The booming is thunder in my bones. The room gets real still, only the beetles twitching at the cracks in the windows. My pulse pops in my wrist. On the table, my knife shakes against my napkin. The lines on Abu Sayeed’s forehead are thick and deep as tree roots. “It must be coming from another neighborhood,” Mama says, but she stops eating. She holds her fork in the air, a bite of cucumber salad dripping yogurt sauce. The light falls across the triangle of her nose, as straight as Baba’s T-square.
“Are you sure?” Abu Sayeed says something in Arabic. I strain forward to listen, but it’s too fast for me to understand. Huda and Zahra look at each other. Now I know for sure that something is wrong.
Zahra’s phone buzzes on the table, searching for a signal.
Mama snaps back at Abu Sayeed: “Don’t be ridiculous.” Her cucumber salad just hangs there, like she’s not sure whether to eat it or put it down, like she’s not sure which language to use. “We just got here,” she says, huffing out the words. “I was born here. I moved my family. Business will be good again. We’ve been through too much already.”
“It would only be for a week, two at most,” Abu Sayeed says. “This will pass.” Mama lifts and lowers her fork. She purses her mouth, curling her lips between her teeth like she’s trying to trap the words. “We have no part in this. I want to buy bread. I don’t want to worry about my girls walking to the market. I keep my head down. I work. I have three children to feed. Where should I go?”
Abu Sayeed dips his head at that, lets his shoulders sag down. Outside, the whumping of a helicopter fills the street, and a cat yowls. “Eat your dinner.” Mama gets up, her long skirt swishing when she dips across the room. Baba used to say Mama was always a lady, that she could run a marathon in high heels and wrestle a lion without ripping her pantyhose.
She stands at the window now, peeling back the yellow curtains, and the helicopter blades pop black and purple over our heads before they move on. Something is happening outside, people starting up cars, babies shrieking. The neighborhood crackles and hums with electricity, like a nest of wires. The fear is a knot in my thighs, my elbows, my thumbs.