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Gasoline House

Sidra Dahhan

This time, when she smells the gasoline, she is in the living room. Steel moonlight shines

through curtain edges, and the creaking couch under her interrupts the grim silence. She groans

through her floral quilted blanket and thin pillow, her stiff back screaming. She is too old for

this. But she can not bring herself to sleep in the bedroom Omar had built, twice, Allah yerhamo.


It is not hers. Not without him. When the stench permeates the room, she knows, this time, it is

not in her head. The earth quivers for a moment, before jerking everything in the crossfire,

including her. 


At once, everything freezes in disarray. She is knocked to the floor. Her prayer

beads are spilled, Omar’s books are torn up. Thick, dry ash coats her nostrils, leaving her coughing, coughing, coughing. Ash is material, the gas has become material—it must be real.


It must be, for the bedroom door is gone, too, leaving a gaping

hole to a starless sky the color of charcoal asteroids. She remembers the last time the bedroom

had been destroyed, decades prior. 



The sulfurous odor came to her often in her married years. When she brought it up the first time,

her husband barely shot her a glance. “It’s in your head,” Omar muttered from his book.


Believing him, she turned to her prayer beads to beg the crazy away. Her fingers would orbit the

tiny ceramic globes of the necklace. She prayed and prayed until one night she darted from a dreamless sleep. She shook her grunting husband awake. “What,” he snapped, eyes closed.


“Omar. Omar, there’s a gas leak.” 


“No there isn’t.” 


“Omar, I smell it, I swear, this time it’s real. We need to leave.” 


“Khalas. Just sleep. We’ll see tomorrow.” 


“But I think I left the oven on.”


After a tense silence he sighed and pushed back the covers. “Yallah, you want to check? Come on.” In the kitchen, he glared at his wife over the already hibernated oven, then they heard a boom. They ran back to find the bed gone, and a crater and pile of rocks four stories down. His arms enveloped her as she fainted. In years that followed, he looked her in the eyes when she complained of afflictions. She suspects he smelled the ammonia of that first bomb, too. 



The memories fizzle into the empty sky, leaving her with the fallen room once more. Without him to fix it this time, she knows it is a permanent goodbye.

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