I am Amina Beg, recently turned 16, studying at Dulwich College Beijing. I love theatre and fiction-writing. I strongly believe that with drama, this imagination that you live in becomes a platform for your voice and ideas. This world that is created for you, is a place for you to choose who you would want to be, if you really dare to.
 

 

 

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1st July 2011

Dear Isis,

You were named after the Egyptian Goddess whose duty was to look after the sky. You were supposed to be the Goddess of Health. Yet you had the duty to look after us. The duty to be the Goddess of Marriage. You had the duty to keep the peace.

But now…Isis, that peace is gone, because Ama and Aba keep on fighting. Before they acted as if they were strangers, but now they are always at each other’s throats. Complaining about whose fault it was. Picking rows about their family in-laws. But things have died down now; they’ve become more dry.

I wish you were still here, Isis.

I’m writing to you because… I want to apologise for hurting you, without noticing. I’m sorry for calling you a hassle to deal with. But the problem was me, Isis. I was the one losing my patience. I was the one cursing you for the slightest mistakes that I created.

I’m so sorry…and I want you to know that. I know it will be a long time till I’ll receive your letter.

Love,

Salma Bakir

 

 

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1st July 2011

“How is she doing?” I heard Ama ask on the phone. We were visiting my paternal grandparents, Dada and Dadi plus Aba’s side of the family for the summer. But at that moment we were staying in an Airbnb, since Ama didn’t feel very welcome in Aba’s parents’ house, “Yes, yes, okay, okay that’s good,” Ama replied hurriedly, focusing onto something else, playing with a loose thread on her baggy shirt. “Thanks again for looking after her, Samara, bye!” Her forced smile instantly dropped. The conversation was very brief. Ama put down the phone and returned to her work.

Samara, our housekeeper, would message Ama like this every morning to inform her how Isis was doing. A week before we left for our summer holiday, her ear had started bleeding uncontrollably. We took her to the doctors for a check-up, and it was pronounced to be an ear infection. We didn’t want it to get worse while travelling, so we kept her at home with Samara.

The doctor prescribed her medicine to clear up the infection. The nurse had swabbed around the outside and a little into the inside. I was there as her ear was smothered by the disinfectant. Her shoulders looked as if they were pulled backwards abruptly. It was burning her, the medicine. I remembered her hiss of pain as the medicine was cleaning up the infection. Her shoulders had then hunched over as if they were trying to fold in onto herself. Her eyes shot up with anxiety shown through her dilated pupils. They gave her the injection later, it was written four weeks’ worth of steroids placed into this tube, since Ama, Aba and I wouldn’t be there, because Salma wouldn’t be able to give Isis the medicine because Isis would want to run away from her. She only trusted certain people.

I could see the agony written over her face. Her eyes were screwed shut, every muscle tensed and poised to flee. As the nurse started to move the thin, barely visible needle, near Isis’s shoulder for the injection, she fell silent.

She seemed to be getting better in the days that followed, but was still too weak to come with us. She was quiet, and slept fitfully. I boarded my flight with a promise of coming back for her. She watched us go with a strange look in her eye.

Samara dutifully called us every morning, telling us that she was eating alright, but sleeping more than usual. Ama and Aba had simply waved it off as side effects, and we gave it no more thought. Even though Samara said she was fine, it didn’t feel right to leave Isis alone like that. She was hurting, but had no way of telling us, not when we were half a world away, and when Samara would only be there for a few hours each day.

But they kept on continuing. Shouting at each other, yelling furiously. The phone kept vibrating more frequently with Samara’s texts as their argument had escalated. It was as if this had grown as part of their background, words, just thrown away. Samara was probably just writing how Isis was sleeping too much, but this could have just been caused by the steroids. I tried breaking up Ama and Aba’s argument, telling them that they were acting like children. That they should just grow up and cut it out. But they ignored me. They were better off with a divorce.

Then I stopped and realised, Samara’s texts.

They were too into their own minds, complaining about how mistreated each one of feels in their in-laws’ homes. They were too wrapped into their own argument, it was as if they didn’t have time or space for her. I quickly scrolled up, reading the messages that were sent forty minutes ago: “Isis not touching food/water.”

It was probably the medicine overpowering her. I immediatley replied to Samara, panic rising in both of us. Our messages were short. Rushed. Quick. I sent her the address to the hospital because we forgot to give it to her. Ama and Aba were oblivious to it all. They were constantly murdering each other. It wasn’t fair though, because Aba didn’t really have a choice. It was his family manipulating Ama, controlling her. Just because she’s a woman, Dadi thinks it’s alright to play with her.

Samara had told me she had clenched onto Isis, wrapping her up with her favourite rose-pink towel that Ama gave her to her when she was little. Ama and Aba’s bickering had started to blur out.

Finding a taxi to get to the hospital was difficult, Samara said, because they were mostly occupied. The clock was ticking. Samara was sprinting for her life, rushing out with her ragged breaths, broken up, it was as if her own life was on the line. Every breath was counting.

Finally, Samara got into the cab carrying Isis’s limp body with her. As soon as they reached the clinic, Samara’s feet were pounding against the ground so hard, it was as if Samara’s feet were digging into the concrete, her arms were shaking in fear. Then she had reached the doctors.

Samara told us, that Isis had curled up in her lap. When they had seen the doctor, he checked her heart rate. Samara paused. The doctor paused. Time froze for a few moments and the entire world waited. The doctor made eye contact with Samara. She breathed heavily. She didn’t want to show her eyes that were filled with panic. The doctor looked up at her strangely.

“I’m afraid Isis passed away not too long ago… in her sleep,” he stated.

Samara didn’t speak. She looked at her and stared.

The doctor didn’t want to show it. It was his job to reassure Samara. His eyes told a different story though. It all seemed too overwhelming to understand. He looked at her, blaming Samara for not bringing her sooner. Then I thought, it looked as if we neglected her.

Then I paused. If only I didn’t ignore the phone… would she have had ended up this way?

But he… he prescribed those meds. He told us to that those steroids would look after her. He lied to us, he said they would save her. But they didn’t. They didn’t help her. They made her feel worse. They murdered her…. and so did I … I shouldn’t have interfered with Ama and Aba. I should have just left them, it’s not as if they were going to heal overnight. When I told Ama and Aba, tears were dripping, sliding down our cheeks. I tried fighting them. But fighting just seemed too hard. I hated it when people would cry, it’s a place for people who are weak and can’t bottle up their emotions. I looked up.

I looked up at the mirror and took a good look at myself. Who was I to question? I could see blood-shot eyes, a throbbing throat becoming so sore, so rigid, where I couldn’t feel my nerves anymore. Then I figured it all out, she had died alone. At home.

But I guess he was right at the same time, that inexperienced doctor, because we weren’t there. We just left her on her own. For the first time, only Samara checking up on her, once a day. How careless were we. Maybe she was just lonely. Or maybe it was just the scorching heat of July. The flat’s insulation had just tested her survival.

I wish I had paid more attention. It was Samara’s fault as well, she would come in for an hour in the day and leave, she could have seen that something was up. She wasn’t clear. Then it hit me… those drugs that they prescribed. She had had a reaction; they were burning her, those steroids. The anger damaged our souls so hard, curses were thrown around with our wasteful voices, because they, we…had murdered her.

 

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3rd of July 2011

They wrapped you up in linens and I marvelled at the irony of the situation.  I guess you seemed like a mummy. The funny thing here is, you’re here with me—I’m holding you in my arms, even though you’re at home, in the sky. 

You went back to heaven, where you belonged. I drove you up to the woods, to get away from everything, and get away from how superficial our societyis, and how unfairly things work out, or how we blindly assume that everything will be alright, when in actual fact, reality turns against us.

I wanted to move away from the roars of Ama and Aba. They’ve gotten worse with their fights now, because now you’re gone. We’ve lost you, Isis. They keep on blaming each other for whose fault it was, for not picking up the phone earlier. We lost the one that tied us all together, the one that kept us as a family. We’ve lost the peace at home.  

I headed towards the pond. It was the place where I would go when I couldn’t deal with it all. School. Stress. Our sick world. The pond was refracting light from the sun. I could see my reflection in it. I looked at it, it was as if I was the dead one walking. Beside it, I bent down, looking at you. Your fragile face filled with sorrow. Rich emerald leaves laid beneath you, surrounding your body. I looked at your body. It was still. Senseless. I placed you gently onto the ground. Then I placed an envelope with a letter inside it. Marked on the back, Here lies Isis Bakir, born in 2000 – 2011, One Who Kept The Peace. I covered you up with layers of leaves and twigs. The sun was moving ahead of us. Sunset was coming. I looked at you for the last time. The tree’s shadow had covered your body. Light was gone. Then I knew you had already escaped this world.

As I got home, Samara was waiting for me outside the flat. Before I unlocked the door, she placed the house keys into my palm, without even saying a word. I opened the door, and the flat felt so empty, despite the clutter. It was as if everything was gone. Then I looked towards the chair that you would sit on, Isis, while you would wait for us to come home. I looked at it, the chair, and I studied it. You had a good heart Isis, and that’s what hurts us the most. Now I’m waiting.

With all my love,

Salma Bakir