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One Way Ticket

A young man is sitting in the airplane watching the clouds move below him out from the small oval window on his left. Fresh cold air hits the window from the personal overhead ventilation valve. A talkative old man from Mosul has a long beard and is wearing a heavy coat like an Eskimo. He is uncomfortable with his small seat and tight seat belt but refuses to take off his coat. A lot of good and bad memories comes to his mind. The young man continues to ask himself if he made the right decision. He is going alone to a city and a country in which he has never been – Chicago, Illinois. It was a difficult choice. The goal that the young man had worked so hard for was to graduate. It is not easy study for years in Baghdad and then to decide to leave so quickly after accomplishing what he had set out to do – to graduate with a master’s degree in mathematics. To leave now was to go to the unknown – to America. It was a place where he didn’t know what will or could happen. Would he be able to start his life again? The only thing the young man took from his past was his best beautiful watch.

After three years of research, he finally received his results, and was ready to take his final exam. This test was a turning point for his life, and his title as a teacher and achieving the degree for all these years of labor in Baghdad at Mustansiriyah University.

The young man is dizzy with his memories and thoughts sitting on the plane when someone puts a hand on his shoulder and says, “Sir, I called you three times. Are you okay?” It’s a white woman with blue eyes and blonde hair wearing a nice red jacket with a short skirt, and the young man starts to think maybe this is the beginning of his new life. “I am okay. he replied.

Can I bring something for you? the flight attendant asked.

‘No thanks.

When she goes to check on other passengers, he remembered the moment when the professor at the university gave him the exam. He remembered the small dark room and the chair and desk, which sat alone in its middle. At the time, it reminded him of an investigation room in the basement of a police station. It was a hard time for him.

He couldn’t control his hands from shaking, and he his legs were numb. His heart beat fast and when he finished the exam, he had a dry mouth and was exhausted. The professor told him he had to wait in the cafeteria until his results had been recorded before he could go home. The young man left the dark examination room and the desk, walking to a brightly lit hallway that lead to the cafeteria.

The plane shakes hard with a high voice piercing his middle ear. It is a voice in English from the speaker above, and then he hears another voice. But this voice wasn’t human. It is the voice of the jet engines. It is the voice of his new journey calling to him and telling him to leave his past. He puts his hand on his watch for good luck. It is a reminder of his past and the hopes of what could be. The watch is small and silver with clear numbers. The glass top of the watch is soft to the touch. It is the only gift he got when he graduated.

He sat in the cafeteria staring at a wall while holding a cup of tea in his hand waiting for someone to call him. It was like waiting for a judge to tell you if you will live or die. Then his cell phone started ringing, and the young man ignored it.

“Ringing, ringing, ringing and ringing!

He answered the phone on the fifth ring nervously, and it would be the happiest moment in his life. It is the moment that the professor told him the results of the exam, and that the university will consider him as a teacher. He left the cafeteria, down the brightly lit hallway passing the exam room on his way out. The young man had wanted to just take a final look at the room. From the busy street outside of the university, he took a taxi directly to his home to tell his family. When he arrived to the house, he was surprised because no one was waiting for him except his mother. She had a small green box in her hands. She said to him with tears in her eyes, congratulations young teacher. He opened the box, and he saw his lucky best beautiful watch.

He starts to feel the plane descending. He realizes the plane is close to landing. He is closer to Chicago. The jet engines’ voice gets louder, and there is a frightful turbulence that makes his heart beat faster. He closes his eyes for moment isolating himself from the reality of the flight with memories. There is now silence everywhere. He feels that he has a beginning for his new life, and there is no return.

Karrar Alshaikhli

Karrar Alshaikhli is a mathematics teacher at St Philip’s College. he was born in 1988, and his interests in Mathematics include operation research and statistics. He graduated from Al-Mustansiriyah University in 2014 with a master’s degree in Applied Mathematics.