Dunia sat under the tree by the main road where all the lorries passed by.
Lorries came to the villages carrying sugar and wheat flour sacks. The drivers would often allow travellers to sit in between the sacks and on top of them for some money.
It wasn’t an unusual sight to see men and women sit on top of sacks on a lorry to travel from One Village to another. Dunia was hoping she would do the same.
Busses came through the village too, but they never stopped on the road unless there was an accident.
“Hooyo, cano” the twins were already hungry and wanted to be feed.
While she breastfeeds her daughters she looked around to make sure no one came looking for her. but they would look for me at the Lorry Station and not here in the middle of nowhere beside the road. she thought to herself and exhaled.
She leaned against the tree and closed her eyes. Amongst the bushes and trees, she felt safe, who would have thought that a city girl would survive the life she lived.
“you are a spoilt brat you wouldn’t make it a day in the village” Ali-Asbro would say to mock her.“Ali-Asbo you would be proud of me today if you saw me running in the bushes.” she thought to herself. Why did she suddenly start to think about someone who meant the world to her in her past life?
Dunia opened her eyes and saw her daughters were falling asleep as they each held on to her breast as if they were milk bottles. She looked down at her feet. She did not recognize what she saw. The burn marks were visible but the pain had eased. The man her family entrusted her with was to blame for the burn marks and scars all over her body.
Khalid was not always the cruel man he turned out to be. In Fact, she remembers him being patient with her the first year of their marriage. He didn’t hit her when she cried herself to sleep every night. Nor did he demand her affection. Khalid was much older than Dunia. He was and a widower and a distant relative.
Eheem, her father cleared his throat “Listen Dunia, Khalid is an honourable gentleman with a stable life. He can take care of you.” he said. Her father adored her. She was the youngest and his only daughter. Dunia knew how to reach the soft heart of her father. But that day she saw how her father’s pride in her had turned into disappointment. Yet still, she hoped for the soft side of his heart. “abo, please don’t force me to marry that old man I, I beg” Dunia pleaded. “Quite Naya, you dare speak?” her auntie interrupted. She then turned to her brother;
“Hussein, have I not warned You? How many times? How many times did I not tell you that girls need boundaries? You let her run around with her brothers, you treat her like a Princess without discipline.” The fat short lady with colourful attire clapped her hands and shook her head, to emphasize the seriousness of the situation.. “abo, aba, father please” she fell to her knees and held her father’s hands. “ I am so sorry abo, forgive me but please don’t send me away.”
Her father held her shoulders raising her up to her feet he touched her head and said: You were going to marry Khalid next summer, but this, he pauses, this incident demands marriage in haste. He steps back and fixes his shawl laying on one shoulder. His whole attire screams wealth and status.
“So it is settled then,” her auntie says attempting to get up from the golden Persian sofa. And falls back down. One would think that with the weight she carried she wouldn’t bother to add more weight on herself but her auntie never went anywhere without her gold set. Rings and chains. She was short, fat with a round face. She sat with straight back always head up and her tiny nose in the air. She was beautiful and she knew it. She also made sure to remind everyone how tiny she once used to be.
Safiya was a self-made entrepreneur with a successful business in importing and exporting goods. Oouf her aunt grunts; “ well don’t just stand there come and give me a hand” Dunia walks to her and pulls her up with both her hands. “You know, you are not going to be this tall and slim forever when I was your age my waist was as round and tiny as your neck. I used to..” The words coming out of her aunt’s mouth fade away.
Dunia’s mind was thinking about Ali-Asbro. She hoped that he knew that she didn’t change her mind. That only faith had intervened and she was caught running towards the bus station. And how close she was, she could see the red lamps of the last night-time bus out of Hargeisa. She could see him looking around. How she almost called out his name but bites her tongue as the family car out of nowhere parked in front of her. ___________
The soft wind breeze made the trees move drawing Dunia back to the present. Dunia stop thinking about him. She Said to herself but it was too late. The mind was throwing One memory after another.
She missed her childhood home. She missed the smells of homemade food. The noises of the souk in springtime when all fresh greens and fruits would be laid out on display. She missed the loud tea ladies selling chai on Every corner. The mix of cardamom cinnamon and cloves, cooked in a pot of water have their way of creating an unforgettable aroma. The colours of the houses and tall mosques of her City. The laughter of children playing football with balls made out of old magazines and plastic bags stuffed in a sock.
She missed the kindness and love she grew up with. “He is an honourable gentleman” her father had said about the man who burned her legs by throwing flaming hot charcoal at her. He hated her for giving birth only to girls. Their first daughter was only weeks old when God took her back. Khalid was saddened but got over it quicker than Dunia did.
Khalid started first cussing her when she gave birth to twins both girls. cursing her “puta, I know about your love affair to the filthy bastard who worked for your father.” Khalid said and spat on her face. Dunia was horrified no one has ever cussed at her let alone spit on her. That was utterly the highest form of disrespect.
“ I want a son, a son” he would say. For a man who prayed Five times a day one would assume his faith man was stronger than it came off to be. Dunia learned after being married to him a year that he had moved back from Rome after the death of his first wife. He was the one driving when his car crashed into a pole taking away the life of his wife. He later learned she was expecting.
“Be kind to him eddo, my dear he has suffered a great loss” her aunt had said. She was the only visitor Dunia had for over a year. “eddo Why can’t we live back home?” eeheeh; her aunt chuckled, “well silly your husband got a job here. There is plenty of pharmacist in the cities but out here people travel far to get their medications.” Khalid had studied in Rome and had land to his name. He was everything a young bride wished for. But to Dunia he was nothing more than her destiny. “eddo, auntie he hits me when he gets mad” Dunia said hoping her aunt would tell Khalid off.
Instead, her aunt reminded her how lucky she was to have a good husband who takes care of her. “I am surprised he didn’t divorce you after he heard the stunt you pulled while you were given away to him claiming to have fallen in love with that bastard.”
Dunia had no choice but to accept her faith and with time learned to appreciate Khalid. His passion for politics and long conversations he pretended to have with her when he was only dwelling in his own thoughts and the love for his own voice.
He would talk while stroking the green leaves of the Khat he chewed until his cup was empty of tea. Then he would ask for a refill which Dunia gladly did. It gave her the outlet to excuse herself out of his living room.
Dunia your name means the world, but you should be named Nolol, Life my darling for you are my life.” Ali-Asbro was good with words. And normally he would never dream about a girl like Dunia. She was way out of his league. The daughter to one of the well-accomplished men in Hargeisa, who run a Car restoring Station along with side restaurant & café. The customers would bring their cars and sit in the cafe discussing politics and listen to Somali BBC London.
Ali-Asbro was a hard-working young man. He was raised by a mechanic for the Hussein family. The old man found a baby left outside the mosque early one morning when he came to pray salatul fajr at dawn. “subhanAllah, who’s a child is this?” but There was no one in sight. Most People were asleep. The old man took the child to his age wife. Naming the child Ali they believed he was a reward and a blessing for the years of unanswered prayers to conceive an offspring.
It was all my fault, Dunia thought to herself had I not approached him we wouldn’t have fallen for One another. She sat up to lay her daughters on her scarf. They were still asleep while attached to her. Dunia looked around, the green bushes were the perfect cover up with her green grunting attire here amongst the trees she blended in like a chameleon. She wondered why her mind was throwing past memories at her. She had not thought about him for years why suddenly today? and when she was on the run. Perhaps it was Just that. She was on the run. Just like she was the last time she saw him. In her mind played a tune a song Ali-Asbro used to sing to her. She hummed to herself allowing her mind to take her back to simpler times when the young heart of hers used to beat fast by the sound of his voice.
Sida Laba walal ah the inseparable bond
The first time Dunia runaway she was young and in love. She was running towards someone she loved and into life, she saw for herself. This time she was, from someone who was supposed to take care of her. instead he burned her.
Listen, Ali, listen please if I don’t, she pauses stop fidgeting and listen to me Dunia says. “by noon, if I don’t make it to the bus station promise me you won’t come looking for me.” Dunia had said to him.
“So you are saying that you don’t love me and you won’t elope with me to Jigjiga? is that what you are saying,” he said and pushes her away.
“No Maya, wallahi, that is not what I am saying. I love you stop being stubborn Ali, my family will harm you if they found out about us” she said and a close enough to hold his face with both her hands forcing him to look at her. “iso firi Look at me she demanded and look at her he did. And the love they had for one another was enough to feed off for a hundred years. at least that is what he would say. He was indeed good with words.
“The love I have for you can feed you for hundred years quruxley, my beautiful” he would say and start singing his favourite song “sida laba wallahi” Dunia would giggle and ask him to stop. “You sound like a horse stop singing” by that he would continue singing while barfing. Their laughter would be heard and his mother would call him from the One room house he shared with his parents. On the hottest days, he would sleep outside on his madras staring at the sky full of stars at night.
He was shy around the ladies, but Dunia demanded he treats and talks to her like her Brothers when she came along to the Car garage. After dissing One another and him making fun of her chubby upper-class hands. A bond of friendship formed. On One joyful Day in the spirit of Eid, their Eyes met and hearts were exchanged.
“You are a fool” Ali’s father yelled. “Do you know what they will do to you? Now You must leave by tonight and take the bus to Jigjiga my sister has a kiosk she will welcome you.”
Dunia was scared but she kept calm.
“father I love her I will tell Sheikh Hussein myself, I want to marry her.”
“You will not do such” said Dunia and his mother, at once. They looked at each other. And Dunia turned to his mother “Mother, I overheard my father say he found a suitable husband for me. I don’t want to marry that man.” Dunia said looking at her feet.
“You must, you must return to your family.” Ali’s father was furious. He had worked as a mechanic for the Hussein family for over a decade. He had a respectable interaction with the man that did not pass beyond the occasional discussions of the latest dish on politics.
Dunia and Ali agreed to elope despite the warning of his parents. He would go to the bus station first and buy their seats. She would start walking right after the evening maghrib call for prayer ended. It was dark enough for her to walk towards the station without drawing attention to herself. The mind of a 16-year-old tends to believe the world would stop if their heart broke. Therefore she decided to write him a letter in case she did not make it. “Hoyo please, give this to him if I don’t make it tonight,” she said and left it with his mother.
The dust made by the approaching vehicle from distance got Dunia hopeful. She got up picking up her two-year-old twins and tied them with a long fabric. She stepped forward on the road carrying one on the back and one on the front.
Dunia’s hope left her as sudden as it had appeared. The vehicle was not a Lorry and like she expected the bus drove past her as if she were nothing more than the trees she was dressed to look like. ya, Rabb, your milk alone won’t keep them alive. She thought to herself.
But had she not run away with them. Their father would try to burn them alive again and next time he might have not failed. Dunia shivered by the thought of Khalid. She turned back to walk towards the tree.
A sudden squealing loud voice made her turn around to see what it was.
To her surprise, the bus was backing up towards her. She rubs her eyes it truly was coming back. She hurried back up to the road. A girl tilted her head out “Rukkia, abaayo kalay” Rukkia? Oh, the young lady must confuse me with someone else. Dunia thought and stopped.
The girl shouted again “Come on now hurry up” Dunia figured she better pretend to be Rukkia. if I put my head down and then once we are on The bus I can apologize to the girl explaining my situation She said and walked up to the bus. She looked up and saw the girl smiling at her. “Come now Rukkia the driver is not happy with me,” she said from her window seat.
I must really look like this Rukkia. Dunia came on the bus full of passengers. “Here Rukkia Come sits here,” The girl waved to her.
Dunia sat beside the girl who had a baby on her lap. “I am not Rukkia I am sorry” the girl puts her hand on Dunia’s mouth “shhh now, do You want us Both kicked off the bus?” she asked and winked at her.
“Anyone else who has a family member waiting for us in the jungle?” Yelled the driver. He cussed and started the bus. Dunia and the girl burst into laughter looking at each other. “By the way I am Kimina,” said the girl. And I am Dunia. “Dunia, you know it means the world? Beautiful name” says Kimina stroking her sonʼs hair.
Song by Abdi Qadir Hassan Nageye