“Ten minutes,” the guard barks at us, and then turns and walks out my door.

My dad pauses, then quietly shuts the door. We’re alone, the three of us, in my room. I burst into tears. My parents surround me, wrapping their arms around each other and me. One of them kisses the top of my head; I’m not sure who. The other kisses my forehead.

I don’t know anything anymore. I don’t even know if this is real. I can’t feel my body. It’s like I’m watching all of this from outside myself. And it seems like it should be science fiction.

“We only have a few minutes,” my dad says, his voice cracking as he releases us from his embrace.

“Take what you think you’ll need, beta,” my mom says, stepping back.

A vise grips my heart. What I need? I need all the things I can’t have.

My dad takes my mother’s free hand. They look at me, ashen-faced, red-eyed. They are about to walk out, but my mom returns to me, grabs my hand, and motions for my dad to take the other. In this small circle of our family, my mom turns first to me, then my dad, silently, her eyes glistening with tears. She starts to whisper a prayer.

My Arabic isn’t so good, besides memorizing duas for daily prayers. But this one I know because it was always on Nanni’s lips. She even carried a copy of this verse in her purse, on a little laminated card. The Verse of the Throne. The protection prayer. My nanni used to tell me that this was one of the most powerful verses of the Quran. That whoever recited this verse would be under God’s protection. My dad once told me about the poetic symmetry of the verse. You should imagine yourself walking through the verse, he said, stopping at the chiasmus, the middle line: He knows that which is in front of them and that which is behind them. When you read the four lines before and the four lines after, you’ll see how, thematically, they are concentric circles that loop around that middle line.

I may not be the most stalwart of Muslims, and my practice may waver, but this dua—maybe because of how I remember Nanni reciting it as she would blow the prayer over me—this one always gives me a sense of calm, but something more, too. Like my nanni’s voice endowed each of the words with the strength of her belief, like the words were tangible. I reach out for that peace right now, that strength, but it feels like grasping at air.

“We have to hurry,” my dad says when my mom finishes the short verse.

“Can you do this?” my mom asks. “Do you need me to help you?”

No, I want to say. I can’t do this. I won’t. My heart is breaking, but underneath there’s this flickering flame of fury, too. How can we do this? How can you go along with this? I want to yell at my parents.

But I whisper, “I don’t understand how this is happening.” My voice is barely a scratch. “How can we be dangerous to the state? A poet, a chiropractor, and a high school senior?”

“It’s not about danger. It’s about fear. People are willing to trade their freedom, even for a false sense of protection.” My dad shakes his head. “‘There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.’”

“What does that even mean?” Behind the terror, I can feel the flames of anger, burning, rising. How can we resign ourselves to this?

“It’s John Adams. He meant democracy is fragile. All we can do right now is go along.” My dad turns to the window and raises his eyebrows. “They’ve stationed police outside the door. If we don’t cooperate, it will be much, much worse for all of us.”

“Hurry, beta,” my mom says as she and my dad rush out to pack up their lives in suitcases.

My head spins. My chest rises and falls, which is the only way I know I’m still breathing and standing here in the middle of my room. The bed’s not made. I can’t leave without making the bed. Who cares about the fucking bed? Why didn’t I text David? Does he know? How am I supposed to leave here without telling him? Will he think I’ve disappeared?

Suit #1 told us where we are going. A relocation center. Near Manzanar.

He used Manzanar like a landmark. Like the word was so everyday. Like “sun” and “grass” and “sky.” Words you use a million times without thinking. Like the irony wasn’t lost on him, because our world has no more irony in it.

Only minutes are left, and I have to figure out what to take. But for how long? A couple of days? A month? The Japanese Americans were interned until World War II ended. Years. Shit. Could it be years?

I grab the biggest duffel I have and start filling it with jeans, T-shirts, socks, underwear, pajamas. My black hoodie. A zip-up fleece. How cold does it get? Shoes. What shoes? A hat. Gloves. What do I need? How am I supposed to do this? Books. We can have books, right? I grab a couple of books from my nightstand, knocking over a digital frame currently displaying a picture of David and me at homecoming. I pick it up and hold it to my chest. I feel giant sobs coming on again, but I can’t. I don’t have time. I put the frame back on my nightstand, not sure if they allow pictures at… at wherever they’re taking us. What if they confiscate it? I’d rather have it here, at home, safe. Intact. From my desk, I snatch a handful of pens and a blank notebook.

There’s a knock on my door. My mom.

“Dad’s downstairs. We have to go.”

I’m not ready. This is mad. I can’t go. “Mom.” My voice breaks. She moves toward me, but I hold up my palm, and she stops.

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