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They’re here. They’re here. Today’s the day. I can’t even cry.
I knew this day was coming, but I don’t feel ready, I won’t ever feel ready. I want to cry, to feel the sticky, salty water dripping down my cheeks. I want to feel something but all I feel is shock.
It’s actually happening.
This is my last moment. My last memory.
I spin around in a slow circle, trying to absorb every aspect of the room, my room. The room that was my sister’s, then my brother’s, then mine. Mine. I want it etched in my memory, engraved in my heart. The dent where my brother pounded his basketball, over and over again. The footprints on the ceiling right above the doorway, from when we used to have a swing-set and would kick as high as we could. The bubbles on the shelf from when we dropped a candle and melted the plastic. So many imprints from our lives, imprints that are meaningless to everyone else. If they don’t care about any of these, why do they want them so badly?
I don’t have time to wonder. I’ve been told I can’t reason with them, I can’t get them to change their minds. They won’t change. They’re in charge. I have no choice. I just have to leave. I have to leave my entire life behind.
I’m not leaving without saying goodbye.
I race out of my room, not letting fear stop me. I know I should be preparing my stuff, readying to leave as soon as I can. I know that’s safer. But to heck with safety, I’m saying goodbye.
I pass the cactus painting on the wall. I remember when we first got it. I was a little girl and desperately wanted it in my room, probably because of the bright colors. Now it sits in the center of our main hallway, and that’s much more fitting for its meaning. I didn’t know the meaning of it back then.
The cactus, even this they want to take from us. The Zionists see it as a symbol of their attachment to the land, but it isn’t.
It’s name, Sabre, means patience. The cactus represents our waiting, our survival, our calluses. Like us, the cactus plant grows back every time the Zionists cut it down. And every spring, we eat its fruit and get stronger.
My mom tells me not to worry. She says we’ll be back. But I don’t believe her. If we were coming back, we would have left earlier like so many other families. Everyone knows that the people who stay, who refuse to leave, are holding on to their last minutes. Everyone knows that the people in our area aren’t coming back anytime soon.
My mom’s been in denial. She likes to pound through, every day.
I can smell the food she cooked this morning. Kubbi bi-siniyee, with some markouk bread to scoop up the meat. I enter the kitchen and my face falls, my shoulders slumping. My mom has been cooking up a storm, making a bunch of dishes and wrapping them each up in their own bowl. It reminds me of a mezzeh, meaning taste, a meal made up of several appetizers rather than one main dish. Even my mom can’t deny it this time.
They call it Operation Hiram. They’re kicking us all out of the Galilee, in one big swoop. They say we’ve had warning, as this is one of the last areas to be evacuated. We say that there’s never enough warning for forced evacuation. It’s something you can’t ever properly prepare for. But I guess we’re gonna try.
I don’t notice when my father enters the room. I’m too busy tracing the lines of the rug in the dining room. This rug has been in the family for generations. The fabric is fraying, the colors fading, but it’s still beautiful, I think.
“Asimah. It is time to go.”
My father is firm. He will not wait for me. Family is precious, and family goes together. We will not split up, no matter what.
I don’t move. I try to tell him that I’m not being disrespectful - my feet refuse to budge. But my mouth refuses to move as well.
“Asimah, alan (now)!”
"????? ????? ?????. ????? ?? ????? ????! Shalom? Amarnu Laezov. Laezov oh Nishtamesh BKoach! (Hello? We said to leave. Leave or we'll use force.)"
“'iinahum huna! (They're here!)”
"?????! Liroot! (Shoot)"
I start running like I never have before. The sound of the shots keeps me going.
Run. Run. Run. Run
I feel something dripping down my leg. I look down and see a trail of blood behind me. Dripping down my leg. Staining my skirt. Drying on my skin, becoming a sticky crusty mess. I keep moving.
I can’t ignore the cries. I try, I really do. But I can’t separate emotions from war. When we become detached, we become monsters. That’s why they’re able to shoot us, to kill us.
I don’t know how long I’ve ran. I don’t know how far. I’ve been running blindly. But I can’t anymore. I never got to say goodbye. I can’t just run, I can’t just leave, without seeing my home once more. So I run, then look back.
Until there’s nothing left to see.
I know we’re not coming back.
I feel a tear sliding down my cheek. Finally.
Wadaeaan, I call. Goodbye ?????.