Haunted


Alicia Ishkhanian

I had buried the journals of grief and the girl with the unwanted accent long ago. Yet, they revived with the bullet sounds and my mom's nail prints on my wrist, head, and waist. They all revived the night I couldn't sleep. Just me and the deafening airplane. And just like that, I remembered the whiteness of the jasmine below our apartment and the blackness of the bomb chalks on our car.

I whispered the goodnights of a cheap country. Countries. Two countries of mine with different bangs but with familiar running-down-the-stairs feelings.

I never finished running.

I never stopped reciting the names. I never stopped counting the dead. My father told us: we were all okay at the age of 11. And then again at the age of 22. We are okay, just stay away from the windows. We are okay, but let’s go downstairs ‘just in case.’ 

I'm okay unless I blink and the images float. I'm okay unless the world feels too narrow… just like the corridors we hide in. Just like the rubble was too narrow for them to breathe under. 

So, I dig the images down to the pits of oblivion and brush off the citric taste of nostalgia and attachment. But I forget myself among them and carry their invisible weights as a daily norm, left only to question the vastness of my mind if it weren't for the soaked footprints of the blast(s). And I live with them as metrics of my life, the before and after, as I try to discover new countries to claim and dream about. I’m okay, but I can't drive, can't shower, can't eat. I’m okay, but I flinch and hold my breath. 

Many things haunt me from the day(s) where the color of the sky depicted the end of the world. The phone calls, my mom’s screams, the fearful voices in the viral videos, the retweeted information about missing persons and available hotel rooms for those who had lost their homes, the sleeping pills, the panic attacks at 5 AM, the sound of sweeping glass, phrases like “I usually go by that road, last minute I decided to turn around,” the absence of the chirping of the birds, the bombings in my cities, the bombings in Beirut… I’m terrified, I’m scared, I’m unsafe… I’m… glad you’re okay. 

Now… let’s pick up where we left off. Isn’t the weather too hot today?