by Alison Grifa Ismaili
I walked into the dirtiest, saddest, scariest gas station in Baton Rouge. The kind where the roof buckles in the middle and the refried grease stains the ceiling. The kind where the cockroaches scatter when you reach for the just-expired milk in the fridge. I needed to use their Western Union, and the guys behind the counter said: Ismaili? Ismaili? We know your husband. Yeah, yeah, Morocco. Yeah, yeah, we know him. We know you. One day, we're gonna go to Morocco.
Insha'Allah, I said. Me, too, one day I'm gonna go to Morocco.
Insa'Allah, Insha'Allah. And, our stern faces cracked with laughter.
And everyone standing in line with their cigarettes and chicken wings and Big Gulps—their noontime faces pinched, only 5 more hours till quittin time, or six, or seven, or eight, or nine—they watched our laughter spit shine the floor tiles, the drywall, the ceiling, mushrooms sprouting from an air-conditioning vent.
You could hear it. A cry fainter than the faintest cry up from Whoville. A ripple. A feather.
Silvery dust off a moth’s wing. One day I’m gonna… One day I’m gonna… And from off their pupils echoed minute images—an old house among chest-high weeds in the Low Country, a weeping willow tree; purple-pedicured toes, ankles crossed, and a mimosa on a cruise ship, cutting through the waves so salty your tongue clutches itself; a dusty road in the Afrique, a tall, slender woman in indigo reaches to steady a woven basket crowned atop her head. One day I’m gonna… One day I’m gonna…
Go with peace, we said.
Go with peace.
Alison Grifa Ismaili’s writing has been published in Fiction International, Spillway magazine, and Bartleby Snopes, among others. Currently, she resides in the great state of Louisiana with her very patient family.