Day 18 of the blockade, Mujaahid called me this morning with an update- every time the phone rings and it’s him I thank Allaah that the phone system is still up and running. When I lived in the village and the fighting was going on the phones were off for several months, so I keep praying that that doesn’t happen again.
Latest development- yesterday the Houthis came down off the mountain shooting. They killed one person and injured three. So far the shooting is confined to one area of the village where there is a relatively large open space. The villagers have so far abstained from shooting back; instead they have deserted the area where the rebels are.
“Don’t stick your head out the window.” My teasing sounds a bit feeble, but I don’t want him to know how worried I am.
“I have to go to work,” he answers. “But it’s easy to get there because they built a deep trench to walk through the wadi so we can’t get shot.”
Ah. Well, that’s comforting. I guess.
The wadi is a seasonal watercourse that separates the two main parts of the village. Mujaahid lives on one side, and the phone center he works at is on the other side.
“I can’t imagine anyone will have to use the phones with the fighting going on,” I venture.
“It faces the masjid, it’s safe,” he assures me.
I hesitate to tell him what we are planning for the Eid the next day, Sunday. Obviously they are not going to doing much, and I hate to belittle what they are going through by telling him what we are planning.
“We won’t be able to gather,” he says. I’m not surprised- it has been a few years since the people of the village could gather for the prayer outside, as is legislated, due to the chance of the Houthis on the mountain deciding to shoot them like fish in a barrel. But then he goes on to say they can’t even hold it in the main masjid, as it is too dangerous.
“But I bought a soda a few days ago- there isn’t any left in the stores- nothing on the shelves anymore but Clorox and soap. But I got some before it ran out,”
“Oh, and a bag of candy and suckers for Suhayb.”
I think of times when we were low on money and resources, but nothing ever compared to what they are going through. He goes on to tell me that he was going to get a chicken and Hiyaat’s mother was going to barbecue it over wood and charcoal.
“It’ll be good,” he says. “It better be, it’s all we have.”
“Hiyaat’s mother found three cans of peas somewhere, I don’t know how she did it,” he adds, brightening a bit. “She gave us one. It’s like having meat or something, it’s such a treat.”
At some point he tells me the water has run out as well. They have to stand for hours hoping to get some. I think of Hiyaat, trying to nurse a baby on a little bread and water each day. I don’t want to worry him, but I mention my concern.
“I bought a can of milk before that we put aside- you know, for an emergency.” How long a can of milk will last with a baby is something I decide not to dwell on. And without water? Mash’Allaah.
“When will someone decide that enough is enough?” I ask. “I mean, how will they decide it’s bad enough that everyone should leave?”
Silence. Then, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
The conversation winds down, as we talk about the baby’s cold and if there are any herbs that could help her. I hate to hang up, to sever the ethereal connection I have with him at that moment. I look for the words to say, how to tell him I’m proud of him and that he’s a good husband and father and that I miss him more than he can imagine.
Instead, I promise to try to call on the Eid, and let everyone talk to him, Hiyaat and Suhayb.
Until then, we wait, and we pray.