Mumina knew Djibouti was a hot country but it wasn’t until July that she understood. Humidity settled over the city like a wet blanket, sometimes she struggled to catch her breath after climbing a few stairs. Her clothes were soaked with sweat constantly and she developed the red, prickly bumps of heat rash on the back of her neck and across her shoulders.
Bashir often visited in the evenings and Zaynab ordered Mumina to stay in her room. Eventually Mumina saved enough money to buy a pair of tennis shoes, baggy sports pants and a t-shirt. She couldn’t bring herself to use the money she had found and was afraid someone would see her digging it out, or wonder why she had American cash. Rather than sitting on the floor staring at Djibouti television, the moment Bashir walked in the door, Mumina pulled on her shoes and went jogging.
Mumina rose before sunrise to get to Peltier on time. She worked until after makhriib with a short break at noon for lunch and prayers, six days a week. Other cleaning women went home over the lunch hour but Bashir was often at Zaynab’s house and she was trying to honor Zaynab’s command to avoid him.
In the few days she remained with Rashid and Ahmed, Bashir never let her leave his sight. He claimed the hospital didn’t have many patients and that he was in need of a vacation. While he watched television, Mumina continued cleaning, cooking and avoiding eye contact with Rashid who took every opportunity to touch her. He brushed his fingers against hers when she took his dirty plate and stood too close when he pressed twenty-five franc into her palm for bread.
Mumina only saw Bashir at meal times over the next week. He would ask how her leg was healing as she served him sugo and salad with beets and hard-boiled eggs. She didn’t speak with Rashid or Ahmed but felt their eyes on her as she cooked and cleaned according to Nicmo, Ahmed’s wife’s, strict orders.