Writing & Photo Contest 2018 Winner — Non-Fiction


My earliest memory goes back to a hot summer night. That night, we slept on the grounds of the first floor in the living room. The room had windows in three of its sides. I woke up in the middle of the night from the noise outside. A bright light shone from behind the curtains.  Frightened, I looked for my parents, only to find out my parents were not in the room. It was only my sister and me. Through the curtains, a plane-like object was flying in the sky. I shook my sister to wake up, saying, “It is a plane, it’s a plane. A reeealllll plane!” We ran towards the windows with all excitement. The plane rained beautiful fireworks across the sky. The streets were roaring with excitement and pulsing with energy. “Allah Akbar!” people scream. The Iraqi flag on our neighbor’s roof swam rapidly in the sky. I have never seen such a fascinating scene.

Mom grabs our small bodies. “Are you idiots?” Mom screams, “You want to die?” She holds our hands and pulls us through a small one-person-sized yard located behind the kitchen. We climb a small ladder that is connected to my grandparent’s palm garden.

An underground storage lies beneath a small tent in the garden. I start crying. I have never been here. This is where my grandma keeps her pickles, where she always told me to not go, where the planes cannot be seen. I stop crying as Mom lights the candles. No pickles are in here. No voices are heard. It is just a cold room now. The walls are colored with charcoal stains. Crumbs of dirt are scattered on the floor. A deserted chair sits by a corner. The walls tighten up as we spread silently through the room. I claim a corner for myself and crumble under a blanket to sleep. I wake up. Sleep. Wake up. Sleep, and wake up again.

I’m not sure if it is night or morning anymore.  I cannot remember the last time I came out from this underground-pickle storage. Fireworks are still going. Glass is shattering on the grounds above us. I cannot understand why I am down here when everyone is celebrating up there.

The murmuring of prayer surrounds me. Mom would repeat, “God save us.” Daddy is always standing on the prayer rug with his hands lifted up. Isn’t he tired? I think. I sit in the corner with my two siblings, my older sister, Sarah, and my five-year old brother, Abdulrahman. I wonder why only my grandma plays the matches game with us. Mom would like it.

Mom is always crying these days. Mom does not eat. Mom says it is enough if only we eat. I want to eat ice cream. Sarah always nags me whenever I cry. I cannot help it. I hate this corner. I’ve always had nightmares. I hope this is one.


We make it out of the storage a few days later only to see that our house is full of broken glass, and the streets are colored in red. I learn much later that the planes were not there for entertainment and fireworks; they were the U.S planes that have come to kill us.

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