It felt as if I had been waiting all my life for this moment…but it had been only a year; numerically, that is. The agony, the helplessness, the confusion seemed to have been collected over a lifetime. As the wind danced a salsa with my ebony hair, and hit my face relentlessly like oscillating tides, I thought back to the beginning of this day- the day of my salvation.

I had been planning this for months; my bags were packed in stealth and the strategy was designed in solitude. My husband was away at Riyadh for the week. Today was the third day of the week, and the last of my suffering. As the blazing orb of light and life had risen from the east and swallowed up the torrents of rain, the execution of my escape had begun.

I was headed to Purgatory, and as self-punitive as that may sound to everyone else, it seemed like heaven for someone who had just escaped hell. Hell, for it felt like I had sold my soul to the devil in an unfavourable deal, but I hadn’t. My father had. I had been shipped off to Herat as ‘rightful condemnation’ after my haram of having caught the attention of my betrothed, middle-aged uncle. Who would have known I’d end up in seventh circle of Inferno for a crime so minutely my own. Had my forehead been a little bit wider, my eyes been a little less doe-like, my cheeks been a little less red; perhaps none of this would have happened.

I scurried to the two recently cleared seats, desperate for rest after an hour of needles ceaselessly poking my legs.

As I stood up to keep my sack on the empty seat opposite, I was intercepted by a bulky man towering over me with a subtle crescent moon adorning his otherwise stubbly face. He lifted his club of an arm over me and I flinched in force of habit, my eyes squinted in frank terror, my hands suspended at my chest in defence.

A soft “Miss? Are you okay?” made me open my eyes. I was soaked in shame; drenched in it head to toe. What succeeded was an explanation about how he was only putting his bag in the compartment above, interrupted by his apologies which were ignited by my panicked reaction to his harmless deed. I just apologised repeatedly with my head hung and settled into my seat after.

This encounter made me wonder about the imprints the last year had left on my mind, the scars too deep to be stitched close, the trauma too lasting to ever be forgiven. Would I ever truly be free of this, or would it continue to tip toe its way into ordinary moments like this? As the scenery in front of me progressed from stout beige buildings to an expansive verdant landscape, I sang lullabies to each of my demons, tucking them neatly away.