Today is another day I will spend alone. I am grateful for the rest, yesterday was my recital, so today I am totally free. I am exhausted from the daily practice after school.
The recital was a success for the first time it feels like everything happened as planned. Papa was not there and it made me sad. I wanted him to see me, I wanted him to know all the money he paid wasn’t wasted. I wanted him to know I was working as hard as he was, but he wasn’t there to see me. He wasn’t there to see the result. I understand that he must work, all he does is work. Whenever he comes home to meet me awake, he just gives me a hug and goes to his room most days he is gone when I wake up, already at work.
Mama was at my recital. She always made it. She might not be there when the curtains are drawn and we begin, but I know that at some point, when I look up, I would see her, smiling at me with happiness in her eyes and pride in her smile. She whispers, “I love you”. But when I look to her again, she is gone. She had probably spent extra to get here, but she never complains.
Today I am at home to rest, I would rather be with my friends, but they don’t like to come here, they keep asking if it is Safe, but I live here and nothing bad has happened to me, it is very loud here, there is always noise, people fighting arguing and even running around. I don’t want my friends to come because of the noise, I don’t know if they will be comfortable here.
I am watching television but I am not concentrating, my mind is elsewhere, I am thinking about my Papa. I haven’t seen him since yesterday, he had gone to work before I got home. I couldn’t even tell him about my recital. His face is so different from before, he doesn’t even smile as much, I haven’t heard him laugh since we came here, he looks the same but his voice is different, his face is thinner than before and there are always dark circles under his eyes. He has even cut his beard. Papa would have never cut his beard except it was a matter of life and death. Mama wasn’t happy about it but he said he needed to because of work.
There is a lot of noise outside, but that is not unusual, many people live here. Men, Women and children. The Children are always shouting, running, laughing and even fighting. Sometimes the police come and take people away. I don’t play with the children here. Mama says, ‘they are not good company.’ I won’t pay attention to all the noise today. Today, is my rest day, it is the first time in a while that I have no school work, no practice. I can stay in front of the television every day; I can run around the house because no one else is here. But today, I don’t feel like running around the house.
There is a loud noise in the corridor, it is not the usual kind of noise the children make when they run around and play. It sounds like an explosion. The type Papa, Mama and I had to run away from. I can’t focus on the television anymore. It doesn’t interest me like before. I didn’t want to look at it even. I was looking at the door waiting for something to happen. I had to go and see for myself.
When I open the door to check what’s happening there were no children running around, no one was fighting. Instead everyone was running in different directions. Some running upstairs and some going downstairs. I try to look some more but I can’t get through the crowd, people are shouting loud and I can’t make out the words it is rowdy and stuffy and I am uncomfortable. Someone shouts Aisha! Aisha! I can’t see the person but I think it is Daniel, he lives in the building here he is in college studying Architecture and is 19, Mama has told me not to talk to him, she caught me talking to him once and was very cross, but I still speak to him. When there is no one there and we meet in the corridor. He even hugs me and lifts me up he told me my smile is beautiful and I should smile more. I hear Daniels Voice but I can’t see him. No other person speaks to me here or even knows my name, I see smoke rising the stairs, there is heat as well, the air is hot and unpleasant, the shouting is getting too much, the air is corrupted with the smell of burning cables and rubber.
I run back inside and lock the door. It should keep the smoke out. I pick up the phone and call mama, I tell her to come now “please leave whatever you are doing and come. I am scared mama, there is smoke everywhere.” She tells me to be calm, that she would leave right away.
I sit on the floor because it feels more comfortable sitting and holding my legs to my chest, I am looking at the door, I am starring at it, hoping Mama would come in before the smoke gets here. I sit and wait.
I hear a loud voice; I can’t see where it is coming from but I know it is a man’s voice. He sounds calm and far away. He is talking to the people in the building. He is talking to us from outside. He says, “remain calm and stay in your apartment, Help is here”. The phone rings, it is Mama she says she is outside. She says she can’t come in, she is with the man, the man who’s voice I have been hearing, she says he is coming that the man will be there with me and I shouldn’t worry. I am calm now, not worried, just waiting for him.
I start worrying about Daniel, I haven’t seen him since I heard the voice, I hope he is ok, I hope the man comes for him too. He is very kind to me, he buys me sweets and chocolate from college, talks to me about classes as well. He loves old buildings, he is obsessed with how houses have changed over time, he likes living here because it is old, it is very old. I don’t understand it, how someone can like old buildings, it is all complicated but I like talking to him about these things. He wishes he learnt music like me, he always wanted to pay the drums.