Mourning by Christie Barron

She wakes to the sound of sirens and calls out, “Madelyn. Let’s go." 

There is an air of calm as she reaches for her light blue jean cut-offs, slipping them on effortlessly as her eyes slowly adjust to the light. The second time in the last 24 hours she finds herself in the same stairwell waiting to hear the BOOM signaling the interception of the rocket, only this time there are several women huddled together, instead of the previous three, all of them waiting. She recognizes one of the bodies from last time as the woman who wanted to die with all of her disks, as she so eloquently put it. The woman who purported to be an American, though now an Israeli citizen, sat on the stairwell peering behind her gazelle-like expression as though waiting for the perfect opportunity to flee. The two women met in their gaze, exchanging a subtle recognition of distress followed by a polite and nervous smile, knowing that the stairwell was the safest place to be. BOOM. The last one sounded close, too close perhaps. 

The “Iron Dome” they call it. This was the shield that she entrusted to protect her during her stay in Israel. After the suggested ten minute wait time, which she would later come to learn that most no one follows, the women scurried off, hardly saying a word in parting. Just before retreating behind closed doors a few managed to lock eyes before returning back to their lives before the deafening alarm had sounded, which could have almost been mistaken for warmth. Following their lead, she retired back to the couch, which also doubled as her bed, seemingly with ease. With resentment she decided she should check the news, thus laboriously sitting up to grab her computer only to find herself sucked into the vacuous Twitter feeds within seconds. One hundred and sixty characters or less now having so much weight on her impression of a country in which just days ago she felt so free as an individual. This notion of distinction was now wiped clean as her eyes fixated on the word “we.”  With comments like, "we intercepted the rockets" and “the Palestinian death toll in Gaza now stands at 25, with over 100 injured,” her mind fluttered in attempt to make sense of the incoming data. 

Stepping outside in pursuit to find normalcy, perhaps in the warm breeze that she had been able to equate with NYC "summer” air, she observed the army base just across the way from the balcony on which she stood. A young girl in uniform, with long golden hair tied back in a clean pony tail, stands in the parking lot checking her phone, or more likely, the incoming news reports. A few other soldiers congregate around her and then saunter inside. She wonders what they know that she doesn’t, questioning her true desire to know at that moment, and then quickly affirming that she does not. 

Despite knowing she should drink water upon waking, she pours a glass of coffee and sips it slowly still able to taste the cigarettes she smoked last night after not being able to sleep. Within minutes, she finds herself back on the balcony, only this time feeling apprehension in planning her day while battling her desire for more coffee though she had yet to have more than just a few sips. Stay inside and wait for the next siren? Stay and watch the day pass with a view from the balcony and attempt to read? Stay for a bit then return after a trip to the sea? The question of how to “fill” time causes frustration as expectation of productivity set in as the memories of the morning siren slowly fades away, leaving  only remanence of feeling like a prisoner in a foreign land and a slight ringing in her ears. 

In the distance she hears the faint playing of the piano coming from the apartment next door creating a soundtrack for her thoughts as they trail away to recall the stories of the men whom she met in the desert that past weekend. She recounts the purple sign that read, "Holot," the barbed wire, the red picnic tables, and the eyes of the men that told stories all on their own. With each note, another face, another scene, another story came to memory. There was Adam who showed her his foot wondering what injury he had sustained from running, his new found exercise while waiting, waiting to hear not when, but if he will be granted asylum in Israel after fleeing his village. Upon leaving Sudan he recalled his “mommy” telling him to “love everyone” and how he thinks of her every morning while he runs. Then there was Ahmed, who wrote of his experience seeing the Janjaweed storm his village with guns and horses while he was playing a game of cards with his friends. She thinks of Adil, who told his parents that he wanted to continue his studies instead of joining the army and their support of his decision. Next come thoughts of Million’s writing of the time he slept in the shape of a star, sprawled across a bed the night he crossed the border from Egypt into Israel and finally Bashar who wrote of his 6 hour walk through the Sinai Desert and arrival in Saharonim. Flashes of their beautiful faces go through her mind, and then… the alarm. Sounds. Again.

Back into the stairwell she saunters, sliding her bare feet along the cold tile floor. It’s hard to hold on to much here, she thinks as she sat and waited for the boom.