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                           The top picture is me and a couple of my walking buddies

My father’s words touched a chord within me and while I knew he meant well, a familiar irritation welled up and could not be ignored. It was easier to just go along, not make waves and hope to avoid unnecessary altercations. Guilt and shame hid just beneath the surface and masked my frustration at any intervention that might cause a possible eruption. A look of disapproval crossed my face, the standard one that assured him I was steadfastly behind him in every way. The same commands were repeated again and he knew that they were in fact a warning not a mere request. Although the money was a gift he wanted to see a new stroller, vacuum and other items for the children before they returned to the United States. He handed him a check for $5,000 and shook his hand.

A daily walk with compound friends had become a new ritual and helped to shed the pounds that had stacked on through seven pregnancies. Ladies clad in sports bras, shorts and tshirts all took to the loop and made their way past homes, security gate and mini mart. People had come to know me well and most looked past a long black abaya and scarf that was held together by a yellow ducky diaper pin.  At first they invited me and then insisted that I join them.

The stroller I had purchased before leaving the United States was now barely operable and teetered back and forth on what remained of wheels that kept it in an upright position. I laughed and pushed, talking and joking ignoring the scratch and scrape when hands gave out and I was unable to support the weight of two toddlers. I hopped and danced moving forward hoping no one noticed these peculiarities that presented themselves during each and every walk.

A single pair of black canvas shoes were now worn beyond repair and had been purchased five years early before leaving for Saudi.  The souls of my feet touched the pavement giving way to burning heat that created a strange and awkward gait. Mom and Dad sat on the porch reading the paper and sipping coffee, watching me make my way past, looking torn.

He pounded his fist three times gaining force and momentum with every blow.  A single vein protruded from his forehead and intersected with a childhood scar. The table wobbled and creaked signaling anxiety and humiliation. His eyes were no longer dark and brown but almost seemed a shade of black. He stammered to release words that would increase in volume with each repetition. His thick accent that had once been charming was now menacing and almost toxic in nature. The message was clear, He would not have any garbage people tell him where to spend his money and now as always it would be my job to walk the tightrope of abuse.

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