Room Without a Door

Lisa Echcharif
Room Without a Door
Her bench is empty. Noura sighs with relief. Whenever the weather and the absence of other people permit it, she takes this seat. Lunchbreak in a safe harbour. After the escape from Syria, even an ordinary, yet familiar park bench conveys safety. Noura sits back and strokes the paint and the cracked wood with her hand. It feels trustworthy. Everything is dissolving. Baba Ghanuj in a plastic dish. A piece of flat bread. Noura dips it into her mashed eggplant.

Four women pass her by chatting, walking arm in arm. They come here often. The blond with the buzz-cut is hidden as usual in her big scarf. Although she laughs with the others, she seems to be outside of the group. The woman in the scarf looks at her and smiles mildly. Noura wants to catch it. The smoky scent of Baba Ghanuj fills her nose. She shouldn’t smoke the eggplant any more, she thinks to herself. The war has barricaded the door to her room. Noura glances away.

Today Noura has Tabuleh in her plastic dish. The couscous salad is free of everything dark and smoky. The day tastes hopeful. When a shadow falls on her lunch, she looks up. The woman with the scarf. She is alone.

“May I?” She points to the seat next to Noura. “All the other benches are taken.”

Noura nods. With the practiced look of an Arabian women that she didn’t lose during her escape, she observes the stranger sitting next to her. The way in which she unwraps a cheese bread, folds the butter bread paper gently. Her hands tremble slightly. The woman with the scarf turns her head. Their eyes meet acknowledging each other. Noura asks herself, what war might have shut the room of the woman.

In silence both eat. Noura tears at her barricaded door. It won’t budge.

“That smells nice,” says the woman in the scarf.

“The mint,” says Noura.

With a quiet smile the woman gets up. This time Noura catches it and returns it.

“Have a nice day.”

“You have a wonderful day as well,” Noura answers.

The second dish of Tabuleh in Noura’s bag makes her heart beat faster. She wishes that the woman in the scarf comes. A group of four chatting women walk in. The woman in the scarf smiles her quiet smile and winks towards Noura. A good distance off the women sit down on a bench.

The second dish of Tabuleh presses against Noura’s thigh.

“Go!” she insists.

“Danger!” the Room Guard yells.

Her hand shakes as she picks up her bag, stands and takes a deep breath. Then with determination she walks over towards the women.

Through a window one can escape a room as well.
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