In what used to be the yard of my grandfather’s home in Omdurman, where my cousins, sister, and I used to play in the mud and grow joyfully black without minding it, my aunt had built her house. I spent the summer of 2019 there, doing my last bit of growing up before the wedding. Outside the high walls of my grandfather’s house, we had won. Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese dictator of the past thousand years, had been ripped from power and shoved out of sight. The military headquarters, site of the protests that had vanquished him, had become a specimen of Afrofuturism, a sprawling mini-village lit up by love. …

Here’s what my sister and I don’t like to admit: my father can be quite charming when he wants to be.

Image: Three Wise Monkeys

He’s in Room 134, all the way at the end of the hall. That’s good because it gives me time to say a prayer to the beat of the hospital beeps: Don’t die, don’t die, don’t die.

His name is written in baby blue on a whiteboard outside the room. When I was younger, no mere door could contain my father. He filled our entire house with his ox shoulders and walrus jowls. His footsteps upstairs rattled the pot lids around the kitchen and his booming laugh rattled around my brain no matter how loud I blasted my music.

Though he was bigger than Mama, Sarah, and I combined, he was lighter on his feet. We were forever blinking, finding he’d disappeared and reappeared again in record time. When he was away on work and the walls no longer trembled with his presence, we would sit around after dinner staring at each other, incredibly bored and profoundly relieved. …

Zeena Mubarak

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