. “Where are you going looking like that?” Riyaq asked putting her hands on her hips like firm and angry mothers are known to do. “none of your concern.” Dunia said smiling at Riyaq. They both giggled. “shh, hush now you are going to wake the guard” she said while dragging Riyaq in the room. Riyaq hurried in the room, looked behind her to make sure no one was sneaking around the halls ways, then she closed the door. Dunia looked much younger lately. She started using turmeric on her face both hands and feet every Thursday morning. She would then take a long shower and wash her hair with rose water. On Friday morning she would use thick coal eyeliner to line her eyes perfectly. She then would use uunsi Amber resin, it is the solid perfume that Somali women are known to use. Dunia places the amber resin on a charcoal tablet, burning the uunsi, she then would place her hand-sized charcoal tabled under her scarf on both sides and under her dress. Every Friday anyone who passed by her room could smell the sweet aroma of uunsi.
Ever since Dunia heard that Ali-Asbro started to pray in the Mosque near her house, she decided to join a small group of women who prepared food every Friday to bring food and juices to the Mosque. After the Friday prayer youth and those who didn’t afford a decent meal would enjoy homemade food. “you know it is Sadakah is it is charity work and we are obligated to do charity work and give from what every we have.” Dunia was good at convincing herself why she had to go and deliver the food herself. Of course, the men and women’s prayer room are separated, but she would wait. After the prayer, oh yeah she too prayed in the Mosque every Friday. She was scolded for doing so because all though the women have their won prayer room they were not obligated to go and if her guardians decide she can’t go, she can’t. Dunia was lucky because she was still under her estranged husband’s responsibility which made it hard for her brothers to forbid her from going to the Mosque.
after the Jumma prayer, Dunia would sit a bit longer. and hold her palms out to pray. “ya Allah, please forgive me, forgive my wicked heart. forgive my weak heart. Ya Allah I pray may you have mercy on me, have mercy on him too ya Rabb.” She would pray for Ali. She wishes him well, but she still could not imagine losing him again. She wanted him to settle down, to marry and have kids of his own, and she prayed for him to find peace and a peaceful wife. But deep down she wishes for a miracle to untie her from her bond of marriage to her estranged husband. She wished she somehow could be young again and without a burden or burn marks on her face. But he doesn’t mind my burn marks, he said I am beautiful still. “Oh, Allah forgive me for thinking of him while I should be thinking of the hereafter, forgive my weak heart ya Rabb,” she mumbled and sat back. The mosque was old, not too big but big enough to hold about fifty women. Dunia runs her fingers through the rug. it must be a Persian carpet she thought to herself. Here wrapped in her oversize hijab that covered her head to toe, she felt safe. the ground was firm yet soft. The thick Persian rug was perfect. She saw some women go out of the prayer lines and lay on their sides stretching their arms. Some women read the Qur’an out loud, while young girls sat on a corner and talked in whispers. Dunia felt at peace. I wish I could feel like this when I pray at home. She mumbled and got up. She had to go.
While she was looking for her shoes she heard an elderly say, “there is food today too sisters, if you don’t have children to go home to or, want something to eat please stay.” Dunia heard the small sighs and blessings that came out of some of the women.
She smiled and went out of the Mosque. And as she expected, Ali was in the hallway washing his hands. He was looking at her direction now and then, when she came out he stopped pouring water on his hand. He looked at her for the minute they had, and she returned the favour. we are just looking at each other so why do I feel exposed? Dunia touched her throat trying to breathe better. He gestured something. He held his one palm covering one side of his face then he took the hand. He did the same thing twice. what are you doing Ali? we don’t have time to waste, sit still let my eyes capture you so I may go with a fresh memory of your face. Then she suddenly realized that she was doing the same thing, she was covering the side of her face which was burned. Something she has been doing for many years. She got used to it. So, she let go of the hijab that was hiding the side of her face. Ali smiled. She could see all his teeth. She smiled back, as she was about to cover her face again, he took out his pointing finger and said NO very quietly, but firmly. She smiled and let go again. For a moment they did not care what people would say if they saw them lusting and laughing at each other. In the heat of the moment, she wished she was a little girl again.
Ali watched the love of his life standing far from him. three elephants could fill the distance between us. But he was happy to see her. She wore a blue hijab. Blue like the sky and the ocean and like your heart Dunia. He asked her to elope with him and for a moment he was sure she was going to say yes. Instead, she pushed him away and reminded him about the first time they tried to elope. “our destiny is sealed my love, you and I aren’t meant to be.” oh he hated her for saying that. But he loved her more than he hated the harsh truthful words that came out of her lips. He was never the lucky one. His own mother did not want to keep him after giving birth to him, why would destiny do him any favor and blow Dunia to his way? Dunia her name meant The World, but that was not fair. It was not fair that such a tiny human being was given such a heavy name. “you kind of did your name justice, you are a world of wonders.” He had said to her on one of the times they had a moment to speak alone behind her house.
He knew she hated to sneak around like that, and he knew he was being selfish for coming around her house because if he was near, she would find a way to get out of the house just to see him. He was being selfish but what was she? All Ali cared about was seeing her, all though she told him over and over again “move on Ali” But how could he? He found it impossible to settle down. All his life he had compared every girl and woman he had met to Dunia. But no one came close, because only she was his dunia his world. And now that you are finally right in front of me, you are not mine to hold therefore you are very far away from me Dunia. Ali spoke to Dunia from his heart. And he could see it in her eyes that she understood what was being said she looked down at her feet. then turned around to walk away. But he didn’t want her to leave with a sad face. “tsss tss” he whispered, she slowly turned around, he stuck out his tongue like a kid and crossed his eyes, then said “eeaah eeeah” He sounded like a real donkey. Dunia laughed. “who’s Donkey got in the mosque?” a man yelled, which made Dunia make a run for it. She felt silly running away like a child does when caught misbehaving.
She slowed down as soon as she got around the corner before she reached the kiosks and Tea ladies. There is nothing more embracing than an old lady running around. But I am not old, Ali says I am like a tree. She says to herself to silence her always critical voice in her head. She looked behind her, Ali must have gone back in the mosque to eat. She knew he had food at home, but this way he could eat a meal she prepared and cooked herself. She smiled by the thought of him eating her colorful rice and suqar. A regretful feeling pierced her in the chest, the face of the girl who taught her how to make this dish was slowly fading away. But she remembers her laughter and how she used to hit the ground with one leg while she laughed loud. “haah Kimina walalo, Alle ku ilali.” May God protect you Kimina my sister, Dunia prayed out loud while she walked past the Kiosk.
The street was quieter than usual. It was friday noon after all, most men were in the Mosque to pray the Friday payer. The tea ladies were making tea, soon men would sit around them and drink hot tea cooked with camel milk. The aroma of sweet chai filled the street. Dunia loved everything about her city, but she loved it even more now that Ali was back in Hargeisa. She remembered one time Ali came to her house to meet her brothers. Ali knew her brother’s were out chewing khat somewhere, yet he came to her house and she welcomed him. The watchman came in the living room like usual looking greedy and ready to consume whatever sweets and tea Riyaq prepared for the guest. The watchman was only doing his job, yet Dunia felt some animosity towards him. if this man isn’t sitting with you to stand and testify on your behalf one day incase you are accused of adultery, you are doomed. specially when people know about the history between you and Ali. Dunia tried to talk senses to her heart. But the heart has no ears nor eyes. She wondered why on earth Ali’-Asbro still found her beautiful, with all her burn marks, half of her face was ruined. yet you look at me like you did when I was a beautiful little flower. Dunia said in heart while looking at Ali. They sat down in the living room and like usual she told him that her brothers were not in the house and they had not made up their mind about the business proposition he had for them. Ali-Asbro knew that already for she told him the same thing last Wednesday and the Wednesday before that. The Watchman sat on the sofa waiting eagerly for the plate of sweets. Riyaq came with a plate full of fresh malawax.
The plate of pancakes looked and smelled extra delicious that day. The watchman excused himself to sit closer to the dining table and ate until he could not eat anymore. Dunia and Ali sat with a cup of tea in their hands and stared at one another as they exchanged the polite greetings. “how is your father” Ali asked. “he is old,” Dunia replied. “how is your mother and father?” Dunia asked. “they are old” Ali replied. They smiled and kept looking at one another. Their hungry stares were interrupted by the sudden farts that came out of the watchman. Dunia was shocked. She had never heard a grown man fart in front of her before. Excuse me said the watchman and ran out of the dining room holding his back with both hands.
Ali and Dunia started laughing after hearing the watchman yell “out of my way kids out of my way.”
Riyaq came in and took the plate of pancakes away. “huuh” Dunia said wiping tears away, “we have not had the pancakes yet Riyaq” she said while still laughing. Riyaq took the plate anyway and said, “they are cold, I will bring you warm ones.” Dunia looked at Riyaq surprised. Riyaq was the type to insist people to eat and finish their food what was she up to. As Riyaq was walking away with the plate she gave Dunia a wink.
“ehem” Ali said and got up from his seat, he came around to sit next to Dunia. “I saw Riyaq wink at you, so I am guessing there is no need to have a huge table between us.” we are sitting on the same sofa, but three people could fill the distance between us. Ali said in his heart. “Dunia you are so beautiful, would you please stop hiding your face from me?” Ali said while he scooped a bit closer to her. now two people can fill the space between us.
Dunia was very uncomfortable but relaxed when she saw Riyaq standing at the door with her back turned to them. She was making sure to tell them if the watchman was coming back. “why don’t find a young girl to marry and settle down Ali?” Dunia said while putting down her cup on the table. “I am old, and still legally married.” she added. Ali scooped a bit closer to her. now only one person can sit between us. “you are not old, you are like a big tree.” he said to her. A tree? did he just call me fat and old? she reached out to slap him, but he was quick. He grabbed her hand and kissed it sending chills, she got goosebumps, “would you sit under a tree that is young? with no branches or leaves to shield you from the sun ya Dunia?” Ali said. Dunia got teary-eyed. This man, her heart still belonged to this man ever since the first time their hands touched and their eyes met one faithful day. It was a forbidden love, it was dangerous, their love grew like a wild flower that kept on growing despite the heat and dried up land it was planted in. They sat there quiet, both silent staring at each other.
Ali rubbed his head he had the terrible headache that haunted him since he was a teenager. “I need to take aspirin and sleep off the headache, I won’t come again next Wednesday love, I can’t risk putting you in danger. but I will start praying in the Mosque in your neighborhood, I will ask Allah for a way for us to be.” Ali said and got up.” Dunia stood up to walk him to the door. “take care Ali and please pass my greatings to your parents.” she said and watched him go.
Dunia returned from her trip down memory lane, she found herself standing infront of her house. Instead of feeling relief, she felt anxious and heavy. Where is the peace I felt praying earlier? She took a deep breath before knocking at the gate. Her heart sank to the ground. Her twins were running around a car in the drive way. it was her estranged husband’s car.
Dunia could not help the tears from falling, this must be the day I was born, it must be my birthday it must be the day I was born. Riyaq came running towards her. “why are you crying sister, what happened?” Dunia wiped her tears away. “it is the day my mother died and I was born.” Dunia said taking off her hjiab she didn’t care who was watching, she was aware of the fight ahead and she had to make sure her hair was not going to be in her way. They had a deal, the old man was supposed to be happily married to his young wife and stay away from her house. But her destiny was sealed. The tribulations of life were never ending.
“I am not sure if I love you anymore Madka, but you are my children’s father:” and I have no were else to go or to run to. Kimina was sitting in the dark hut. Madka-Kher was supposed to be away for two more days, but he came earlier. and like thief he came sneaking in he middle of the night. Kimina was at first scared by the sight of a man standing over her while she was asleep with her two kids. She screamed out of terror. “shh it is me” Madka said looking around the hut with a torch. “Madka? oh Madka” Kimina started sobbing relieved to have her husband back home. She wanted to tell him of the horror she endured while he was gone, but seeing Madka with a torch looking around the hut, confused her. “macanow my love, what are you looking for? acudubilah” She rebuked the devil as she stood up to look around the hut as well. “who was here? who was the man who was here?” Madka asked still looking around. “a man? acudubilahi mina sheydani rajim” Kimina rebuked the devil again. “who is the man my brother saw in here?” Madka-Kher asked still looking around the little hut. Kimina froze, “your brother? which brother?” but she knew who he was talking about.
He was talking about the same brother who came into her hut two night ago and tried to force her and to do things a brother should never ever wish to do any woman let alone his sister-in-law. Kimina felt nauseous she felt sick to her stomach. Her own husband was now suspecting her of doing dirty deeds. “Madka? is this really you?” Kimina asked falling down to her knees. She felt anything but love for him that very moment. She felt anything but loved. And she knew if she dared tell him what his brother attempted to do to her, she was going to end up alone again but this time she had two kids and one more on the way. Where was she going to go? who was going to house a pregnant divorcee for the third time by the same man with two children? you are lucky if they let you go with your kids this time. Her mother-in-law who used to hate both Kimina and her kids, started spending awfully a lot of time with her son lately. She bought candies for him and kept him with her through the day. At first Kimina was glad to see that her stepmother was being a good grandmother to her son, but she soon found out that she was still hated and unwelcome. Her five year old son started saying he loved his grandmother more than her when ever she was setting boundaries.
“Madka, there was no man here but your son.” and your brother who tried to rape me but you won’t believe me if I tell you that now, will you?
“I am sorry my love, I am sure he thought he saw someone.” Madka said and tried to hug her. Kimina pushed him away. “so you taught I was a malaya? a whore? right?” Kimina said pushing him away. “I am not sure if I love you anymore Madka but you are my children’s father.” Kimina laid by her daughter turning her back to Madka she pretended to go back to sleep. She wished she had never met him, never met Madka-Kher. She wished she had never set her foot in Mogadhisu. I wish that the fisherman had left me to die in the river that day. Kimina let the tears run down her face. she felt the baby in her womb kick. Her destiny was sealed. The tribulations of life were never ending.