The Runaway- Episode 16
by Luula Jama
Mumina didn’t go back to work that afternoon, after talking with Jama. Her stomach was rolling and she couldn’t stop her hands from shaking. She told her supervisor she was sick and headed for home but she first took a detour to the market downtown to pick up a dirac Zaynab had left at a tailor’s and asked her to pick up.
She thought about telling Jama who she was, that she was the girl he thought had died in the boat, that they were engaged. He might not believe her, how could she prove it? She couldn’t say, “We’re engaged.” He knew she didn’t have an identity card and would probably think she was lying, just to get one via marriage, even a Yemeni card. But how could she keep the truth from him? He was tormented, thinking he had caused two girls to die. And she was starting to think that marriage to Jama didn’t sound so bad after all.
Mumina’s was distracted by imagining marriage to Jama and she didn’t see the man who stepped out from behind the Hamoudi Mosque and started following her. She stopped at a vegetable seller to buy a slice of watermelon and it was when she turned away after receiving her change and the watermelon in a bag that she caught him staring at her. This time there was no mistaking who he was.
It was the captain, Mustafa.
For a moment they both stood, frozen, looking at each other the way they had on the boat. Then Mustafa started toward her and the coins fell from Mumina’s hand. He was within a few meters when she stepped out of her flip-flops and started to run, the bag of watermelon slapping against her thigh. Running barefoot through the market of Djibouti wasn’t quite like running barefoot over the stones and thorns of Somaliland. She felt food squash beneath her feet and leaped over iridescent green puddles. She ducked between stalls, slipping through easily because of her small frame. Mustafa slowed the chase to squeeze through.
They ran through the shoe stalls and entered a section selling women’s clothing. Mustafa was right behind her and Mumina swung the watermelon around in a wide arc. It struck him on the side of the head and he lost his balance, allowing her to escape. She pushed aside dangling scarves and bras and pre-sewn dresses. A bus careened down the street and she leaped to one side. Mustafa was caught off guard by the bus and when she saw he had fallen and lost sight of her for a moment, she turned into an Arab-owned abaya shop.
“Give me a hijab and a niqaam,” she said, panting.
“Which style?” the man asked.
“Doesn’t matter.” Mumina slammed a handful of cash onto the counter, grabbed an abaya hanging from the ceiling and pulled it over her head. She reached for a niqaam from the display case and tied it around her face.
“You forgot your change!” the salesman shouted after her but she darted back out into the alleyway. She didn’t see Mustafa anywhere and climbed onto the first bus she saw.
Inside Zaynab’s kitchen, Mumina popped popcorn and made herself a cup of tea. She sat on the floor and sipped it, burning her tongue. The watermelon was beside her, smashed into liquid in the plastic bag. She leaned her head against the wall and tried to calm her shaking hands.
© Poet Nation 2012