Only another hundred miles left, and we’ll be in Pakistan
The first thing Masud did, after greeting us, was walk us over to a deserted area of Yezd, where his jeep was parked.
“We are on our way to Pakistan to visit family,” Masud said gruffly. “If we are stopped at the border, that is exactly what you must say: We are on our way to Pakistan to visit family.”
I drew my hijab more tightly around me. The black robe had become somewhat sweaty and rumpled after my long ride in the taxi, but other than that, it made me look exactly the way the Khomeini wanted me to look: like a religious extremist who was completely severed from the outside world.
On top of the hijab, I wore a coat and my backpack. My heart quaked underneath all the layers. I don’t look like the type of girl who cares much about her family in Pakistan, I thought in fear. How will anyone believe me?
Masud seemed to read my thoughts. He held out a shopping bag. “I have four Shalwar Kameez robes in here,” he said. “That’s the national garb in Pakistan. Each of you needs to change into a robe.”
The robes were long and colorful with golden diamond shapes on the front and back. My dress was teal colored, and I smiled as I put it on. The colorful garment was definitely a lot nicer than the austere-looking hijab. Still, I felt like an actor in a play.
Masud looked us over to make sure that we all looked like typical Pakistanis. “Okay, you look fine. Yalla. Into my jeep.”
Masud’s Shalwar Kameez was red. It reminded me of blood and war, and I shivered slightly as I followed him into his vehicle and then settled down under his watchful eye.
I wrapped my coat around me and hugged my backpack close. The sky was inky, and the moon was only at half-mast. Only the tiniest bit of natural light pierced the desert blackness as Masud drove on.
Sand. Rocks. And blackness. As we left Yezd behind and drove on into Kerman and then Sistan and Baluchistan, I felt as if the desert would never end. The province names changed but the scenery did not.
Salt, rocks, and the wind generated by the moving jeep. The Lut Desert stretched on for miles, and I wondered if it would ever end.
Was there really a country at the other side?
Where exactly did Iran end and Pakistan begin?
Suddenly, the jeep stopped moving. “That’s it,” Masud said. “I’m going out. I need a break.”
Masud pushed his door open and left the jeep. He started walking into the inky blackness.
I shivered. “Umma, Yitzchok,” I nearly wailed. “Did he just leave us?”
I heard the sound of hissing in the distance. I imagined a poisonous snake crawling toward us.
“Look,” Yitzchok pointed into the darkness. “There’s an inn there. Masud probably went in for a drink.”
Five minutes passed.
“This is very strange,” Dovid muttered. “It’s almost like he abandoned us.”
Yitzchok patted his pocket and clenched his teeth. “Can’t be. I didn’t pay him for his work yet. He knows that he’ll only get paid if he finishes his work.”
There’s more than one way for a person to finish his work, I thought.
Another five minutes.
And then, suddenly, Masud’s figure became visible beneath the faint rays of moonlight.
“There he is,” Dovid breathed.
Masud was already close to the jeep by the time we spotted him. My heart leapt with relief as he reentered the vehicle. “Let’s go,” he said, turning the motor back on as though we hadn’t all just been deathly afraid that he’d abandoned us.
The jeep sprang back to life, and I tried very hard to relax. But the image of all the scary things that I had just imagined in my mind’s eye wouldn’t leave me. I prayed for us to reach safety already.
“Only another hundred miles left, and we’ll be in Pakistan,” Masud announced.
Another hundred miles.
My shoulders relaxed. I began to breathe more easily.
“Stop right where you are,” a voice thundered. “Stop!”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 910)
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