NOT LEAVING LEBANON
By M. Lynx Qualey
The day after we sell our car, we walk all the way down to the sea, the Bahr El-Mutowassit, and stare out at the water, our eyes straining against the morning sun.
Jonah is in the backpack, tugging at fistfuls of my hair.
We stare at water and light and don't say anything. After minutes or hours, we turn and drag ourselves back to the apartment, where we sit on the empty wood floor, massaging our feet. We exchange a few words about logistics. Nour is picking us up at nine? Yes, nine. You've checked all the cabinets? Yes. And the key? I'll leave it on the kitchen table.
I don't tell you what I'm thinking, because I know we're not really leaving. I know that tomorrow, Jonah will look right at the cat, extend his chubby arm and say, Cat, mommy, cat. We'll laugh and scream and hug him, cancel all our appointments in the States, cancel our lease on my brother-in-law's basement apartment and put all our pictures back on the walls.
We wake up at seven and zip the final things into our suitcases, my shampoo and makeup and your contact-lens case. We feed Jonah and stand outside for a few minutes, smelling the air. Someone's frying something. There's car exhaust.
Nour pulls up and we stuff everything into his car. I don't say goodbye to the apartment, because I know we're not really leaving. We buckle Jonah in and drive away.
It's cold on the airplane. I wrap blankets around my shoulders and tuck them around my legs. People are still boarding. I hold the ball in front of Jonah. Ball, Jonah. Ball. The airplane starts to taxi. We're in the center aisle, where none of us can see the windows. I strain against my seat belt, trying to glimpse the bright gray-green of the city, the blue of the sea, trying to take hold of something, some last memory as the plane leaps into the air, the pressure thudding against my ears as Jonah begins to scream.