.It was a sunny Saturday.
TheAutumn had arrived, and yellow, gold and brown had become the ubiquitous colours of the land. In the orchard, the smells of ripe and rotten fruits, which Hannah and Thorsten did not bother to pick, were strong and earthy. They were left at the mercy of starlings, which would attack them in waves, and then suddenly, they would disappear until the next morning. The days had become shorter and cooler. It was a prelude to the first frosts.
Thorsten was the duty doctor until the afternoon. Hannah sat in her room writing on her laptop. She was relaxed and in a good mood, and she felt satisfaction watching her sentences appearing on the screen in a steady flow. Suddenly, there was the repetitive sound of a ball bouncing on concrete. She looked up and saw one of Fadil’s sons shooting a ball through a hoop above the garage door. Recently, Fadil had attached a basketball hoop above
backboard with a basket onthe garage, which his children used frequently, especially now when the orchardgrass had become too wet with the rains to play football on. and rotten fruits.Hannah was upset at the beginning, but after a week or so, she imagined that the bounces were heavy raindrops falling and splashing on the ground. The children were overweight and usually got tired or bored with the game after an hour or two – a nuisance she could tolerate.
Soon, the boy went back into the house, and just when Hannah believed she was going to enjoy the beautiful morning in peace, the whole family rushed into the garden. And lo and behold, they all settled themselves around the grill. She stared with anger at the ritual she had already observed for months. Fadil perfunctorily cleaned the grill, built a charcoal fire, and after waiting for some minutes, he put slabs of meat on the grates; all this under the watchful and hungry eyes of the rest of the family.
also this timeyet again to retreat, rushed to Thorsten’s room. She sat at his table in front of her laptop, hoping her sentences would flow along, but her well of inspiration seemed to have dried out. She breathed deeplyin the air redolent of Thorsten’s after-shave and leather-bound medical books deeply, trying to focus on her task. But no matter how hard she tried, nothing appeared on the screen. Exasperated, she went to the kitchen and brewed herself a cup of coffee. Too nervous to remain seated, she paced the house, as restless as a caged animal. She returned to her room and looked out the window, only to see the same scene that tormented her all the time and destroyed her peace. Her stomach tightened instantly, and she rushed back to Thorsten’s room. She sat at the table again, determined to finish her work. After staring at the screen for a few minutes, and devoid of ideas, she put her head into her hands, and was close to tears. This could not go on. She would become both mentally and physically ill. She would turn into a wreck and lose her job and her status. Her colleagues and friends were going to laugh at her; point their fingers at her and say, “Look, our lovely Hannah had turned into a miserable racist.”
Suddenly, a thought occurred to her. She had to talk to Fadil and his wife and had to tell them what was going on. She would speak quietly, calmly, and carefully choose her words. She would avoid any misunderstanding and tell them she had nothing against immigrants. For years, she supported Palestine; she was against the war in Iraq and the dictators who oppressed Arab people. She wished them all peace and prosperity. It was only their grilling that was disturbing her. She understood they liked it, but she would appreciate if they could not do it so often, at least not in the afternoon when she was working...
Hannah glanced at her clothes and thought she could not go out just in a T-shirt and worn tight jeans. She went to the bedroom and changed into a dark blouse and a long skirt, and then she sat at the dressing table putting on some make-up, just to boost her self-confidence. She combed her hair, repeating
forto herself the textwords she had prepared for her neighbours. She had heard many stories about immigrants who had become furious after being told off. Some of them turned violent and smashed furniture or beat up people who dared to question their behaviour. Probably, Fadil was not such a man, although you never knew what people could have experienced in their past, especially if they had come from a war-torn place andor a dictatorship. As she walked into the hall, her legs buckled. “You can’t back out.” Don’t be afraid.” She told herself aloud. She shuffled to the door and slowly opened it.
A waft of smoke from burning coal slapped her face, turned her stomach, tightened her throat and made her heart quicken. She bravely proceeded down the concrete stairs. As she stepped on the ground, she glanced at them, and saw the eight pairs of dark eyes staring at her as if she were a specimen of an unknown race. They stopped eating and talking. The silence, broken only by the sound of meat sizzling, hit her like a punch in the stomach. Blood rushed into her head while her hands trembled. Her courage drained out of her,
like water into a desert,and she rushed up the stairs and back into the house, shutting the door behind her with a bang. Her neighbours guffawed, cheered and shouted. She could not understand a single word of their grating language, but she imagined they were making jokes at her expense, calling her a stupid Swedish cow or even worse.
She had a terrible thirst. In the kitchen, she gulped two glasses of cold water, but the thirst was still intense. She was on the verge of tears but forced herself not to cry. When she was a little girl, her mother used to look
ather in the eyes and tell her, “Never show any feelings. Wear a mask; it’ll protect you from others.” Hannah followed her advice whenever she could, although lately, she doubted its benefits. She was afraid of breaking down in the future.
Today, she embarrassed herself. Fear got the better of her, and exposed her weakness, but at least, she had made an important decision. In the evening, she would talk to Thorsten. They had to move away, buy a house in a quieter area, away from trouble, noise, and immigrants. He would oppose, protest against and tease her and call her a hypocrite, but Hannah knew him well. He was a marionette in her hands, more afraid of conflict than she was, and as malleable as a lump of Plasticine.
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