor, who did all the tests. He said it was all in mind,” I grunt. “He then told me I had a vitamin deficiency and handed me some pills. I took some and felt dead. I couldn’t move out of bed. My head was so heavy it took all my power to move my limbs. I researched the name of the drug, turns out he was trying to give me anti-anxiety medication – and in high doses.”
I look out the large window. My eyes stare at one of Edmonton’s many little lakes. Like clockwork in the middle of December, the snow starts to fall silently, covering my world in a peaceful blanket of white.
“If this is difficult to discuss, we can talk about it later,” he steps in as he glances at his watch.
At first, only one tear escapes, leaving a trail of salty sadness down my cheek. But like we all know, it only takes one to release the floodgates and before I know it, down comes the next and the next.
“The worst part of it all was saying good bye to my best friend, he’s been there next to me for a decade. He’s seen me through everything. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. The world is so empty without him,” at this point I don’t even know if he can understand my tearfully slurred words.
My therapist stares at me. He looks helpless. I can see the debate as clear as day on his face, do I hug her? Do I pat her back? Paralyzed by my overture of weeps he stays in his chair. His eyes gaze to the ground as he holds on to his glass for dear life. “I am so sorry for your loss,” he mutters as he looks at me briefly, but I see what I need to go on, for in his bright grey eyes is more pain than I have ever seen. He channels strength and I absorb it like an orchid thirsty for water. Firmly wiping my eyes, I stare straight at him and go on.
“A year passed and the state of the nation was growing worse and worse, and we had to make a decision as new parents what we wanted our child’s fate to be. We want our child to have a normal and happy childhood. Do you know what it’s like to not have the freedom to believe what you want? To be stared at and sexually harassed just for walking down the street in skinny jeans? People don’t smile at you on the street. It’s not like here. People in Edmonton smile at me. They don’t know me, and they smile with their hearts. Here it doesn’t matter how cold it is because the people are so warm. I was born in Edmonton and we figured this would be a great place to raise our baby, because the truth is, I’ve always wanted to watch him play in the snow.”
We stare out the window, watching the flakes fall together. This moment unites us despite us both knowing that we would never see each other again. I peek at my watch. My hour is up.
I wrap my scarf around my neck, pulling my long dark hair from underneath the soft wool. Putting my jacket on, we formally exchange farewells. He urges I make another appointment. He assures me that I’ve made a “breakthrough.”
I walk out of the office blinded by sparkly ground. The snow has stopped, and the sun has made its way through all the clouds. The air cools my cheeks. I grin wildly. It’s – 15 out, but its fine, because I’m fine now, because I’m here, safe and sound.