At approximately 16:00, The first car bomb will detonate in the front parking lot of Hotel X. The driver, not a day over twenty, will drive the truck through ten checkpoints, arriving at Mogadishu’s gate 13:00, the day of. This will give him three hours to let his tension settle and calm his palpitations before the deed is done. There won’t be any remorse or second thoughts left in him, just heavy breathing and the sweat from the journey before. The heroin swimming in his arms will leave little room for pausing on what he is to do. He’ll sit parked in one of Mogadishu’s back-alleys. Windows rolled up, eyes glazed over, headphones in. Three hours till he changes my life. Hands on the wheel. Three hours left on earth.
At 16:10, a young journalist, we’ll call him Abdi, will log onto all of his social media accounts, and plaster this for his followers to consume.
“BREAKING NEWS: EXPLOSION HEARD IN KM4 JUNCTION. POSSIBLE SITE OF ATTACK: HOTEL X, UNKNOWN CASUALITIES”
He’ll be right about the hotel location, and the casualties will be 43.
16:15pm, that tweet will orbit the world, shaking all of my kin and countryfolk out of their daily grind and sleep; Majority of them half living, somewhere abroad. Some will feign apathy, and return to the milestones of their day, unmoved by any of this. They’ll leave Mogadishu to mourn in solitude, and I will not blame them one bit. They’ve had enough of this place, and my kind left behind.
But there will be others, the empaths, who will try to break through the computer screen, pull out that tweet, swallow it whole, and make the breaking news, bad news vanish. They will try to move and re-arrange the whole of earth, shake it upside down, tilt it from left to right, anything to make time return to a hour before the first boom hit.
I worry for this group. They feel too much for this place. There’s no grief big enough that can sever their attachment to this city. They celebrate every time Mogadishu breathes, and break into little splinters when she bleeds, like it’s for the very first time. They forgive her for all the decades of slaughter, slate renewed, forgiven, if only, Xamar would stand still long enough for them to fix her.
They’ll weep in parked taxi cabs, while shaking hands dial all of us back here. Their heads buried into the desks at lecture halls, work bathrooms locked, tears weighing heavy on synthetic pillows, all throughout the diaspora, they’ll weep for us. Another attack in Mogadishu. Again.
Some will kneel in prayer. Others will bury it in balwad.
16:30, second one detonates, a giant of a roar, signalling hell is to come. There’s more of them. They’ve sent more, many more than the parked boy not a day over 20, who waited in stillness for three hours to maim me.
16:45. It’s been an almost an hour, and they’ve made their way inside. I’m on the floor above the main one, where Nasra sits. Sweet Nasra, so courteous and kind. I’m in room 202: right above the restaurant where my boys and I have our morning hit of hilib suqaar and malawax.
16:50. When this moment hits, the moment of absolute clarity of what is to come, you learn to become really good at calculations. Calculating how many metres separates them from you. The time left in your days. 31 has to be too young to die somewhere. Not in Mogadishu, but somewhere. How much time do i have left?
Maybe an hour, hopefully two.
How many hours till she stops waiting for me.
17:15. They're still occupied with terrorizing the main floor. So many people, it was so full when I came. I can’t make out all the noise, decibels aren’t clear, as the first hit took out most of my left ear. or is it the right? Don't know which remains.
I’m really in it this time. I’ve escaped Mogadishu’s grip many times, but this one is calling me home. This one was sent for me. Won’t be long now.
17:30 I can tell it'll happen soon because I’m starting to see them. A graceful old man, little girl holding his grip are floating by my window. So they exist. The ones this building took many years ago. A young woman, petite, with plaits in her hair, enters my room. I don’t know where from.
“Does it hurt? “ she’s sits above the dresser, inspecting what remains of my legs.
“Not really, can’t feel anything to be honest.” Is it weird that I don’t feel anything anymore. "Am i dead?” It's too soon to be one of them now.
“Not yet. ” She doesn’t convince me.
“Are you scared walaal?” she asks; Silly question to ask someone who hasn’t kneeled before God in years, with legs melting into the floor.
“A little. What time is it, you’re blocking the clock” I point to the analogue above the dressing table, next to her head.
“Impossible. I just checked moments ago. It said 17:30. You’re reading it wrong. It hasn’t been an hour” Has it been a hour? Fast losing grip on the hours.
“That’s what happens before it’s time” she glances at the door like she’s expecting them. “It won’t be long now”. She is expecting them.
I need more time. It’s 18:30. I’ve got 30 minutes to walk away from this, or I’ll be late for her. I promised Asha. 'Not even the road checks', I pleaded this morning. Cursed road checks. The men who should've failed them are inside now, so there's that. Searched me a good hour too.
She’s looking at the door again.
“Are they coming?” I ask. We both know the answer. I heard something close to screams on the stairs earlier. I can't tell anymore, hearings gone. Of course they’re coming. You begin asking stupid questions like a child searching for things that make sense.
“Your family knows you're here. She also knows. You haven’t answered your phone in hours. Your friend Awale shared his condolences with everyone you know. She knows too by now”
“How do you know all of this?”. More stupid questions. How did she know all of this. Why wasn’t any of this taught to us in dugsi, about all-knowing spirits. I should be terrified of all this, but her presence is comforting.
“Because you mustn’t worry about the dead walaal, that’s why it wasn’t taught to you. You only know when its time”.
“How bad does it look. My legs. You keep staring at them". She's disgusted, I can tell. It's a mess.
"There’s only half of you left”. Her gaze not breaking.
“I was suppose to be meeting her parent’s tonight. Asha’s parents. Her father flew in from Nairobi to meet me. Three years I loved her in secret. Not the right kind of clan for her. She said she would have me in spite. Her father is a force of a man, who i was suppose to be with tonight.
She promised to cross him for me, should he judge me unfit. As long as I wasn’t late for dinner. 18:30 she said. Hotel Saafi, restaurant area. 18:30. I came here to borrow a suit from a friend. this was his hotel room you know. “
I don’t know why I’m telling an apparition any of this.
“My god. It just occurred to me that this was Liban’s room, and gave me the key to pick up a suit because he was held up at work. If you think about it, I’m his replacement for his death”. How absurd. I can’t stop laughing. Asha would forgive me for being late, if only I could just tell her this unbelievable story.
"Hey Asha, you wouldn't believe what happened. I died in Liban's hotel room that I came to, to borrow a suit for you and your dad, and I'm dead now, and Liban lives", I'll say. She'll laugh too, we laugh about dark things like that in private.
“Hassan, you need to listen to me carefully.” she now sits on the edge of the bed, hands digging into her knees. She knows my name.
She continues. “There’s two of them in the hallway, they’ve made their way upstairs. and they will come in here. I’ve revealed myself to you because I watch all the people who come in and out of this place, and I can tell you’re a good man” she looks at the door again.
“I’m not understanding. What time is it please?”
I wish I hadn’t asked her that. i’m three minutes late now. I can’t be late. Her father is here. I would crawl to them if I could. But they’re in the hallway now. Bastards. I wasn’t suppose to be here. I’m in it now. I can’t see anything anymore. Asha’s face is disappearing fast. I think I hear guns. You think one would learn to tell guns from pleas and screams, but it's all just buzzing noise to me now.
The woman moves from the bed, and sits next to me. Her eyes betray her news, it's the end now. She tells me not to be scared. She was here before, same place I am now, many decades ago. A mortar shell split her open in 1994. Her family fled Mogadishu. She waits in this room for them. I told her about Asha’s frizzy hair, maroon eyes, and inappropriate jokes. The woman smiles. She likes hearing about my beloved.
19:07. 1 minute left.
They’re in my room now. I can taste the blood pumping from the bullets they've drawn in my chest. I'm not to survive this, yet they continue to ripe me apart. Luckily the blast that hit at 16:00 became my anesthesia. I feel nothing except the agony Asha will endure when all of this is confirmed.
One of them called me a gaal, and spits on what remains of me. I was just picking up a suit young man, no need for all this. I was going to forgive him too, for all this.
The woman is gone now. It's just me. I’m not afraid anymore. It's time to go. Asha will understand, her father too. 31 good years I had. That's gotta mean something. It's the end soon. I lied earlier, I'm still afraid.
19:08 May Allah (swt) have mercy on me, and this place. Time to sleep now.