Standing at the Middle Eastern International Airport with my passport and ticket in my hand I can’t take for granted that I will be allowed on the plane, even now. I watch my man, who would have been better off relegated to being a one night stand, passing over the back shish with the subtlety that comes with a lifetime of practice and I am allowed to squeeze past the barrier that would make it obvious to everyone that I am too pregnant to be getting on this plane but too scared of what I have already seen in the city’s hospitals to remain.
I turn for a final goodbye, as he sweetly lies that it won’t be long until he can join me, away from his home and back with me in mine. I won’t miss forty degree heat and power cuts or the sewerage truck that comes weekly to empty the tank. Nor will I miss trying to squat over a hole and using a bucket or a shower attachment to clear up the fetid stench of Arabic indoor plumbing afterwards. I won’t miss having to make sure not to deface the despot’s photo when throwing out the newspaper or being stopped for papers when we mistakenly drive down the wrong streets, a bit too close to something nobody should know is there. I won’t miss Arabic signage, constant songs for the glorious leader on TV and sweaty people in market places with no sense of personal space. I might miss the women and their easy Valium induced smiles and ululation, having an orchard with orange trees and vines in the garden and I might, just might, miss him – my arrogant, wealthy husband.
On the plane I watch women going to the toilets, black abayas giving them the appearance of gigantic pupae, only for them to emerge after a decent interval transformed into beautiful butterflies: make up thickly glamorous; hair coiffed into shining curls and bright western clothes revealed, ready for landing. “Ready for my close up, Mr Passport Control Officer.”
I land at Heathrow and weave towards my suitcase on the carousel. It’s only at this point that I realise cash is king and I have none.
“Si adni…” I plead with the men with the glamorous wives, “Please help me…” to the ground staff but I am in no woman’s land, caught between worlds and – very temporarily- financially embarrassed but everyone fails to make eye contact, pretending they don’t understand the plea of a woman whose belly is bigger than her suitcase. As the carousel clears it dawns on me that I need to do this myself and if I go in to early labour then my child will be born in London rather than at home. I can feel the kicking inside me, egging me on like a cheerleader- “Go girl! Go girl!”
Miraculously though, it works – I have my case and my placenta intact and I waddle out of arrivals fighting the desire to crouch down and kiss the ground as if I am the Pope. “Viva La Mama. Viva l’enfant!”