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Mizna, Volume 9, Issue 2
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This was the second one. The first one had lied to her. Faiza sat down on the floor and stared at the yellow flowered wallpaper. The tile beneath her was cold, and the heat in the apartment wouldn't be turned on for a few weeks. Even when it was on, the tiny bathroom was always cold. She hugged her hands around her body to stay warm. Just another minute, and then she'd know.

She'd been afraid to go to the doctor. He was a family friend and he was sure to call her mother. Then everyone would know her shame. Hamid had already said they could not afford a second child. A second child would break them. Their shame.

From the window she hears the street below coming awake. A garbage truck drives past. A cat screeches out of the way as a hose is turned on to wash down the litter from the street into the gutter. Footsteps hurry along the pavement. Someone is late. The bell from the halal deli rings as the door is opened. Ali. Odors waft through the window down to the floor where she sits. The smell of fresh baking bread. The smell of rotting garbage from the truck. The smell of a washed-down street. Clean street smells.

She is alone.

She glances at the watch and knows it is time. She stands and reads. In the tiny window, the blue cross reflects off the white paper.

It is not a lie.



He will not look at her. He leaves untouched the food that she has cooked. He walks into the other room to hold Maysa, the two-year- old. He stares at the television but does not see it. He is silent, but she knows he wonders how this could have happened. How had she let this happen? His silence startles the house.



She wakes and walks into the bathroom and shuts the door so he cannot see her. The water in the faucet is cold to her touch. She watches as the water fills the tub and then slips out of her simple white nightgown and into the bath water. She washes her body, her hands, feet, and her stomach, massaging the area in slow circles with the soapy washcloth. She then sinks below the surface, allowing the water to cover and wash over her before she steps out of the bath and wraps herself in a white towel. She lies down on the cold tile and draws the towel around her. It covers all of her, except her eyes. It will not cover her eyes.

She is on the street. She is alone. The autumn leaves crunch noiselessly beneath her feet as she walks by the statue of the weeping Jesus. The church courtyard is empty. She walks on. As she approaches the building, a woman dressed in a black raincoat hurries toward her and thrusts a piece of paper into her hand. The woman does not look at her. Faiza does not look at the woman, or the piece of paper, but lets it drift from her hand to the pavement beneath her. It floats for a moment, mid-air, caught by the wind, and then drifts away, toward another woman walking toward the building.

On the paper, there is a picture of a bloody baby.

At the doorway, she follows the yellow-vested woman upstairs to a room near the back. As she enters, many pairs of eyes stare at her, but do not see her. She stares back at the many pairs of eyes, but does not see them. A woman at the front gives her a clipboard and she sits to put her name onto the paper. The woman then gives her a number. She no longer has a name.

The number is called. She undresses and lies on the table. She feels desperate. If the baby were in her arms she would hold it and run away. But it is inside her and must come out. Nine months or this. She cannot give her blood away. She would rather see it spilled.

Two women enter, dressed in white lab coats. She wonders if these women have ever lain on this table. She wants to ask them but is afraid to. It would be impolite. They tell her what she is feeling is normal.

Their gloved hands are cold, but reassuring. They nod and smile; they know their words would hurt too much. Her tears wet the white cloth beneath her and her blood stains the gown. She is told that this is normal. The sounds of vacuuming fill her ears and she thinks of Ab, always bent over her carpets with the DustBuster.

The baby is covered in cloth and taken away. She wants to hold the baby but is afraid to ask. It would be impolite.

The white lab coats tell her to lie there for a few minutes, then she can go home. She is told the pain she feels is normal. She stares at the white ceiling. She feels light, and happy for a moment, until she remembers.

A nurse brings her a chocolate and some tea. She drinks the tea, but leaves the chocolate. She does not deserve it.

She dresses and walks back into the room with the many pairs of eyes. She carries in her hand a brown paper sack filled with medicine. The pairs of eyes stare at the bag, but not at her. She walks to the front where she is again handed a clipboard. She is told to write her name. She is no longer a number.

She is on the street again. The paper that she let fall from her hand has drifted away. As she walks by the church, she can see a group of children playing hide-and-go-seek in the church courtyard.

A little girl hides behind the weeping Jesus.

She crosses the street.
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Mizna is a Twin Cities non-profit arts organization that promotes contemporary expressions of Arab American culture. We publish the literary journal Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, produce the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, and offer varied other readings, performances, art projects, and community events involving an exceptionally talented and diverse range of local, national, and international Arab American artists.

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