First Name: Sima
Last Name: Daouk
If lost, return to: mom 🡪 Sarah Daouk
The policemen finally gave you back to me. I was worried they were going to keep you as proof that I was no good. It took them a while to find names and numbers to call since I was adopted, but eventually, they got a hold of Sarah’s mobile number. The man on the desk has been on the phone nonstop, but I don’t think anyone has answered him so far.
The officers asked me questions for what felt like hours before making me wait in a room for a while. They were nice enough to give me water and biscuits, but I just wanted you back. I wonder how Sarah and the rest are doing. Were they caught? Is it selfish if I hope they got caught? Or at least one of them? I don’t want to be here alone. My stomach hurts, and my wrists are sore from the handcuffs.
I haven’t been able to update you for a while since Sarah doesn’t like it when I write in front of her children. She told me that they never properly learned how to write and that I should be considerate of that. Honestly, I missed you, but I didn’t want to upset her. Now’s my chance to fill you in on why I’m at the police station.
I was told to distract the cashier of a supermarket while the rest of my family stole food. When Sarah first told me the plan, I was sure she could see how pale my face turned, but she patiently waited for me to say something. I was a little silent at first before she reminded me that I was now a part of the family, and I should pull my own weight.
That night, I was beaming, with a smile stretching from one cheek to the other. My mind was hazy with the words, “our family” riding a vibrant rainbow. All my life, I’ve dreaded anyone asking me about my name, family name, school grade…I was just a plain name and birthdate on a plain certificate in a plain country. That all changed when Sarah decided to adopt me. Sure they were poor, but I knew that their crowded cottage would be a new start for me.
I was scared, but I figured that this was my chance to be part of something. For a while, I worried they would take me back to the orphanage when the food in the fridge began appearing less and less, but I thought I could turn things around with that skit.
At first, I wasn’t sure how I was going to distract the man there, but Sarah explained to me that showing skin would do the trick. First, she picked out a pink sweatshirt and used a pair of scissors to turn it into a crop top. Next, she instructed me to loop threads into a needle in order to tighten my jeans. For the final touches, she had me smear beetroot on my lips to make them red. Looking in the full-length mirror one last time, I saw Sarah smile, and she assured me that I would charm him. I smiled back, happy that I was the reason behind her smile. I vowed, there and then, that I would get this right.
But vows are as good as the people making them…
The next morning, we set our plan into motion. I was sure I could do it, but the moment I approached the cashier, and our eyes made contact, his eyebrows furrowed and he sneered at me. I didn’t let that discourage me and repeated the line Sarah told me to say, “Is there somewhere private we can go?” while batting my eyelids. My heart sank when he started laughing, but before he could say anything, a clank in the background made him spin fast. Tima, the youngest of Sarah’s children, had dropped a can of corn. An inhumane growl escaped his lips at once, “THIEVES!”
My body responded without any clear instructions from my mind, and I sprang into action. My left hand closed on his right shoulder, and my right hand went for his wrist; I had to stop him from leaving the counter. He wasted no time in elbowing my face, which sent me a few steps back in a daze. That’s when he must have triggered an alarm because it brought me back to my senses. The loud ringing made my stomach twist and turn and, soon enough, my legs didn’t work anymore. I sank to my knees and started crying. The cashier was fuming, but he looked satisfied to have at least caught me. The rest, you can easily guess. I’ll write to you once Sarah takes me back home. I’m sure she’ll clear things up.
P.S: There’s a lady that’s been staring at me ever since they let me sit in the lobby. She looks like she’s friends with the chief here. She has a funny, red, pointy hat on. I can’t wait to laugh at this with Sarah. Now, bye for real.
First Name: Sima
Last Name: Hmedeh
If lost, return to: Lara Hmedeh
Back together, at last! I don’t know what I would do without you. One night, I fell asleep holding you in my arms. The next day, you were gone! I tried not to cry too loudly, but Lara must have heard me because she walked in with a new diary. She said your last version wasn’t pretty anyway. I asked her if she took you away during the night, but she drowned my question with a lesson on the rudeness of accusations.
So, as I was saying in my last entry, there’s another party happening soon at the house. As luck would have it, Lara’s favorite thing to do is introduce me to people, and that happens to be my least favorite thing. She has all these gatherings where her friends come over, and she gushes about how she saved me, “the orphan,” that fateful night in the police station.
Her husband My dad (I guess) is the chief, and while bringing him dinner at the station, she laid eyes on me, and she knew her infertility wouldn’t stop her from being a mom.
It was touching to hear…the first few times.
Telling her friends seemed to make her happy since I rarely see her smile any other time we’re alone. Her friends were these middle-aged ladies who wore fancy brands. (Lara’s second favorite thing to do is explain why those brands were clearly fake.) The ladies usually bring their kids and send them off to play in the backyard. I never get the chance to join them because Lara keeps an iron grip on my shoulder. I tried to ask her once if I could play, but she looked right through me and continued preparing appetizers for her guests.
But that’s not the point of this diary entry. I need to tell you about the last party because it was a disaster like no other. Lara was going her usual monologue describing our first meeting when she mentioned how her heart sank after she found out I was forced to do a crime. All at once, it hit me how Sarah never came back for me, and I started crying. Everyone was “awwing” in the beginning until my crying turned to bawling like an infant. After that, it became awkward, and she sent me to my room.
Later that night, she had a “talk” with me about being a lady and controlling myself. She affectionately called me, “her trophy?” It was the first time I was ever called that. Even now thinking about it, the word leaves a weird taste in my mouth. Still, I didn’t want to be kicked out, so I apologized and started crying again. I really don’t want to have to sit through these lectures anymore. It’s like there’s a manual I’m missing. If I had that manual, Sarah would have come back, and Lara wouldn’t be mad. I would be as pretty as Sarah wanted me to be and the trophy Lara saw me as. I would be Sima Daouk or Sima Hmedeh, but even this two-story house in Beirut can’t change who I am: Sima, just Sima.
I just heard Lara slam the front door. I hope I’m not in for another round of her lectures. I’ll talk to you later.
First Name: Sima
Last Name: Nothing*
If lost, return to: the West Orphanage
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if the police are after me again. Did Lara even call the police? Would the chief send out people to look for me? Should I go back?
No, I’m not going back. I’m not a thief, and I won’t apologize. You probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but I’m glad I managed to grab you before I ran away. Lara accused me of stealing her stupid wedding ring. I didn’t say anything at first because of how shocked I was, but she took that as more proof that I was guilty. After that, my mind didn’t register anything she said. All I can remember are red stripes creeping into my vision, and I could imagine them strangling her. With every syllable she screamed, her oversized lips opened revealing a vacuum of pride and lies.
She must have realized that I wasn’t listening to her because she stormed up to me and grabbed me by my hair. That’s when I lost the last amount of logic I had in me. I formed a fist with my right hand and used my left hand to hold her in place. Let me tell you, that punch was the most satisfying thing I had ever done in the sixteen empty years of my estranged life.
Back to the story, my happiness was cut short when Lara let out a piercing scream. You won’t believe this, but she just stood there with her hands on her hips yelling like a siren. I knew it was a matter of time before her husband rushed upstairs, so I did the first thing I could think of. I made my escape through the window, and my left knee paid the price. I limped all the way to the bus stop, and with the few coins I had in my pocket, I set out for the homeless shelter in the next city.
Sitting here, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where my next home will be, or if I’ll ever have a home. There’s a family just a few seats from me, and they’re playing a card game to pass the time. I’m not jealous if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m okay with this. You’re my home, and I’ll always exist in these pages, no matter what anyone else says. I can be just Sima with you. We’re almost there, so I should be getting off soon. I’ll let you know what the shelter is like soon. Write to you later xoxo.
Being at the homeless shelter is a lot of work, but I’ve liked carrying that load. I volunteered to help in cleaning up and cooking. There are all kinds of people here, some of them kind and others not so much. I’ve also seen people as young as 12 and as old as 60.
But what most of us have in common is that lost look on our faces. Sometimes, I feel like we’re like the frame of a painting depicting the world, destined to never be the colors or lines. Other times, I tell myself that I can get somewhere if I just work hard enough. Things are already looking up for me. I’m “working” (kind of) and I made a new friend (At least, I hope I did.)
There’s a girl that comes by every Saturday with her school to volunteer to help with the kitchen duties. Her name is Mira, and we’ve been chatting for a while. I was so worried that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, but she’s so talkative that I don’t think I have anything to worry about. She once mentioned the idea of us hanging out at her house, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Don’t worry though. I won’t forget about you. You’ll always be my first friend. Sometimes, I’ll be just Sima and other times, maybe I can be something more. I should be getting back to work. Write to you soon!