As soon as we got on the bus, Arik told me he wanted to make sure I talked so everyone would know that he was with an American girl. I was exhausted, upset and in no mood to talk to anyone, so I didn’t. My only defiance in the last 24 hours was to stay as quiet as I could. Blending in, I was just another local taking the bus.
Arik started talking with a girl sitting across the aisle and I found myself watching him. He was so easy with his speech in his own language. I wondered for a moment if he was flirting with this girl. She didn’t seem to notice that I was with him. I could feel myself shut down with each passing mile. I kept my eyes averted and didn’t say a word. My stomach churned as I realized that I might never hear my own language again. I didn’t notice the landscape change because I wasn’t really looking out the window, but staring into space. I felt as if I was taking a ride to nowhere. I was nobody going nowhere.
The bus dropped us off in the desert, in the heat of the day. Arik grabbed the backpack and we walked along the side of the road. We hadn’t talked to each other in hours, so I didn’t know where we were or where he intended to take us. He pointed to a rocky hill off to the right and said, “Climb.” I didn’t want to climb. I was worried because I was only wearing sandals and not hiking boots. I was afraid he might even push me off the cliff.
Seeing my hesitation, Arik insisted, trying to tell me that there were animals for us to see up there. So we climbed. I was so afraid. I had no idea where to put my hands or feet, but Arik kept looking back at me and repeating, “Come.” His demeanor was light-hearted and encouraging, so I kept climbing. Between the fear of falling off the rocks, and having no idea where I was going, I was proud of myself. I had never done anything like this before and I found myself enjoying the adventure.
When we reached the top of the hill we could see several small goats grazing off in the distance. Arik told me they were ibex. We sat down and watched them and took in the scenery below us. For a few moments, we were just two people on vacation. I even felt myself smile as I sat there, safe on a high rocky hill with the sea in the distance and the desert all around us. We both let down our guard and relaxed for a little while. I let myself be just a girl on an adventure in a foreign land with a cute boy.
We climbed back down the rock face and headed across the road toward the sea. We played, splashing one another in the salt water. We laughed as we tried to keep our balance and used each other to float easily along the surface of the water. It felt strange to laugh. I hadn’t made the sound of laughter for months. It felt as if someone else was there having fun in the sea, not me.
By the time we were out of the water, showered and dressed, it was late in the afternoon, close to evening. Arik said we were going to sleep in the park, on the beach. I was hungry and thirsty. He gave me water but said we had no food. I knew we had $50 in my purse, but he shook his head “no” when I asked if we could buy something. He pulled out some dried food and began eating it but wouldn’t share. There were a few times when we were at the house in Quay that Arik hadn’t shared his food with me. When he denied me food that evening, any illusion of an adventure with a cute boy quickly ended. I knew nothing had changed.
excerpt from Untangled, A Story of Resilence, Courage, and Triumph
Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph