Saturday morning the soldiers were still there. If I wasn’t in custody, then I was at the very least confined. This was the morning I’d planned to fly to Rome. I alternated between long hours of knowing the flight wouldn’t depart and brief seconds of denial when wishes gave fantasy the upper hand. Tom had given me his second radio; the BBC reported that airports and seaports had shut down.
I lay in front of the window, peering under the curtain. No traffic moved on the avenue. It was quiet except for the sand gusts scraped against the windowpanes. A rattling can blowing down the street startled me. A sandstorm looks, sounds, and feels like a blizzard. I was sandbound, not snowbound, trapped. I could blame my inertia on this storm. I looked at my watch: 9:15, the hour of my departure for Rome. After rejecting a sense that these invaders would keep me from traveling, that morning I never even imagined packing or leaving although the car Tom and I shared was in the parking lot below.
I alternated between fear and fury. I cursed at myself for staying behind when Ted left, but I couldn’t stop imagining the different ways they might have died: attack from the air, bullets or grenades fired from men along the road, thirst and sunstroke in the desert after their cars were confiscated. I was at least in familiar surroundings with functioning air conditioning, water for drinking, cooking, washing and flushing the toilet. Then I returned to cursing myself, feeling worse than embarrassed to be caught. I did pushups. I sprawled on the couch. I went back to the curtains and saw the soldiers still below. Then I went to the bathroom and cursed myself anew while looking in the mirror, as if seeing the fury in my face could help intensify the feelings. I didn’t realize then how numb I’d already become. I picked up the journal to write something more to Diana but I didn’t have anything new to write.
Back on the sofa, where the cycle repeated itself, starting with more pushups, I thought about the news: a contingent of British military trainers who lived not far south had been arrested by Iraqi troops and bussed to Baghdad, and President Bush had issued an economic embargo against Iraq, which Iraq condemned. Only a few people with four-wheel-drives and Bedouin guides were escaping out through the desert. As the days passed, the United States led a drive for other nations to enact an economic embargo against Iraq, making me feel increasingly besieged by the Iraqi troops around the building. And I quickly lost track of the days, as nothing really happened. I alternated between cursing myself, exercising, and peering under the curtains. It amounted to waiting for something to impinge—another missile, some other attack, arrest maybe.
<<Note: Daily or weekly installments will vary in length. This NYTimes article captures some of the feeling I recall having at the time. The image above is part of a page of the diary I kept throughout my detention.>>