They were in their hotel room watching a movie on Netflix when the power went out. Scott had been dozing on the bed with his eyes half-closed; AJ was occasionally glancing up at the television while texting with someone back in the States. Only the glow of her smart phone enabled her to see anything when the room went dark. She switched on the phone’s flashlight and walked up to the balcony window. The promenade along the ocean was dark, save for the headlights of a few cars cruising by the open-air cafes. She opened the sliding door, stepped out, and listened for a moment. With no music blaring from the cafés, she was suddenly aware of the sound of waves from the Mediterranean as they broke and surged across the wide sandy beach toward the hotel. She felt scared.
Each class was costing Sarah nearly one hundred Dirham, even if she went to Yoga twice a week. That was nearly thirty dollars an hour. She could imagine Arnold’s look of disapproval at her indulgence, but keeping in shape made her feel better about living in a city surrounded by desert. Sarah couldn’t go running in the humid evening like her boyfriend.
She stole a glance in the mirrored walls of the all-women fitness club. Most of the other members were in much worse shape than she was. It wasn’t their fault; some Arabian women barely got out of the house. But, the instructor helped them much more than her.
Four days after I moved with my family from Mumbai, India, to Cleveland, Ohio, I picked up the phone to order pizza. I had eaten pizza twice before in Mumbai–at a small eatery that served a spicy-sweet sauce and cheese on a six-inch pizza base. (This happened over twenty years ago. In 2021 pizza is widely available in India.) But now in Cleveland, I couldn’t wait to try the exotic version I’d seen in American TV shows and comic books.
I dialed a number from a flyer that had come in the mail. “Hello, I would like to order pizza.”
“Sure,” said a young male voice at the other end. “You have Q-pins?”
The queue at the foodbank is even longer than usual. Recent events have hit people hard; so many lost jobs and reduced incomes taking their toll on local families. According to Twitter, the number of people needing to use this particular foodbank has more than quadrupled in the past three months and the size of the queue would seem to bear that out. They put out a tweet this afternoon – we are running out of food, please come down and donate what you can.
They will let you out through a dark corner,
after putting you in spaces you do not inhabit,
spaces you would never occupy.
They will let you out Mansir;
into a virtual space far from home.
I hate to say the word.
Can only write it down.
It’s another name for nothingness,
this thing I fear.