The man wearing the white jacket was much older this time. He dragged a wooden chair out in front of me and sat still. White papers hung onto his clipboard, a thin pen held over his right knee.
He smiled while studying my face. On his were wrinkles at every patch of brown skin. I thought of Awoowe, his gentle smile and frail body lying across my mother’s bed. The final hours of his life shrinking him away till he could take no more breaths.
“Warda, my girl. Thank you for seeing me. Can you tell me when you last received treatment?”
His smile was gone and the kindness in his eyes evaporated. I should have known him to be another informant, greedy for my secrets. I wouldn’t share a thing this time.
He peered down at the papers, flipping back and forth between them.
“It says you were on your own for some time.” Another smile, “Kaaligatha iiyo Kariimka…”
Just you and your Most Generous God.
It had been years since I heard that last.
My Hooyo came to mind. In the afternoons she fed me. After I would watch her small silhouette behind the beige and white dotted curtain beside my bed. She would roam around the home, holding sweet incense to every corner. Last was a gentle kiss over my head as she left me alone to my thoughts.
Back then the voices were less lethal:
“Why has she left you to yourself again?”
“She won’t come back this time.”
“They’re coming to get you.”
“You’ll be dead before you know it.”
Hooyo despised my illness and blamed it on the evil eye. Other days, on the jinn.
In the evening she would return home to prepare dinner for Quran saar, swift fix to the supposed jinn residing in my body. There were endless hours of sitting, encircled by sheikhs, learned men with lengthy beards, some dyed orange red and others plainly gray.
Ayats free falling from their lips. Some voices like thunder and others soft as velvet.
“When did your mother pass?” the old man asked me from his chair.
My eyes searched the room until I found her at the back, carrying the same incense in her hands, swaying alongside the smoke. She stopped suddenly, to stare at me.
“She’s there, just behind you.” I told him. The old man turned back around.
“Don’t you see her? Don’t you smell it?”
“Smell what?” The old man asked.
Hooyo held a finger to her lips before slipping into the hall, leaving a trail of smoke behind her. She would return again when mentioned by name.
“You just missed her.”
The old man frowned and scribbled things onto his white papers. He was displeased at her leaving.
“Don’t worry, she’ll return soon. She always does.”
FARDOSA SULEIMAN (Photographer) is nineteen years old and from San Jose, California. She began taking photographs just one year ago.
HALIMA HAGI-MOHAMED (Author) is a Somali-American writer. She was born in Nairobi, Kenya and raised in Fresno, California. Her writing deals with themes of family, mental health, identity, and religion. Last year she published her first book of short stories titled Amilah.