Zeina tugged at the sleeve of her black 3abaya, staring intently at her colorless nails and the wad of stuffed tissue between her fingers. She refused to raise her head up, refused to let her eyes look at the mourning women around her. She focused all her thoughts on counting the breaths that were coming out of her constrained chest. The air hurt her deeply as it moved up through her swollen lungs and out of her reddened nose, and she swallowed deeply as the next gust of air made its way down her throat. She had spent the night before screaming hysterically, so much that she couldn’t speak now, even if by any miracle she had finally found something to say.
Her hands were no longer part of her body as they fidgeted by themselves playing with the crumpled up moist tissue, moving it from one hand to the other, then tearing it into smaller pieces. Her eyes, in fear of meeting the gaze of one particular person, managed to remain focused downward and blurred to the extent that she could barely make out the shape of her hands or their color. Her feet, like concrete, surrendered themselves leaving only the chair she was sitting on to hold her up. And her heart…her heart pounded softly inside her chest; but every few minutes, Zeina would remember the image or the voice of the person she would no longer see again, and it would stop beating for what to Zeina felt like an eternity, instead it began to stretch itself until it felt like it was beginning to tear right through the middle. It was during these moments that Zeina using whatever power she had left would stifle a scream of agony. It was the repeated tearing of her heart that had kept her up all night.
A hand touched Zeina’s arm then found its way to her waist raising her up slowly from her seat.
“Goomay 7abeebti” A voice spoke at her side, Zeina continued looking down as she was dragged towards a woman, a woman who maybe was one of a handful that was in more misery than Zeina. She didn’t look up as she gasped for breath between cries. She would raise a hand holding a tissue in it and would spread it across her face wiping her eyes and nose but in no way reducing the tears, as more poured down to replace them.
Zeina bent down to kissed the older woman’s forehead shaking as she tried to gain control of herself. As they made their way out of the crowded room a young woman made her way towards them. Her face registered more shock and confusion than anyone in the room; it was as if she was horrified by the people around her and was about to make a run for it. She hugged Zeina tightly and Zeina heard her let out a sob as she reached for her hand and pulled her into another room. Zeina, who was unable to force her body to do anything let herself be dragged wherever the woman wanted her to be. Once in the other room the woman bent her beautiful face down and began to cry openly as she bent down to pick up a large black bag. She lifted it up hugging it tightly, more cries escaping her and pushed it against Zeina’s body. Zeina hugged it back feebly still not meeting the woman’s gaze.
The same arm as before put itself around Zeina and led her outside to a parked car; the door was opened for her and she was pushed slightly into the seat. She sat there motionless; the bag unopened her in lap. Zeina had no idea how long the car ride had been, she had no idea what time it was or what she was wearing underneath her black envelope of death. Once the car had come to a stop, the arm came out and guided her back inside; Zeina hugged the bag to her chest as she made her way upstairs to her bedroom.
Sliding the door opened she looked inside, things were thrown everywhere, things she had broken in her hysteria from the night before were moved and the bed was somewhat made. Her mother finally let down her arm and tried to look at her daughter’s face but Zeina concealed it turning away. She knew that if her mother saw her face she would start to cry and that was a sound Zeina could not hear right now. She walked to the edge of the bed and sat on it, staring down and hugging the bag rocking slowly.
She heard a soft click as the door of her bedroom was shut leaving her alone in the dark. Sliding off of the edge and onto the floor she began opening the bag slowly pulling the first thing out of it.
It was Faisal’s University of San Francisco sweater; it was what he would wear whenever he had a big business meeting to prepare for, he had said that it reminded him of his university years when he crammed for exams. Zeina stared down at the gray piece of clothing, running her fingers over the letters. She lay it down slowly onto her lap and looked deeper into the bag pulling out a large envelope, ripping the top off she poured its contents out on top of the sweater; dozens of small pictures of her and Faisal scattered over it. They included some of the few pictures Zeina and Fai9al had taken together along with some of him by himself. She refused to look at any of them directly and began to push them aside reaching her hand back into the bag. She touched nothing but air realizing slowly that the bag was empty.
All she had left from Fai9al were the things scattered around her. She slowly reached for her mobile and began dialing a number and within seconds she heard it ring, “Hi it’s Fai9al, I’m not in the office right now, please leave a message…” The machine in his office spoke to her.
This was how she would hear his voice for the very last time.