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Empathy

Riyadh 2007

Her eyes were tightly closed, a trickle of blood escaped from pursed lips and made a dripping pattern on the marble floor. I placed my hand on her back trying to ease the throbbing tension but in reality I knew it did little good.  Her tiny frame shook and there was nothing else to be done. There were no prescription tablets, ice packs or specialty foods, this was it. I held her hand and let her squeeze mine, but it was clear she was unable to absorb the unrelenting pounding.  In my desperation I crushed cubes of ice with a mallet and placed them in a cloth, softly holding them on her cheek and jaw. I watched the clock, waiting for seconds to tick away when another dose of tablets could be given. Her head rested against mine and she relaxed for a few moments and then drifted into a chaotic sleep.

The phone did not ring and no inquiries regarding the removal of her wisdom teeth were ever made. He was at the camp where he had worked for months, only returning on weekends. I told myself that he was busy and of course his mind was on our household and he would be calling soon. I was sure he would return a day early as he had numerous times for visits with friends and dinners.

The children played and laughed, free to move about without restriction. It was better this way and it was my job and duty to ease his stress. The phone rang and a wave of guilt washed over me for doubting his commitment to our family. He reminded me regularly that we were his top priority and he worked hard to provide and take care of us. I grabbed the receiver and eagerly answered with the customary greetings. There was a pause and then I heard my mother’s voice. “How is Saleeha”? She listened intently as I recounted our day; a ride provided by the man who owned the falafel shop, dropped off at the dentist for surgical removal of wisdom teeth, a few hours spent in the waiting area and a somewhat complicated procedure with local anesthesia that had been inadequate, followed by a return trip to the villa.  I asked her what else could be done for pain as no medication was provided. She gave some tips for reduction of swelling and let me know that she was there for support any time of day. My father’s unwavering voice added a level of comfort and he assured me that everything would turn out o.k.

Dinner, bedtime and clean up, the evening ended with pain, more bleeding and a desperation that had become normal. No call, no email and no hope that he might come home a day early to help with the situation. The kids were put to bed, more ice was crushed and I took my position on the single bed where I could keep watch overnight.

The next afternoon he walked through the door at the usual time. He smiled, greeting the little ones, laughing and swinging them in the air. I managed a grin knowing that happiness was always required. He watched Saleeha and laughed joyously stepping towards her. I knew it was finally time, he would embrace her, purchase ice cream and inquire about her surgery.  She stood looking gaunt and disheveled, pieces of her curly hair stuck in a sweaty matte on her forehead and tiny spots of blood about her mouth.

He told her she was fine and grabbed each cheek boldly pinching them between his thumb and finger in a back and forth motion. This was life and we should thank God and count our blessings.

 

 

Summer love series-3

This series details the beginning and how I met him. The first two installments can be found here

https://lynzrealcooking.com/2018/06/01/1-summer-love-life-story/

https://lynzrealcooking.com/2018/06/08/summer-love-2/

Pullman 1982

I slid under his arm and rolled to the edge of the bed carefully placing my feet on the floor.  A headache wracked my brain and unsteady balance was evident as I struggled to stuff one leg into rumpled jeans that had been haphazardly discarded the night before.  I had been raised attending church every Sunday, bible camp in summer and youth group as a teen until pressure to” just be like everyone else” collided with alcohol and ended in confusion over self worth, desire and respect. I thought of mother and her disappointment while hopping towards the door. I pulled a shirt and jeans on until teetering finally gave way to collapse. A sigh made its way out of his mouth and then he rolled from side to side eventually settling back into sleep.

A small amount of interest had formed and overshadowed persistent concerns regarding his intentions and sincerity. But he seemed somehow different and had not pressured to be intimate but had pushed to develop a bond of mutual affection. My exit was quick and precise and the door shut quietly behind me.

Events from the previous semester seemed distant and for the first time in a month my mind was in the present not immersed in thoughts of Scott. I vowed that I would never open my heart to anyone again and instead would focus on goals of becoming a jazz vocalist. But there I stood in that tiny apartment next door to my sister’s place sneaking out in the early morning hours.

I knocked with a rap rap pattern, looking in between shabby half closed curtains. The door slowly opened and I crept in positioning myself on the couch in a slumping fashion. I had entered College apartments, number 3 just two doors down from this handsome man five years my senior. He was polite and clean cut, did not drink or smoke and studied engineering at a neighboring University. My sister had become an acquaintance during summer session and felt that he was just what I needed to lighten up and forget the past. Her eyes narrowed and she asked me why I was unwilling to give him a chance. Shoulders shrugged as I poured black coffee into a garage sale mug, placing my feet up on the plywood table. I lit another cigarette and reminded her of dreams and aspirations that needed my complete attention.

 

Cold hard floor

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Riyadh 2006

His words were clear and yet somehow as I dangled between two worlds they meant nothing. In the real and tangible world where grass grew, trees towered and animals walked free, it almost seemed like a game. I played the role of God fearing wife and mother, never stepping over the line. These putrid and abhorrent scenes of humiliation had never surfaced in front of mom and dad. I made sure that everything was “just so” and nothing was amiss on each and every visit. Any concerns over what my parents might say or do were instinctively met with distraction, jibber jabber and a narrow glance that acknowledged my awareness of any potential problem. A much needed household item, groceries that they  purchased and words that might be spoken all topped the list of possible offenses and would be scrutinized during hours of discussion in his room. It was a balance that teetered on the edge of sanity and one that was fiercely guarded.

His voice grew in volume with each question until fury reached its boiling point. I cupped the phone and slid from pad seating on the floor hoping his words were muffled and inaudible. I smiled and tugged at my pants pulling ragged seams together as I walked into the hall, leaving dad to read his paper and sip coffee. Each time he raised his voice I walked further down the hall, inching my way towards the stairs.  The coffee maker steamed and puffed as it processed another full pot. Dad laughed loudly and sighed as crumpled pages were finally stacked in a pile.

I looked to the porch where mom sat basking in the sun, a far cry from winter in Washington. I waved at her and quickly turned towards the stairs not wanting to draw attention.  His voice was persistent and anger built with every question that he posed. I reached the top of the staircase and swiftly made my way to the bathroom.  A new level of fear peaked as his words now seemed unreal. Cursing in our home was prohibited and even Geez, shoot and darn were seen as obscene. I sat near the toilet on the cold bare floor staring at bathtub tiles, listening to words that signaled yet another escalation,  “These are my children, I am the father, they are shit, nothing, nothing, do you understand?”

 

Walk the loop

 

 

Happy Friday everyone. I have had a pretty good week working on the book and balancing other tasks in my life. I have reached a milestone and one for me that is important. I am once again able to take my usual walks without anxiety. 

 

Daily dreams and nightmares seemed to keep company with day time vigils. Locking checking and planning an escape route if it became necessary. I looked through the slider and out onto amazing land that rolled and dipped, dotted by tractors and an occasional pasture. Memories of summer evenings and moonlit drives along the winding Palouse had faded and were replaced by an all-encompassing vision that this was no longer my home.

A faint crunching kept pace with footsteps that at first moved gingerly past brightly colored houses. The stride widened as confidence grew and an increase in speed took over. Bare streets stood in contrast to the distant Palouse, now a brown and white patchwork of snow and fields waiting to be planted. Geese floated giving their customary greeting of honks and a visible formation crossed overhead. Three grain silos marked my favorite scene, one that was viewed daily from the wooden deck he had enlarged just 3 years before. The old red barn held it’s place in the backdrop and was a welcome reminder that we were in farm country. A pristine winter sky engulfed the landscape making it seem endless and I walked the loop without looking back once.

 

Morning villa-1993

I am revising these parts of my book and will share them with you. Last week I posted Nothing on top of nothing 

https://lynzrealcooking.com/2017/08/16/a-update-on-the-book/

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Morning villa

 

A piercing pain roused me from a partial state of sleep and wakefulness. I peered out of one eye to see that things had not changed and were as I remembered them. Ten large boxes had been retrieved from the car-park area, lugged up the stairs and placed along the empty living room wall. Scraps of tape, labels and pieces of cardboard lay strewn along the coarse and ragged carpet.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, allowing my mind to have regrets for a brief instant. I had never authorized such sick and repugnant thoughts, nor had I conceded defeat until this moment. Pain locked my hips and back into a vicious cycle of roll and push, until I reached a crawling position. An intermittent grinding shifted through my stomach, signaling hunger that would no longer abate. My hair was drenched in perspiration, sweat dripped onto the worn brown blanket that had served as a bed for the children and I.

I pulled Foof next to her siblings and prepared to stand, one last glance at the children reassured me that everyone was accounted for. I reminded myself that I was fortunate, even spoiled as he repeatedly stated when the real me dared to surface. I searched for things to be grateful for, an old tattered brown and tan blanket and pillows that had been unwittingly tossed into boxes at the last-minute.

I surveyed the villa in the light of day and surmised that things looked much the same as they had the previous night, every line on the walls, each crack through the plywood and the lack of furniture had not changed.  I felt a sudden twinge of disbelief and bewilderment, building tension gave into pulsing words that could no longer be denied, “I do not have to be the perfect wife”. Repulsion gripped my entire being as I grappled with this foreign and abhorrent concept.  I composed myself and tried to remember that I was a God-fearing, good woman who had duties and responsibilities.

An unwavering resolve took over and I scanned the room for a way to bring cool air into this stagnant space. I reached up towards the brown plastic window and pulled back and forth until it relented. A gentle breeze made its way towards me, mucky sweat dried on my forehead and a momentary relief washed across the room.

The children moved restlessly back and forth, each holding firmly to their position on the bed that had been fashioned from the old brown blanket. It had not occurred to me that we would need food and water until my lips and mouth felt parched and sore. I wandered to the area that looked most like a kitchen and once again saw the sink that stood alone on the opposite wall. No stove, refrigerator or cupboards, no food or water were to be found.

I wiped my face and scoured the room; sure that he had left provisions for the day. A white plastic sack had been overlooked and sat randomly on the counter; five small bottles of warm water and 1 container of melted mango ice cream were the contents.

A update on the book

I have not been around much lately and have missed you all! I have made so many great friends and have been blessed with support and lots of help! To be totally honest I have been struggling for the past few months with OCD, PTSD and severe anxiety. It has been hard to do many things and blogging was unfortunately one of them! I didn’t want to admit this but I feel it could be helpful to others who are in my situation. I am back and hoping to continue blogging and post something each day. I will resume work on my book this coming week. I have revised the first post about moving to Saudi and have put it below. Again, thank you for the support!!!

Love, Lynn

Nothing on top of nothing

The sensation of dead insects crunching underfoot grew more intense as we made our way to the second floor. The odor of pif paf, (bug spray) rancid heat and crumbling tiles permeated the air and would later become a reminder of our year in the villa.

Foof wiggled out of my arms and walked up the last few stairs waving her hands in anticipation. She bravely navigated the steps, gingerly moving among the dead cockroaches, a sight that had terrified her in the car port area where hundreds of desiccated bugs remained after a recent fumigation.

For the previous seven years we had lived in Renton Washington, just one hour south of Seattle in a modest starter home. Odds and ends from friends who returned to their native countries were secured in order to furnish our residence. A tan sectional with bits of loose knobby fiber, 1 queen bed and several worn, pink floral pads were the only furniture that he allowed in our house. I was reminded frequently that we were temporary in this home, country and in this life and until we had a permanent place there was no need for more than rudimentary essentials.

The 25 hour journey wore on my sagging belly, contractions pounded from my abdomen to my lower back.  Mother had warned me about taking such a grueling trip while 8 months pregnant, but I had already delivered 4 babies successfully and needed to make this trip.  A job was waiting and as a dutiful wife and mother I had to follow.

We made our way to the top of the stairs where a large brown door stood before us. It was clear it had been painted a dull brown, most likely hours before we arrived. Two panels met in the middle and overlapped leaving a large crack which would later serve as an entrance for lizards and cockroaches.

He opened the doors and led us into the hall, indoor outdoor rough black carpeting covered each room, and jagged edges met intermittently with tan and brown speckled walls, threads unraveled making the carpet look askew in its placement.  Lines traced the dingy walls highlighting the exact location where a couch, loveseat and table had been positioned, proof that this place had once been inhabited.

A single brown plastic window stood strategically next to a large piece of plywood haphazardly nailed over a gaping hole. This was the space where an air conditioner would be placed but unbeknownst to me it had been declared a forbidden luxury. I stood staring at the desolation of this place, my scarf drenched in sweat; a steady pattern of drips fell down my nose and onto my lips.

The bedrooms appeared to be replicas of every room in the villa, dull carpet, speckled walls and lines where beds, chairs and dressers had once stood. A brown window, gaping hole and ragged plywood replaced air conditioners in each and every room. The stagnant and putrid stench of bug spray was barely noticeable as we searched for beds, blankets and pillows.

One last area remained, and with it the hope that a sleeping area had been arranged for us.  Pink tile, cracked and spackled with darkened grout spread out over the large room. A sink stood directly opposite the door surrounded by a tiny counter. Buzzing could be heard from a fan that circulated air and dust.  I looked around for appliances, food or water, but found nothing on top of nothing.

 

The visit-5

The last time he came was May 2015. This is part 5 of an ongoing story about our lives. You can catch up by looking at The Visit for parts 1-4.

 

Brown paper lunch bags   Apple slices    grapes   a blue plate

Shaky hands picked up bread and stacked it on the coveted plate. This was Foof’s plate or so she said as she argued, grabbing it from See See. Giggles could be heard throughout the lake house until mom stepped in and handed the girls each a plate to take home.  A simple plastic plate. The morning sky hung a lavender and orange painting, casting it’s reflection across what seemed like miles of placid water. Mom scooped coffee from the white jar, making a contrast against the playful blue counters, “Lynnnnnieeee coffees on”.  My mind snapped back to peanut butter and jelly. Three sandwiches, maybe five, two more for the college kids, no Foof would not be going today, would she?  I stacked another 4 slices of bread on the blue plastic plate, home and safety. Should I cut apple slices or wash grapes. The Assembly, Soos won first place for her painting, Idaho. The accomplishment would be recognized, we had to be there. How could we sneak out, humiliation, fear. I stared down at the plate, struggling to remember who I was.

My strong stance against oppression had failed and once again I faced the inevitable conclusion that we were trapped. A sick and infectious feeling took over as we came to grips with our new reality. The days of hiding prohibited food items, clothing and even ideas, crept back with insidious fervor. The incident had not been mentioned, and like the years spent in Saudi it appeared to be another faded page in a life of guarded existence. Thoughts of calling the police were thrown aside and stuck into the category of precarious after weighing the potential outcome and upheaval that was sure to follow. My brain failed to connect the dots, silence and composure were imperative and had served me well for years and so I vowed to walk the tightrope once again.

His usual raucous footsteps were now soft and silent as he walked into the kitchen undetected. He moved closer and smiled trying to capture my attention, greeting me with the standard Arabic phrase- Peace be unto you.   As he inched closer a frantic angst pushed me to wash, rinse and scramble through the morning routine putting an unsettling distance between us. He stayed put, leaning against the counter, watching my every move. He grinned and made small talk as if nothing had happened just the day before. My hands shook uncontrollably as I opened brown paper lunch sacks trying to avoid eye contact. His words hit my senses, emotions spiraled out of control. “Lynn you always choose not to see how much I love you” Total chaos held me together in a pattern of zig zagged pieces. I looked down at the plate, large drops of fluid fell from my eyes, tears or water, sadness.

 

Windows

 

The smell of cinnamon toast light as the butter wafted through the air. I pulled the downy comforter over my shoulders and drifted back to sleep, folding my body into the warmth of home. The room was wrapped in a fragrant bouquet of lavender and Iris, blooming just beyond my reach. Grama Elva stood hanging the wash out to dry, picking clothes pins from her neatly pressed apron pockets, her silver hair arranged in swirls high on her head. A single cloud puffed past a pristine Idaho sky as if to call me back once again.

I peered out of one eye forcing myself to fight jet lag and exhaustion and to face what had now become our new reality. The same rancid smell of fumigation and dead cockroaches greeted me and my mind raced to the night before. I struggled to turn on my side, scooting little Foof away from me and onto a vacant piece of blanket. I moved my hands into a paw like position that would enable me to sit and balance my pregnant belly. Bits and pieces of the night before drifted back, the crunch underfoot, hundreds of dead cockroaches in the parking area, the gaping holes in each room next to single brown plastic windows, but mostly the lack of furniture and basic necessities that had been implied. I slowly stood and straightened out my body, daring to survey what was now our new home. I roamed around the villa in the light of day hoping that I had not seen things clearly upon arrival and that my view had been obstructed by unrealistic dreams of a new and different life. Every line on the walls, each crack through the plywood but more importantly a lack of clean water and food stood glaringly before me.

Tape lay strewn on the black carpet along with shreds of paper towel that had been used as wrapping for odds and ends that had been tucked away into boxes. A large piece of plywood was loosely positioned over a gaping hole, secured with nails where an air conditioner would be placed, but was not.  Light streamed through the cracks that lead to the outside world and a forbidden street plagued with danger. I walked a few steps to loosen up my legs and feet, patterns and blotches from the rough carpeting stung my arms and legs.

The walls were painted a dull beige, specks of brown and darker hues of tan made a dotted pattern over the entire room. Faint lines eerily traced the walls where chairs, couches and an entertainment center had once stood. It signaled a strange surreal atmosphere and highlighted the desperate circumstances in which we now lived. A family much like ours had once walked through these rooms, children sat working on homework and parents watched evening t.v., end tables and possibly a hutch were outlined on the opposite end of the room. Now only 4 small beings lay on the brown blanket that was thrown into one of the boxes at the last minute, a silly notion that such basic necessities might not be provided.

I wandered through the villa looking for any sign that this place was meant for habitation, but not a chair, bed or table were to be found. The kitchen door hung open exposing an empty space tiled in pink, grout stained and smudged. The same brown plastic window and gaping hole held their place high in the corner next to a water heater. At the end of the room stood the only furnishings in the kitchen, a sink surrounded by a counter top. I looked around for any food, water or signs of a real home fit for a family of 6.  A single plastic sack sat on the kitchen counter, inside were 4 small bottles of water and a tiny container of melted mango ice cream.

 

These are pictures that I shared with you back in the beginning of the blog. I was ashamed to show our true living conditions and so I cropped the pictures and showed only parts. Now I am stronger and can share the whole pictures with you.

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Osama and his baby brother

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Our sleeping pads and my first child born in Saudi. Three pads were finally purchased for myself and 5 children.

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Osama goofing around standing on a chair by the counter. The brown window is the type that each room had.

 

Click–True life story

I shut the door and quietly clicked the lock into place, covertly listening for little voices as I moved closer to his bed. He sat upright running his hands over the stubble that marked his balding head. A heavy sigh exited his mouth, he managed a sideways grin as if to say he understood that crazy was now where we resided. He didn’t know how much more he could take of my insolence and rebellion, how to rectify this situation or how to fix my broken and deteriorating condition. I stood before him in a shambles, picking nervously at the jagged skin that now marked my face and hands. I felt that I could no longer remain erect, waves of sick and debilitating weakness made my legs sway and twitch.

Giggles and nervous footsteps made their way past the door, stopping momentarily before moving forward.  I gathered myself together once again and placed my feet firmly on the marble floor. I had struggled for several years now, fighting off rebellion that had been fueled by ugly realization and awareness. My existence had become a regimen of locking, checking, monitoring and daily inquisitions.  I questioned each and every movement, making sure that a small pan had not been placed on a large burner, all legs of the couch were either on the rug or off, curtains were drawn and secured at nightfall and that I was always at the ready, waiting to serve. Old worn work pants hung around my waist, laced with blotches of bleach and cleaners, a tattered shirt that served as pajamas and day time attire was stained with sweat and grime, no frills allowed. I inched my way closer to him as tears fell, at first softly and then in waves of indignant humiliation, hoping to purchase another day of peace and freedom.

True life story–Naivete

Writing a book is hard work! At this point it is a huge mess, pages of miss matched stories and free writing. I am proud that I have stuck to my writing days and to leaving home to get some focus. I thought I would take a break and do a short story for the blog and to attend Senior Salon,  Haddon Musings   This story is set in 2002, when residents of the Western compound were forced to move out. We had lived there for 6 years and it was finally time to leave.

Management made the announcement, residents would need to empty the compound and make other living arrangements. A large sum of money was given to employees and within weeks everyone would be vacating their homes. Neighbors and friends toured various residential facilities and scrambled to find a suitable replacement. He displayed genuine interest and we trailed behind him searching for a new residence. Each day he carted us along to upscale apartments, new homes and modern compounds and insisted that the ultimate decision was in my hands. I naively perused brochures, asked residential managers for advice and thoughtfully prepared for the move.

I tossed the last box onto a stack of ragged cardboard and remembered similar ones that had stood lined along the villa wall years before. This house was a far cry from where we had started, an empty, unfurnished villa in Riyadh. It was also lacking the finishing touches and amenities that we had grown accustomed to on the compound. White rusted bars framed the window and jagged metal wire held pieces of dining room chairs into place. I felt a twinge of guilt remembering my defiant and ungrateful attitude when he chose this place. Although I had learned that voicing my opinion was futile and ultimately brought more anguish to our household, this time a bitter fury spilled out and could no longer be contained. Enough money had been supplied for our family to move to a similar setting but this was seen as a waste and a luxury. I had defiantly and almost mockingly it seemed, accepted his words at face value and when forced to agree with his choice willingly, a resounding opposition rang out. Several days of insubordination were met with fiery silence and warnings of what was to come. I finally conformed and agreed that yes this was surely the best place for our family. Tears welled up as I held the last box, cut the tape and broke it down just as I had for each and every one, but somehow this one was different, unique. It signaled the finality of this move and all that it entailed. We would once again be on our own, living outside of the Western compound that had been our home for the past 6 years.The confines of the compound walls had not only been lacking in our standard isolation, but also inclusive, providing  furniture, mini mart, recreation center and transportation. It was the most normal environment that we had resided in and as Osama solemnly reminded me, we would once again be on our own, left to fend for ourselves.

 

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