by Adam Maarij
Ask me what I most remember about my birthplace, Baghdad, and I’d answer ‘’yellow.’’ I’m not sure whether my memories are fuzzy or I’m just mistaking dreams for reality, but the more I think about it, the more my hometown resembles a painting made of warm dust particles. This includes the yellow dusty brick walls of my house, the cracks of our concrete sidewalk, and the edges of Main Street, after which it just becomes a blur–yellow and dusty and devoid of any serene breeze. There was a field of brown dirt with clumps of withered grass and malnourished trees–eerie yet bewitching scenery. My parents though, say otherwise. They tell me that on the other side of the street were just more brick buildings. I am still reluctant to believe that the field did not exist, even though I was only five years old at the time. It honestly shocks me, how many memories and tender emotions my five year old self kindly retained for me. Fake or not, most of my memories are simple fragments, such as me sprinting for my life from two other, much bigger kids, intent on beating me, while I laughed, my face red, relishing the exquisite pleasure of living on the edge.
Smart phones? Plasma TV? PS4? Ha! The very act of owning even a PS1 was a luxury not many could afford, much less a computer. Our main toys were our kites, which we made and flew with pride. The kites were typically crafted from sticks found on the streets and whatever material we could scratch up, all hitched to a thread that threatened to snap with each gust of wind. We all had our favorites. My older brother, Sarmad, a child blessed by the sun, had a red kite, while that of my oldest brother, Aseel, the smart child of the family, was black, white, green, and red patches poorly stitched together. Even though our kites were equally horrible, they did not fail to cause rivalry and arguments as to which was best. My father–a veteran at his craft– unsurprisingly surpassed us all with an eloquent blue, red, and white kite, perfectly symmetrical and devoid of any wrinkles (unlike his face). I wasn’t even in the running, since my favorite kind of kite amounted to one that was able to glide for a few fleeting moments without disintegrating.
We would gaze at them, adoring the kites’ refined dances over and over, never getting tired of its swaying to the left and to the right, up and down, and when the rare exhilarating breeze that would cool our lungs of the tepid air stuck within came, we would savor it.
The sun beamed brightly at us, unyielding. We would do better without you, thank you very much. I could not help but stare into it, to contest it, to see which one of us would surrender first and blink in shame. It was a battle that I always lost, of course. I hated losing, and I still do.
The rest of my precious memories are a scattered and disordered mess. What I do remember though, will probably stick with me for the rest of my life. My mother always reminds of the time she bought a bag as tall as I was full of small fish, and how we devoured them faster than the flames could roast them! Or that time when the power went out–and it often did–and my brothers and I went onto the balcony and let loose countless paper airplanes and watched them plunge for three or so floors, and then slept outside.
Sometimes at night we lay on the cool ground and gazed at the sky. With no sun and with very few lights, the stars and the moon were a pure, unforgettable white. I would smile and laugh for no apparent reason, and I felt blessed by the night and its glimmering stars. How magnificent they all were! They twinkled vividly and frantically as if they were oblivious to the shroud of the foolish, ghastly night.
Adam Maarij was born in Iraq and immigrated to America at the age of eight. He attends South High school in Worcester, Massachusetts, and enjoys soccer, running, reading, writing, and procrastinating.