by Lyn Ahmed Jehani
It was around 4 in the afternoon, which was the time I usually got off school. I walked into my room, put my bag on the bed and just lie down. It was a very long and tiring day. Nothing new happened, however, there was some typical drama going on in class between the girls. I picked up my phone and unconsciously speed dialed 1. Straight to voicemail. After hearing her voice, saying “leave a message after the beep,” I realised that no matter what message I said after the beep it would never reach her. She would never hear my messages. Everyday, I kept it as a routine to call her voicemail and update her on what was going on. Her parents kept paying her phone bill so that they could do the same. However, today I looked down at my phone in melancholy and decided there was no point in continuously deluding myself. Trying to make myself believe that she was just away on holiday, and would receive my messages when she returned. I get up slowly and walk to my balcony, where I sit on the floor looking out at the afternoon sky. My mind wandered and I start to think about her…
Dalia was like my best friend, but the word best friend didn’t do her any justice. She was more like a sister to me, no, that still doesn’t do her any justice. I would say other half or soul mate but that still wouldn’t even come near to describing our relationship. There should be a new word created in the dictionary for someone who understands you more than you understand yourself, isn’t afraid to tell you the truth even when she knows it will hurt, who doesn’t judge, who even if you don’t speak to for weeks you know that she is always there for you, who values you above everyone and everything, who will stick by you through thick and thin, who completes you but is a better version of yourself, who will even take a bullet for you… I shake my head trying to get the image of her out of my mind. Tears slowly fall down on my cheeks. The angry little girl inside me just wants to cry out and scream. Where is the justice in this world? Where is the humanity? Where are the human rights that we supposedly have? I drop to floor and start sobbing. The tears that I have shed over the past few months would be enough to supply unlimited water to the third world countries. As I stare at the wall I can see some faded writing. I try to wipe away my tears a bit to see clearly what is written. I lean in closer. Dalia + Lyn = BFF. Beside it, to the bottom right-hand side, a pink heart can be seen, coloured in messily. I manage to force out a half-hearted chuckle. Just seeing this brought back so many memories. Nice warm ones. I close my eyes and she materialises right in front of me. She sits down next to me, laughing joyously, telling me all that she had been up to since I last saw her. Her long, thick, dark brown hair flows down her physique majestically. She flicks it back nonchalantly, giving me a whiff of her latest perfume. She holds my hand, telling me everything will be okay. That I will soon move on with my life and all that had happened would seem like a distant memory from an alternate universe. I pull her in and hug her tight. Tears streaming down my face. “Why did you leave me? I can’t deal with my life anymore. Ever since you left I’ve been feeling so empty. Life has been so meaningless without you. Every second of every day I pray to God to rewind time, just so I can spend one more minute with you.” She pets my hair, pulls back, wipes my tears then holds my face in her hands and looks me in the eye, soothingly saying: “What happened was God’s will. It was my time to move on. Don’t ever think all that happened was your fault because I know you are blaming yourself. Please don’t.” I open my eyes back to reality. My daydreaming has been interrupted by my mother calling me for dinner. Having no energy to shout back, I call her on her cellphone letting her know I didn’t want to eat anything. Persisting as always, she insists I get something in my system. “Lyn, you can’t keep doing this to yourself. You need to eat something.”
“I swear I am not feeling that well, I will eat something later.”
“Okay, at least let me make you something light. Like a sandwich? Or I can bring you some yogurt? Some fruit? Or if you want I will go out with your brother and buy you something to eat from that shwarma place you love so much…” She continues persisting, determined to get me to eat something.
“Okay, make me a grilled cheese sandwich,” I say passively. Just wishing she would leave me alone for once. I hang up the phone quickly just in case she insists on something else, like something to drink. I turn my phone off completely, ignoring all the notifications flashing on the screen. I close my eyes again. Now, instead of seeing Dalia again, I begin to see flashbacks of that night. My whole body tenses up. My fists clench into tiny balls at my sides.
Chris Brown was playing in the background. We were in Dalia’s room, getting ourselves ready to go out with our friends. We were sitting on the floor, Dalia sat behind me as she styled my hair for me with her curler while I casually applied nail polish on my fingernails. My phone started vibrating. I look down to see a text from Dii telling me that she had arrived to the restaurant. “Oh my God Dalia, Dii just arrived. We need to hurry up!”
We hurriedly finish up with what we were doing, apply light makeup on, get dressed and leave the house. We arrive around twenty minutes later to see everyone awaiting our arrival. “Fashionably late as usual,” Dalia announced smugly with a flick of her hair. We sat down and ordered our food. I assumed it was a typical thursday night, where we just ate, chilled and laughed with friends. Bought some pirated DVDs from the local DVD shop, some chocolate and chips from our favourite supermarket, then just cruised around with loud music blasting from the speakers until we got tired and went back home to one of our houses for a sleepover.
I would never have expected that that would be the last time I would see her. After going home from dinner, Dalia said she would drop me off at her place first, then she would go pick her sister up from her friends house. I agreed because I was too exhausted and all I wanted to do was sleep at that point. I didn’t even think twice that something could ever happen to her. I rang the doorbell and waited for her parents to open as Dalia slowly pulled away from the driveway. I immediately ran up to her room and changed into shorts and a tank and just laid on the floor too tired to even get up on the bed. I played with my phone a bit, stalking people on Instagram, declining friend requests on Facebook, chatting with some friends on Whatsapp.
All of a sudden I could hear a knock at the door followed by some shrieking downstairs. I rushed down to see what had happened. Dalia was laid on the couch. I couldn’t see her properly because there was a strange man standing beside her. Dalia’s mom was screaming and bawling her eyes out, crying: “My daughter, my daughter!” while hugging her body. Dalia’s dad was in shock, completely paralysed. I stood there confused. I still didn’t understand what had happened. I was too afraid to ask at that point.
Her parents seemed so fragile like porcelain dolls that if I said one word they would break completely. I looked down at my hands and I realised I was shaking. My body understood what my brain couldn’t quite fathom. My heart was pounding loudly, banging on my rib cage. I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore. I still had no idea what had happened but I could sense that something bad happened to Dalia. I knew I shouldn’t have left her alone. Why was I so selfish and chose to come home and rest instead of accompanying her? I stood there feeling as if I was living a nightmare. I walked a little closer to get a better look at her. She was white as a ghost, but somehow she looked peaceful. I touched her hand and she was icy cold. I kept pinching myself, willing myself to wake up. I pinched until I bruised my skin but I was still there. This wasn’t a dream. It was reality. I broke into sobs, falling on the floor, completely devastated. I still wasn’t able to process it. How could this have happened? Why did this happened to her? Why God, oh why, did it have to be her? You could have taken anyone in this whole world but you had to take her. The man stood there awkwardly, unsure of how to approach us. Slowly, he managed to muster some courage and say: “Please calm down. I need you to sit down to hear the whole story.” We all gathered around the couch, sitting on the floor, waiting to hear what this old man had to say.
“I was driving back home when I saw it all. Near Fuweyhat, there was some shooting going on between two militias. As usual, the fight sparked out of nothing and before I knew it the fight had escalated into full-blown shooting. Your daughter was driving in front of me and I could sense her panic as she didn’t know how to avoid the crime scene. She tried her best to reverse and go the other way but it wasn’t possible because the street was too narrow. She kept trying to find an escape but there was none. She was stuck, we all were. Traffic began to build up as no one was moving. As the fight got heated up, bullets were flying everywhere. The militias were shooting aimlessly and many of the bullets were hitting civilians. I could see from my window how scared she was, unsure of what to do. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bullet came straight through her side window and hit her…” As he was saying this, his head was bowed down, staring at the floor while he fumbled with his fingers, unsure of what to say next. Dalia’s mom broke out in another psychotic episode, not sure of whether to cry or to scream, or both. Dalia’s dad sat there still stunned at the news of his eldest daughter being murdered at the age of 19. He tried to comfort her mother but she had completely lost it. She was weeping and then hitting herself, then she would just sit there staring at the wall aimlessly, and then the cycle repeated itself. People were being murdered everyday unjustly in Benghazi, Libya. Intentionally and unintentionally. But this was the first time that someone that was so close to me had been murdered. Murdered. I never before could comprehend what it meant. Now, I knew what it meant. I could feel it. It meant Dalia.
I open my eyes again. I was still standing at the balcony, hands on the rail, hair swaying with the night breeze. I gaze out at the distant horizon, smiling, because I knew that even though her body was gone, her spirit still lived inside of me. Pushing me to get through everyday, until one day, we would be reunited.