I took Leah to visit Loïc at the hospital today. I’ve been trying to keep her from seeing her father at this stage – there are a lot of wires, cords, IVs around and on my Loïc – and I don’t want her to worry about him. She’s still the beautiful, bright, sweet girl she was before Loïc fell ill, and I’ve talked to him. I know he wants to keep it that way.
She always surprises me though. As soon as we were let into his room, she squealed her daddy’s name and ran up to him, stopping just short of the bed. She asked the nurse if she could climb up on the bed and hug daddy without “messin’ up the wires that make him better.” I know my precocious little one took the nurse aback, but it was the expression on Loïc’s face that absolutely gutted me. He doesn’t let himself cry – I think I’ve only seen him cry once, and that was the day I said yes to the empty ring box he presented me with – but he lifted her up into his arms without a second’s hesitation. He told me once that exertion felt like sandpaper against his bones, but my love peppered our baby with kisses and smothered her with hugs and told her to tell him all about school.
Every time he looked at me, his eyes were teary with pride. I stopped crying at seeing Loïc in his hospital bed a month ago, but I’m ashamed to say I cried a little as well. He motioned me over and took my hand and he kissed it so softly and tenderly that I wished I had the power to whisk him and my baby away somewhere where illness and life and poverty weren’t constant specters shadowing us through our highs and sucking the marrow from our bones during our lows. But God hasn’t graced me with that ability, so I just leaned down and kissed him deeply with Leah’s sweet little voice in my ears.
He’s paler, now, not the gorgeous ebony-skinned (he would make so much fun of me if he knew I described him using his skin, but what can I say, I like my dark-skinned men) man that asked so politely to unzip my dress the first time we made love. Thinner, too. I made fun of him for being so skinny, and he made fun of the fat around my belly but I know he didn’t mean it because he pulled me into a kiss so passionate, it should’ve made the heart monitor go crazy.
The only time Leah got upset is when I had to send her outside so that the doctor could talk to me and Loïc privately about how he was doing. She shouldn’t have to hear that news. Besides, she doesn’t need to: Loïc has always pulled us through the worst of our times, and he’s going to pull through this too.
We’ve been through worse. It’s only a little longer until he’s back in our bed. Good thing, too – the Loïc-shaped depression in our mattress isn’t going to stay that way for much longer.
Good Lord, it was cold today! We prepared ourselves for moving into an apartment without heating, and we’re fine now that we’re both curled up under this blanket, but making the trips out into the cold was almost unbearable. What was worse was standing guard by our stuff while the other ran up the stairs with everything. We don’t know anyone in this building and thought it wouldn’t be a great idea to ask a stranger to help us move in, so it was just me and Loïc taking turns shivering in the cold. But it was so worth it once we could both collapse on our new couch together. We just sat there and laughed at the fact that we finally pulled it off – we finally got a home together! A shitty one-bedroom place where the wallpaper is peeling and where you can hear the water in the pipes and where the floorboards creak with every step, but it’s ours and I love every shitty inch of our home.
He’s sleeping now. He must have been exhausted. I say I helped us move in, but he honestly did most of the heavy lifting. He cooked while I set up the place, making it look like the home we knew it already was for us. He sang for me while he made dinner. He does it so infrequently that I forget sometimes what a pretty voice he has. I couldn’t help but go over and wrap my arms around his waist and press my cheek into his back and let him sway me in a ridiculous dance. Things seem like they’re looking up, now. It’s been hard saving up money for an apartment so soon after Loïc finally got a job. I keep telling him I can leave school, at least for a little while, and help us out financially. I still feel like I’m draining our limited resources by going to classes, but every time I bring it up he says the same thing, “You have a scholarship. You’re going to be our future, Dinah.”
He is the only person who has never once made a snide remark about my English major. While we were eating dinner, I told him about the novel I’ve been trying to write, and he just listened to me as if every single word was the most important thing he’s ever heard and when I was done he just smiled, chin nestled in his palm, and said, “Cherie, you’re going to be famous one day.”
I still remember the day I was studying at the library at school and he knocked on the window I was sitting beside and waved the letter of employment at me, his grin so big and beautiful on his face. I got yelled at for it later but I opened the window without even thinking and nearly fell out of it trying to throw my arms around his shoulders. He made fun of me for days after that, especially when the librarian ran up behind me and hissed at me to contain myself and stay quiet in a place of study.
It was worth it. We own a bed together. We share a home. I’ve been terrified of saying this out loud in case the universe decides to screw us over but I can write what I want in these pages so god damn it all, I’m going to share a future with Loïc!
Iju st took a pre gnancy test. Cant stopcr ying.
Today may possibly have been one of the best days in my life. Loïc and I took Leah down to the public garden. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and Leah looked so adorable in her little shorts and baby-doll shirt, running around squealing while Loïc and I chased her around. I must say, I don’t really have the constitution needed to keep a toddler entertained for too long, so I parked myself beneath a tree to write instead and watch my little girl play with her papa. She’s got such a talkative mouth on her already, and I know she’s going to end up being at least trilingual – she can speak English, Arabic and French already, even if she gets the accents mixed up sometimes, and her little “papas” and “mamans” get me every time. It’s funny to say, but I think Loïc’s pretty proud that Leah’s going to follow in her immigrant parents’ footsteps and have a slew of native languages at her disposal.
Things have been a little hard lately. Loïc has been working long nights. It gets lonely sometimes, after I put Leah to bed, just staying up and waiting for him to come home. I also don’t have much to occupy myself with apart from Leah and writing. Not having any assignments due or literature to annotate is strange, even 18 months after having left school. It’s all for the best, anyway, we want to give Leah the best upbringing she can get given our limited means, and Loïc always assures me that we’re going to get me back into school as soon as Leah is more independent. He doesn’t have to promise me anything, the sweet, wonderful man. It broke his heart when I came back with a withdrawal form from college, but we knew it had to be done. Last night, when he got home, we talked about the future with cautious hope and he got off the couch and on his knee in front of me and said, “You’re going to be famous. It might take a little longer, but the world can’t go without knowing and celebrating the name Dinah Masood at some poin
Ah, crap. I smudged the ink. Didn’t even know I was crying.
Leah just let out the happiest little squeal. Loïc just picked her up and is swinging her around in his arms. She’s taken after him so much, our little baby. She’s got his curly hair, and her skin is more like his than mine. Her eyes are from my family, though, grey and big. But she’s got his intelligence and curiosity, and she’s already so hardworking! I’ve never seen a toddler work so diligently on a coloring! She’s also got his dimples, and I don’t think I love him more than when I see his smile on her little face. No matter how difficult it was at first, Leah is the best thing that has happened to the both of us. She’s our love come alive, our love on two short little waddling legs.
I know I’ve never been the religious type, but, God, if you’re out there – let nothing take my baby girl and my love, my husband, away from me. My life isn’t my own anymore. It was halved when I met Loïc for the first time, and the second I held Leah in my arms, I knew I was going to live for her.
They complete me. There’s nothing else I could ask for that would make me happier than I am now.
July 2nd, 1994. Leah tugged on her mother’s sleeve, her little heart full of trepidation and terrified curiosity. “Maman…? Maman…what’s happening?”
There were loud, high-pitched noises coming from the machinery Leah was told was going to fix her dad. She couldn’t see the hospital bed – too many grown ups in scrubs and masks and gloves – sterile, hectic. The tension in the air was palpable, but Leah was too young to know exactly what that meant. She tried half-heartedly to get her mother’s attention again before realizing that as active as the doctors and nurses around her daddy’s hospital bed were, her mother was just as still, just as silent. Her always-laughing maman, full of hugs to give and stories to tell, was wide-eyed in a way that Leah didn’t understand. A friend would later tell Dinah that the death of a loved one can traumatize in a way that sometimes never heals.
A final, damning noise accompanied the spikes on the heart monitor that were slowly dwindling into non-activity. The sharp beep felt like it would stretch on until the end of time, but what was worse was the silence that fell among the doctors. One man – tall, grey-haired, the lines on his face ancient – turned towards Dinah and pulled off his mask to say something, but Dinah interrupted, “He was just talking to me, he was just laughing at something I said, he was just holding my hand-“
“Mrs. Masood!” she screamed at the doctor before sobbing hard enough to break every heart in the room. She pushed past the masked faces and threw herself on her husband, pulling the ECG sensors from his chest and kissing his unmoving lips desperately, over and over, whispering in Arabic, French, English, any language she knew, any language that could break down the opacity of death, that broke down what separated Dinah from her Loïc.
It was Leah’s birthday today. I took her to see you, my love. She put flowers we grew together on your grave. We went home after that and had a party for her with some friends of hers from school and their parents. They were all very sweet and bought her presents. She was so happy, Loïc. It’s been hard for both of us since you died, but it’s in your name that we take life a day at a time. You took a little part of me with you, but it just means I get to the rest of myself to her – our daughter. She looks more and more like you every day. Those beautiful dimples…
I feel so old. I’m only 24 – we were 19 when we moved in together, can you believe that? – but I feel like I’ve seen too much already. I try and stay young for our baby, and I think I’m doing well…you know, all things considered.
I miss you so much. I miss you when I go to bed, when I wake up in the morning, when I send Leah to school. I miss you in my bones even when I’m not thinking about you. I miss the way you kissed me, I miss the way you used to touch my cheek and sing to me in French, I even miss how you would make fun of me when I did something silly. Your clothes still smell like you. It’s getting cold and I’ve taken to wearing your jacket. Leah loves it when I do, and always says, “It’s like both you and daddy are huggin’ me!”
We love you, Loïc. I love you. Take care of us from wherever you are, okay? Things are at a standstill, but I’m going to be famous for you one day.
I love you.