Day 2: What we find
Updated: Sep 15
A short story series about a couple living in Kurdistan in 1996.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has invited Saddam Hussain into the city of Hewlêr, resulting in a military lockdown.
On day 2 of the lockdown, we learn that Zana's father served in the Kurdish Peshmerga, a guerrilla force responsible for the security of the Kurdistan region. The reality of military lockdown starts to sink in for Zana and Hebah.
The prayers of fajr woke Hebah close to sunrise. She climbed out of bed and made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Zana was asleep on the sofa, deep in a drunken coma. The arak bottle now stood empty on the coffee table next to an apple which had a single bite taken out of it, the inside now browned.
When I saw him for the first time I knew there was something in him, I knew there were more demons lurking in his skull than there were in Hell itself. He was being held up by one of the merchants at the market in Iskan. The guy was shaking him by the collar of his shirt with one hand and holding an apple in the other. Zana was screaming at him, telling the guy to let him go or he’d bite him, said he’d paid for it and the guy was senile. I walked over to them and with the change my dad had given me I paid the merchant for the stolen apple and asked for two more. I gave them to Zana, he looked startled, didn’t say anything except thank you. Then he took the bag and ran away into the crowd. We couldn't have been any more than 8 or 9 years old at the time and I saw him almost every Sunday after that. I’d buy him apples and we’d go on walks together. He is a good man as much as he’d like to say he isn’t. I’ve seen him at his very lowest and he has never wanted to hurt anyone but himself, he just doesn’t understand how that hurts me.
Outside, Hebah heard a car driving down their street, from above their fence she saw a truck stop. Putting on her robe and slippers she went outside to open the gate. There were 3 men sitting in the bed of the truck holding rifles with the barrels pointing to the sky, and another man hoisting a box of supplies off the back of it. The men in the truck bed all stared at
Hebah, she noticed one was smiling. As the man with the supplies approached to hand her the box she asked, “When is this going to end?”.
No response, the men in the truck bed continued to stare.
“Hey, I’m talking to you, when is this going to end?”
No response still.
“My children are with their grandparents, when can I see them again?”
The man holding the box looked down, exposing that vulnerable look of empathy on his face and Hebah grabbed his arm gently.
“Please, just tell me when I can see them again.”
The man looked up and motioned to give the box to Hebah. She stared at him while he tried to avoid eye contact. She took the box and the man nodded then hopped onto the back of the truck which drove for another 20 yards and stopped at the next house. The man hopped off the truck again, picked up another box and placed it outside the neighbors’ door. They repeated this another two times before they turned right at the top of the street and disappeared from sight.
Hebah walked back into the house leading straight into the open plan kitchen and placed the box onto the counter. A loaf of bread, a bag of rice, 2 chickens, Okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, a small bag of potatoes and a carton of cheap cigarettes. Some homes in the area had 6 or 7 people per household. She pulled out a pack of cigarettes, opened it up, took one out and lit it as she put a pot of water on the stove to make her coffee. From the sofa she heard Zana grumble awake, He darted up with a sweaty, pale face. He jumped to his feet and almost lost his balance then rushed to the bathroom and slammed the door. Hebah heard him puking. A few minutes passed, she heard the toilet flush and Zana came out, sat at the kitchen counter and lit a cigarette.
"What’s for breakfast?"
It was close to 4pm as Hebah set the dining table with bread, tahini, yogurt, cucumbers, slices of cheese, and olives. Zana walked through the garage door and into the kitchen holding a new bottle of arak, a quarter already missing. They both sat down and began eating.
"That fucking traitor Barzani and his KDP dogs are gonna ruin Kurdistan. You know he was using Saddams' tanks? I hope the peshmerga drag him into the street and put a bullet in his
skull." Zana said.
"I think that's why they are keeping us inside, easier to round up all peshmerga."
"Yeah well they'll never find all of us."
"Yes, us." Zana said with a snappy voice.
"I miss the kids" Hebah said
"Me too."He pours more arak into his glass
"Have you thought about what I said yesterday?"
"Moving to America"
"We are not moving to America, Hebah. This isn't going to last forever, we will get the city back and everything will be fine."
"So long as Saddam is alive this isn't a safe place."
"And what do you suppose we do then?"
"I have a cousin who lives in Nashville, she says there are thousands of Kurds there, it’s like a community. The schools are better, the jobs are better, our lives can be better, Zana."
"You mean your life can be better."
"I mean our kids lives can be better!"
From outside the sound of distant gunfire interrupted their conversation. They both stood up and walked outside. The gunfire persisted.
"It sounds like it's coming from Aynkawa.” Zana said
“That’s just down the road.” She turned and looked at him. "I am taking my kids to America when this is over. You can come if you want but if you try to stop me then you'll need that gun of yours."
She walked back inside and saw the rotting apple on the coffee table was still there . She picked it up and threw it away.