Twenty years of running ends today—March 1, 2014. As a result, I am sitting here on an international flight, wedged between my daughter and a young handsome Marine going home on his leave. I’m heading towards Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to turn myself in.
The plane ride is long and tense. I've been chatting on and off since we left Dubai, trying to keep my mind busy. I can't believe I'm finally bringing this to an end. I've taken my head scarf off for the first time in years. I feel an unusual sense of freedom, but shyness at the same time.
Mona, now twenty-five, has been my greatest support and comfort. She calls Dubai her home and rejects the idea of returning to the States, most likely because she fears what lies ahead. Nevertheless, she stays positive.
“They are not going to take you,” she says, reaffirming herself more than me. "You have to think positive, Mom."
“Okay, dear. I will,” I say with a slight tremor in my voice.
Walking down the long carpeted hallway of the terminal, I feel as if everyone around me knows who I am—knows of what I have done. But in reality, each of the passengers is in their own world, clambering to see who can get to the immigration counter first. The lines are lengthy, but just as well for me.
Wait! Is that my heart pounding? Can everyone hear it? I feel as if I am in Poe's “Tell-Tale Heart.” My booming chest will surely give me away.
I step up to the counter. This is it. The man asks for our passports, and I hand them over. I try to breathe, but I feel as if an elephant is sitting on my chest; it's just too heavy to bear. “Breathe, Yasmine! Damn it,” I scream to myself. “They'll know something's up!”
The immigration officer is wearing a typical black police uniform, safely tucked away in his little Pope-like glassed area. Tick, tick, tick on the keyboard. Each stroke—taking me closer to exposure. Will he discover in the system that I am wanted by FBI? Will he know that I have been eluding the authorities for the last twenty-two years?
Yes, he will. And he does. I see it in his eyes. I guess it’s true; a criminal can always tell when they have been made.
He tries to make small talk with me about Dubai. But each stroke on the keyboard seems more urgent, more excited as he informs his colleagues on the other end of the intranet about me. I know on the inside that he is jumping up and down like a screaming little kid, “I have finally caught somebody! Come and get her!”
Suddenly, I see a large police officer standing to my right. “Can you go with this gentleman, ma'am?” the immigration officer says. Slowly and steadily we follow as I grasp Mona’s hand. He leads us to a large deserted area in the terminal. About four other officers are huddled together, as if in a football game.
As I watch them discussing nausea sets in. After a minute or so, one of the four separates and comes towards us. “Ma'am. Are you aware that there are two arrest warrants out for you?” the officer inquires.
“Yes, I do,” I say. “Can I can get my attorney’s letter out of my bag? I can show you that I am surrendering myself—to clear all of this up.” I continue as I reach in my purse for the letter, “My son should be right outside waiting for me. Can I call him?”
“No! No calls.” one officer from the desk area quickly snaps back. The officer standing near me takes the letter and returns to his group.
Mona starts to tear up; the pressure is now too much. This has just gotten real for both of us. I grab her hand again and hold tight—a feeble move to calm a young autistic lady who hasn't been separated from her mother in the last twenty-two years.
“Everything will be okay, sweetie. Don't worry, I have this all planned out. I have to turn myself in. They will let me out in a couple of hours. This is all part of the process.”
“Marsha, we have just spoken to your son outside. He is waiting for his sister,” the officer informs me. “Please stand up. You are under arrest; we have to take you into custody.” Like clanging church bells in my ears, the finality of it all has hammered down. I embrace my daughter and try to calm her tears.
“Why are they taking you? You have done nothing wrong!” she bursts, unable to bear silence any longer.
I try to calm her. “Sweetie,” I say. “Your brother is just outside the airport. This officer will take you to him. Okay? I will be fine. This is what I came back to do. I have to do this. For all of us.”
The officer leads my precious Mona away from me—out of the terminal and towards her awaiting brother. She is sobbing. My heart is breaking. My legs go numb, and I have to sit down. A woman officer comes towards me and asks me to stand back up, then handcuffs both hands behind my back. The clasps of the cuffs echo through the empty terminal. I am escorted to the awaiting police vehicle outside.
The cuffs are cold and hard, making it difficult for me to sit in the back cab of this small pick-up truck. The escorting officer bizarrely asks me about Dubai. “Yeah,” he says, “I've always thought about going there.”
“Really?” I reply, almost reminiscent, with a touch of regret for having just left. “It really is an amazing place.”
My holding cell. Could this be any smaller? But still, nothing like I had imagined. The walls are made of cement block, with a cement shelf built into the back of it. The shelf is about two and a half feet off the ground. The entire room is painted a shade shy of daisy-yellow, and the door is oversized and metal. A woman officer un-cuffs me and asks if I would like a drink of water. “Yes. Please,” I barely utter. “This room is awfully small. Can you leave the door open for me? I’m extremely claustrophobic.” The woman very politely—and surprisingly—agrees. (You never know when you'll get what you ask for.)
I sit on the hard cool shelf, like an obedient child who has just been given a time out, and watch them as they cluster around the desk reading and discussing my profile on two different computer screens. I eventually get tired of trying to eavesdrop, and look to the floor to size up the room. “Six feet by four. Yuck! Please God, don't let them shut the door.” I pray this under my breath with all sincerity.
“Is it true?” I hear suddenly. I look up and see one of the officers is slightly leaning against the metal door frame, with his arms crossed. “Are you really surrendering yourself after running for twenty-two years?”
“Yes,” I say, without even a touch of pride.
“That took a lot of courage,” he replies. “Well, I think you're doing the right thing by turning yourself in. Don't worry. This will all be just a memory in the morning.”
After a while the woman officer returns to me. We are going to transfer you to the main city jail now. I will have to put the handcuffs on you again. I stand up and go along without any kind of hesitation. One of the male officers escorts me out to the transporting wagon, or paddy wagon as some call it. He opens the little cab area between the driver’s seat and the back cage. He guides me in. It is cold and dark—almost black. The seats are hard plastic and my hands hurt pressing against them. I try to scoot over, but my long tight skirt is only complicating matters. I half lean over and my head rests on the side of the cab just behind the driver’s side; my feet are still behind the passenger’s side. I give up trying to move any further. The only light I can see is from the streetlights looking out the front windshield through the metal screen that separates me from the front. Suddenly, I feel true isolation for the first time in my life. Such intense loneliness I have never felt before. I begin to weep softly.
A few seconds later, I hear a voice coming from behind me. “Mom. Whadja do?” I’m a bit taken back. It’s a young male’s voice coming from sheer darkness. Not knowing if I am annoyed that someone is getting up in my business, or relieved to hear a human voice in my darkest moment, I barely give the effort to turn my head to see who is speaking to me.
Oh, what do I even say to THAT? I don’t reply but continue to sob.
He says, “Oh Mom, don’t worry. Everything’s gonna be okay. You’ll see the judge in the morning and you’ll get to go home. Morning will be here before you know it.” Then the voice goes silent again. A driver climbs in the front and we’re off. I peer out my screened opening to see if I can recognize Phoenix. I recognize nothing.
We arrive at the main city jail, or “the matrix,” as the streets call it. I continue through a rigorous and calloused check-in process, from one small holding cell to the next—all serving different functions: mouth swabbing, groping, finger-printing and of course the infamous mug shot. Like controlling cattle, the door opens to one of my holding cells. The officer calls my name and tells me to stand behind the podium for my picture to be taken—leaving me open for yet another opportunity of enquiry. “So-o,” the officer says, all drawn out. “I hear that you have been hiding out for over twenty years. Is that true?”
“I am not proud of what I have done,” I murmur.
With amazement in his voice and almost a chuckle, he says, “Well, you’re either really good, or we’re really bad?” It almost sounds like he wants me to answer the question, but then he quickly adds, pointing at the card taped below the camera, “Go ahead and look at this card right here.” Snap! “Turn.” Snap!
After the mug shot, the officer instructs me to go to the nurse’ station. This main function area is now co-ed. The female nurse sits behind a huge desk. She is wearing a typical white nurse’s uniform. She looks over at me and says, “I am going to ask you some questions and you just answer. Okay?” I shake my head, agreeing, another tear streaming down.
“Do you smoke?”
“Do you use marijuana?”
“Do you use heroine.”
“Have you ever shared a needle with anyone?”
“No. Really, are all of these questions necessary?”
“I’m sorry, but I have to ask them.” She continues, “Have you ever been a prostitute?”
“Have you… Have you… Have you…?” The questions keep coming.
“No…no…no….” I answer with mirroring rhythm.
Finally, the nurse says, “You know what? Looking down this list, I don’t think we need to continue. I can already tell what the answers are…”
Suddenly, just as she was ending the sentence, a mammoth of a man inside the holding cell directly behind me starts slamming his fists on the metal doors and screaming profanities at the top of his lungs. I jump in surprise as fear strikes through me as lightening. I begin crying even harder—but now out of terror. The man keeps pounding and pounding on the door. Three officers bellow at him to calm down. He doesn’t stop. The door flies open. They tackle the man and start tazing him.
My entire body is literally shaking by this point. “I don’t belong here!” I sputter at the nurse, knowing very well she can’t help me.
She leans in closer to me over the desk and says, “Do you want to know how to survive in here?”
I shake my head as if to say: yes.
“Just focus inward. Try to block out everything that is happening around you out. Okay? You will make through the night.” (Again, a voice of reason comes to me when I most need it). She continues, “It’s nice seeing someone that really doesn’t belong in here—if you know what I mean.”
I nod, wiping another tear away. “Thank you.”
I get up and walk to the next process station. I take a seat at the beginning of the long bench. As we are called, we move down to the right. In due time, I make it to the end of the bench. My tears have dried for now. A young boy seats himself next to me. I continue looking forward. Suddenly, I hear him say, “Are you okay, Mom?”
With instant recognition, I look up to towards the boy. It’s the same voice I heard in the dark hole. With a half-smile, I reply, “Yea. Yea. I’m okay.”
“Has anyone told you what will happen tonight?”
“No. No one.”
“Once you’re done here, you’ll go out into the hall in the next room. They’ll search you again and then take you to another cell for the rest of the night. Then in the morning you’ll see the judge, and then you’ll get out. Don’t worry. It’ll go by fast.”
“Thanks. What’s your name?”
Again they call my name and take me to the next hall just as Kevin had said. The beckoning officer politely instructs me. “Stand here, young lady. Remove your coat and shoes.”
A woman officer heads over with surgical gloves on.
Oh my god. What is she gonna do?
She stands directly in front of me and says, “Bend over at the waist and hang your arms straight down.”
I oblige without saying a word.
“I am sorry for doing this,” she says. She runs her fingers along the bottom-inside of each cup in my bra. She then grabs the middle area where the cups are joined, and shakes it to and fro. Then she says, “Now put your hands against the wall.” Another patting down.
Again? How many times are we gonna do this tonight?
“Alright, put your stuff back on and stand against that wall.” The officer then leads me down the hall into my next holding tank. It’s about two a.m., and there are about twenty-five women sprawled out like cats sleeping on the benches and the floor. The room has two phones on the wall to my right, and a u-shaped cement bench to the left. There is a toilet against the back wall and a green thirty gallon garbage can by the toilet. How odd. I find a narrow spot along the middle of the u-shaped bench and settle in—nothing to do but wait for my attorney to arrive.
As women often do, I carefully chose my wardrobe for the arrest. Unfortunately, I didn't consider that I might have to sleep on the floor of the city jail. I'm wearing my favorite long Turkish black skirt with a black turtleneck shirt, my bluish-purple power-blazer, black high-heels, and—to top it off just right—a multi-colored long mini-stone necklace. Maybe I over-thought it just a bit—and by the looks of it, I am the only one who did. Some of the women have dirty jeans on, some shorts and tank tops. One lady even has her house slippers on. But the thing freaking me out the most is this young girl who’s scratching and shaking. Forget her dirty clothes; she has scabs all over her body. What is wrong with her? I later found out that she was a Meth-addict. (This was my first encounter with someone who was on Meth. It was not pretty.)
The cement holding cell is chilly, with a dirty brown cement floor, and a pungent metallic smell. Suddenly, my claustrophobia kicks in. I find it harder and harder to breathe. My eyes begin dashing to and fro, looking for a passage for air. I lock onto the two-inch space under the steel door. I convince myself that the air coming from under the door is just for me. I can actually see it flowing towards me; it’s invisible, but I can see it. “Okay, calm down. You can do this. Breathe... Breathe...” I say to myself, between each long gulp of air. I start to relax. My breathing stabilizes.
One of the girls gets up and uses the toilet. Oh my. Am I supposed to look the other way? After she finishes, she lies down in a different spot. I notice a depleted roll of toilet paper next to me. The other girls are using the rolls of paper as pillows. I had better take that and keep it with me for later. I slyly snatch the roll and press it flat, stuffing the roll into the left front facing of my blazer. Okay, now I’m ready just in case. (That stash of toilet paper came in very handy later that night, as the call of nature came to light in the most inappropriate way for public display. I tried to scrape up some self-respect by using the garbage can as a barrier. Not one of my funner moments in life.)
Around five a.m., we are suddenly jarred alert by an officer at the door. He yells out that it is time to eat. Like a scene in a zombie movie, the women begin rising from the floor and take a spot on the bench. I wonder what they serve in jail. The officer leads a young man in an orange prisoner jumpsuit holding an open box with clear baggies spiking out the top; he couldn’t be more than twenty-four years old. Without uttering a word, he walks around to each woman in the cell and offers them the three entrée items from the menu tonight. One small bottle of school cafeteria fruit juice, one hamburger bun, and one baggie with a few tablespoons of creamy peanut butter.
The two “waiters” leave the cell and the women begin devouring. I decide that it’s best to ration. Who knows when my next meal will be? So I take a few bites of the bread, and suck some of the peanut butter for flavor. I savor it slowly, and then down it with a small swish of juice. Once the women have finished, they return to their spots on the floor and benches, and drift back off to sleep again. I sit silently in the same spot, thinking. Keeping my food supply near—and just thinking.
Time crawls its way to morning. The sound of the keys rouse me. Finally. Maybe it’s time to see the judge? They call out a list of names. Yes! Thank God! I wait anxiously for my next instruction. He tells us to line up against the wall outside in the hallway. With my peanut butter and juice bottle in tow, I accept my place in line and follow the lead. We walk slowly with no sudden movements into a small white room. Again they take my fingerprints. A lady officer looks at my food and says while pointing to a trash can, “You can’t take that with you inside to see the judge. You need to dump it here.”
There goes my food supply.
The officer leads us into the courtroom next door. It’s cold, and much brighter compared to the holding block—mostly white floor and walls.
Hey, where’s my lawyer? I look around and keep thinking that he will come into view at any minute, but he isn't. The proceedings begin anyway. A recorded male voice comes over the speaker: “You have a right to…” The words fade into the background. I whip my head to and fro. Where is my attorney? He is nowhere to be found.
A female judge, sitting on a circular brown platform, calls my name with authority. “Marsha Marcum.” I walk to the marked spot as one does on a performance stage. “State your name and date of birth, please,” the judge commands.
My voice crackles as I answer her.
The judge continues, and without any explanation announces, “Because of your record, you will remain in jail until your hearing.”
What? My legs go numb. Oh my God! I'm going to jail? Where is my attorney? This was not supposed to happen like this.
Suddenly, I remember that my attorney had scheduled a quash warrant hearing for me. I finally muster the courage to speak to the judge. “But Your Honor. I came to America for a quash hearing,” I say with great desperation. “I thought my attorney would be here for me right now, but he isn't, and I don't have his number with me. My purse went home with my children.”
“Okay. Let me look into it. Go back and sit down. The bench will call you up when I am ready.”
My mind is racing a thousand words a minute. I begin mumbling to myself, “I shouldn't have come back home. This was not supposed to happen like this. Where is my attorney? Oh God, what have I done?”
After what seems like hours, but in reality is only about thirty minutes, the judge calls me back to the bench again. “We looked into it, and yes, you do have a hearing set in a few days. I will go ahead and release you.”
Oh, thank God! “Thank you, ma'am,” I say.
I am transferred to one process room after another. Each room is getting smaller than the one before. I wait anxiously to be released. I am still trying to fathom what in the world happened with my attorney. Why didn't he show up? I replay it to myself over and over again. We had this planned out for well over a year.
The final process room has a phone in it. I try to call my son to let him know that I am being released. But I can't remember the bloody number. I think as hard as I can, but it's just not coming to me. Luckily, one of the other girls being released is calling her mother on the phone next to me. I ask her if her mother could go onto Facebook and let my son know what is happening—it’s worth a shot, anyway. After twenty minutes, her mother has found him. “He is on his way,” she says.
At last, the final door of the matrix opens. I step outside with great anticipation, but nothing greets me except a light shower of rain. But I'm not sad. I'm back home. I made it to America. These cool refreshing drops are a welcome change from my former desert refuge. At last, appearing from around the corner, I see my son and daughter on American soil. We embrace. This is the first day of a lengthy legal battle, but my two children are here beside me, to love me, to support me and my past decisions.
“Son,” I anxiously ask, “where's my attorney? Did you call him and tell him I was arrested at the airport?”
“Oh yeah…” he says, “I forgot.”
1.My Greatest Loss: I am dedicating my memoir to my mother, Sandi. In this chapter, I describe the moment I found out that I had lost her. It is the shortest chapter in the book; but it was the most difficult to write---and to read. (This was recorded in only one take. I just couldn't read the passage aloud a second time.)
2. The Tonga: This is my dedication to ever-ready horse and buggy in the village.
Wanted by the FBI, and daunted by her mother's troubled past, a desperate and misguided divorced American woman, Marsha Marie, seeks refuge in a remote village in the heart of Asia.
This is a true story of a young mother, who, in order to protect her two small children from a home of control and domestic violence,, trades the American dream and their identity for a single-room primitive lifestyle. No running water. No electricity. And at times, no civility.
Masking the inner-longing to return to her homeland, she musters the will to learn a new language, and a new life. Rejecting the concept of time, she lives day-by-day in a delusive yet strangely comforting world.
Until the day her 16-year-old son leaves, and she realized she has not only lost him, but has also lost her self-identity. Lies, betrayal, and prejudice overshadows most of her life outside the States. But, along the unbelievable journey she finds the true meaning of life, joy, love, family, forgiveness --and herself.
Twenty-two years in hiding, she finally heeds the advice of a medical doctor to take her special-needs daughter back home to the States. Back to Phoenix. To the awaiting police at the airport. Her first night back in her home county, spent in a cold jail cell, torn from her traumatized daughter.
And now, the hearings are complete, deals have been made, and finally her true healing begins. Bangles, a Memoir, explores her experiences and lays out this chilling true story of escape, adventure and forgiveness.
Sample Chapters from BANGLES
I lay inside my mother-in-law’s room on one of the wooden cots. My body is shivering with fever under this home-made padded comforter. The comforter is musty as if it has not been in fresh air in years, but the heaviness is rather comforting to my aching body.
Hours seem to be dragging by. Tick. Tick. Tick. I can hear the clock across the room from time to time. Without TV or radio, I choose to entertain myself by studying the delicate details of the embroidered runner that is hung along the length of the wall-to-wall cement shelf —orange with yellow flowers. I later found out that my Amijon had made this herself. Just next to my head, I see hair-like particles creeping out of the wall --lifting chunks of pastel-colored limestone away from the cement stucco. “Wow, I have never seen a wall grow hair like that before,” I think to myself. “What is that crap? Oh my god, I hope I don’t breath any of it in.”
I can hear family noises shuffling about outside, which makes no difference to me anyway, because I still can’t understand what they are saying —it still sounds like they are arguing all of the time.
Suddenly, mother-in-law walks in with a strange old woman that I have never seen before. The old woman’s traditional wrap is lifted in the front and is sitting atop her head like a warrior-headpiece. It is dingy army-green with red 1-inch-diameter dots tightly spaced over the entire fabric. Her baggy disheveled clothes give no hint to her twiggy figure. She is frail and extremely wrinkled.
The woman cautiously follows Amijon over to the side of my bed. My husband stands at the door so that the sun is still shining on him. He announces to me that Amijon has called the old lady to come and pray for me.
“Ok,” I say in acceptance and appreciation.
I am still laying flat with the covers up to my ears. I don’t feel like sitting up for my new visitor. Instead, the cryptic woman leans-in closely to my face —strangely close. I think to myself, “Can’t she pray from over there?” She start mumbling to herself as the rest of the room watches in silence. I can’t understand what she is saying, but her teeth seem unusually large —totally disproportioned for her mouth. As I stare at her lips stretching back and forth, suddenly her fragile arm reaches up and grabs my bedding to expose my shoulders. Without any warning, she begins spitting on my face. Thup! Thup! Just like one would do had they just eaten a peanut shell and they were trying to get all of the disgusting little pieces out of their mouth.
“What the hell?!” I gasp in shock… I look at my husband and squeal,”She’s spitting on me! Why is she spitting on me?”
He calmly explains, “She is praying for you. She doesn’t mean anything by it. That is how she does it.”
In 1992, when Marsha Marie boarded a plane with her two small children and her second husband, Zain; they had one-way tickets to Pakistan and a plan. Their destination: Zain’s birthplace in the remote village of Kalu Kalan. Their reason: to escape the toxic influence of Marsha’s abusive ex-husband, David. Their goal: to join Zain’s relatives and live free from David’s domineering interference.
Yet, when Zain unexpectedly decides to return to the States, leaving Marsha and the children behind with his family, all of these plans go up in smoke. Now immersed in an unfamiliar country, Marsha is forced to do what she knows best--adapt and survive. With the help of Zain’s family, Marsha assimilates to the local culture and creates a new existence for herself and her children.
But more than twenty years later, Marsha can no longer escape her mother’s parting advice, “Never forget your identity.” Yearning to return to America, but knowing that she’s now considered a fugitive by the American government, Marsha is forced to make a difficult choice that will irrevocably change the lives of everyone involved.
Told with heart and humor, Bangles is the amazing true story of Marsha Marie’s incredible journey towards inner strength that teaches us it’s never too late to come home.
10% of all proceeds from Bangles (Book 1) go to
The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (www.acesdv.org) to help support the CRIME VICTIMS’ RIGHTS PROJECT--which provides free legal representation to enforce the rights of crime victims in criminal cases in Arizona, as well as social services to assist crime victims during the course of the case.
Bangles: My True Story of Escape, Adventure and Forgiveness
Book 1 of the Bangles Series
Author / Teacher / Speaker