the short story project


Shadi Shaad

One Last Glance

It was half-past midnight, March 22, 2012. A typical quiet chilly Spring night. You could smell the scent of citrus in the whole city. The sky was clear and the tiny silver moon was shining bright. All the neighbours were asleep and there was no car in the street. That was why dragging my last suitcase on the asphalt sounded ridiculously loud. We were late for our flight. My mother and I put all the luggage in the taxi and went up for the final check to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind. For me more than a double check it was the last chance to say goodbye to our house; for my mother, however, it was an excuse to follow me to make sure I wouldn’t hide inside the house until we miss our flight. I quickly walked all around the house and my mother stayed at the door and held it open. She said, “Look carefully and make sure you take everything you might want later, probably you will never come back.” I did exactly what she told me to do, even though it sounded very cruel and unnecessary. My mother is forcing me to leave my country and go to Canada, despite my fear and disagreement, because she thinks I will be happy there forever, and now she is saying that I can’t even come back!


I looked back. The last glance, and scanned the whole house. It was looking beautiful, white stone flooring, recently painted walls, a cover on all the furniture, a clean huge dining table which usually had been covered with my books and snacks, hence, I had never known how elegant it was. Ah.. and my empty room at the end of the hall. I wanted to take everything in that house with me; my piano, my comfy pillow which I had since I was 7, all the clothes in the closets and my little wooden horse statue! But it was impossible to fit them in a suitcase. I was thinking about all these when suddenly I felt that the anxiety came back again; the one which attacked me at least 10 times for the past few weeks. I could hear my heartbeats. I started to sweat from head to toe. It was almost a panic attack. I closed my eyes and began to countdown from five to one. I had learned it from the TV show “Lost”. I decided to focus on my breathe and started counting. I wanted to countdown from 5, and when I got to 1 then open my eyes and push the fear out of my body. Ok, 5, 4, 3, 2,…. 1! But then I kept my eyes closed and reached for the door; I pushed my mother away and started to touch the door like a blind person to find the doorknob. I was very nervous because I knew if I opened my eyes and saw my wooden horse statue, which would bring me luck, again I wouldn’t leave at all. How complicated we, humans, are! How come all of a sudden that statue became the most wanted thing in my life? Perhaps my brain started to give me errors before shutting down completely.


When I finally found the doorknob, I closed the door very viciously that the reflection of the noise shook all the windows. I opened my eyes and saw my mother was looking at me with her eyes wide open. Usually, she would ask too many questions but for an unknown reason this time she realized that she had to be silent and let me do my thing. She was just looking at me with her sad eyes. I started to look for my keys in my purse with my shaky hands. I was breathing loudly and talking to myself. My mother was still quiet, when I shouted, “Where the hell are the keys?”  she said, “In your hand!.” I locked the door and started to walk; I had to go as fast as I could before I started to cry out loud like a 2-year-old kid.



The taxi driver was looking at my mother and me in the mirror. I think he felt our stress  and wanted to say something to ease the tension; so he asked, “Would you like me to turn the radio on so we can listen to music?” my mother said, “Do whatever you like, we are okay with the silent and music both.” Then the driver asked, “Which country are you going to?” my mother replied, “Canada.” “Good for you! are you going to stay there?” the driver asked again. I said, “ We don’t know yet” but my mother raised her voice and said I might come back but my daughter is going to stay. It took us almost 9 years to get her visa.” The taxi driver looked at me in the mirror and said, “Don’t come back my dear; this country has no future. The whole Middle East is getting unsafe. There is no future here for you, but I have heard in Canada even if you are just a waitress you can make enough money to pay for your rent and food plus they give you money to travel and buy clothes. Here if you find a good job which is very unlikely, you wouldn’t be able to have a good life.” “I know sir, but it is not easy to live there. I had a good job here. I am too old to immigrate to another country. I just wanted to travel and see if I like Canada then decide, but my mother sold all my belongings and even my bed! She is kicking me out! My family is kicking me out! they want to get rid of me.” I said not wishing to come across as rude or ungrateful. My mother nervously laughed and said, “Are you serious?!” Then she turned and pulled down the window and looked out.


No one said anything for a long time. The taxi driver turned up the music to break the awkward silence. After about 5 minutes he lowered the volume again and said, “I am sure that your family wants you to stay even more than you do. You don’t understand their love. They want you to have a good life. This country is not a place to live anymore. If I could send my daughter to Canada or US I would do that, but God damn me I have no money!” then he raised the volume again; it was like he wanted to cry.


After another long silence, my mother suddenly looked at me to see if I am awake. I had been laying my head against the window of the back seat the whole time and looking at the road, but when she started to look at me for a while I turned my head to see what she wanted to do. For the past few weeks, we only fought or talked about the trip. My mother sold everything except my clothes and books, without my permission, therefore, I spent most of that month in my friends’ houses and I slept on their couches. Now whatever she wanted to say it would be awkward.


When my mother saw that I was awake, she said, “I used every penny of that money to buy your ticket and whatever that was needed for your trip. Do you have any idea how expensive your ticket was?”. “Yes! I bought it online and used your bank card! The problem is that you should have asked me first! What you did was rude!” I shouted. “One day you will thank me for doing that” she answered fiercely. I looked back at the road and saw the airplanes flying above us. I clasped my hand and started to wish for the ride to take longer. I was hoping that the driver gets lost and we get to the airport late. If we miss the flight like that it will be the driver’s fault and not mine.


When we arrived at the airport it was very late; less than an hour to the boarding time which was too late for an international flight. The gate was closed but thank God that a friendly man came and helped us to check-in. We had to RUN. The panic attack came back. It wasn’t how I had imagined my departure. In most of the movies that I had watched when someone wanted to leave a country, the friends and family would go to the airport with flowers. They all would hug the traveller and cry, also they would wave to her until she gets to the departure lounge. But the problem was that all of our family and friends had left the country before us. We had gone to the airport for each of them and cried; now that it was our turn no one was left to cry for us! If I knew that I supposed to leave like this, I would have left the country before them.


In the middle of running, I looked back for a few seconds. The people in this country are so beautiful! Why didn’t I know that? They all have beautiful eyes and perfect skin. Oh, wait! That was my brain malfunctioning again. I had to run instead of thinking about beautiful faces. I still had one chance to make it like a movie. When people who are leaving their country sit on an airplane, they sit by the window and lay their head against it. They look down and then the tears slowly slide down their faces. They look at their land until the last minute when the plane crosses the border. I definitely will do that. I have travelled through this rout a few times before. If it is not rainy, then I can see all the beautiful mountains in the north until we get to Turkey’s border; it will be the perfect time for me to put my hand on the window while the tears are coming down my face and say goodbye.


When we went on board I didn’t want to believe my eyes. Our seat was in the middle of the middle row! It was a huge airplane with three seats on one side and then 4 seats in the middle and 3 seats on the other side. My mother and I were in the middle of the 4 seats, in the middle row, and one older man next to me and an older woman next to my mother! I couldn’t even see the window let alone the view outside of the plane. Ok, that was it for me! The end of the world! The man next to me was very big so I had to lean to my left side. His arm was in my seat and he was breathing very loud. This was not how I planned to leave my country at all. No window! No tears shedding while seeing the border of my country! Now that I suppose to leave forever at least I wanted to say a proper goodbye to my land from the sky.


The panic attacked me again. The sweat, heavy chest, heartbeat echoing in my ears, locked jaw and shaky knees. This one was harder than ever. I couldn’t have a heart attack like this. We paid so much for the ticket and it would ruin my mother’s dreams. She had so many plans for my future in Canada. After selling whatever she had plus whatever I had, to pay for the tickets and the rent in Canada I Couldn’t have a stroke in front of her eyes. I just had to accept that I leave everything I have for a better life in a free country. Perhaps, I will come back to my country when I am older. I closed my eyes and focused on my breath, Thank god that I learned this technique from that movie. I close my eyes and when I open them I will just think about the future and all the good things that suppose to happen. I am leaving for the better. 5 4 3 2 ……1.

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