October 31, 2008

We arrived and it all started

We walked down the familiar road to the house in a more comfortable silence than at the coffee shop, but still a silence none the less. She pulled out her keys as we got closer to the house and I so desperately wanted to warn her about what was going to happen tonight. Why? Maybe so she could tell me not to say yes, so we could get married... but that was just my mind playing tricks with me and I knew that.

We entered the door and I was slowly taking my shoes off as she walked upstairs to her bedroom and Nasser came out of the kitchen. 'Salam bro,' he said hugging me... 'so you ready?' I shook my head and he saw the sheer terror in my eyes before pulling me into the kitchen. He sat me down and started to pour me some tea, 'you wanna pray isha first? then we can chat for abit. They are here but they dont know you are I dont think, unless Sadia has come down.' I shook my head, 'yeh lets pray,' I told him... we prayed long and hard, I was grateful to him for using longer surahs to give me something else to concentrate on. We even prayed sunnah salah afterwards and then moved back into the kitchen to finish our drinks, Nasser talked a little about the girl and asked what I had reservations about. I told him that my heart just wasnt totally in it and I think he read where I was coming from, 'dude, this is totally new to me. I havent grown up with this and dont know what to expect. Ive fallen hard for someone but know it cant work out and that bothers me for reasons I dont quite understand. I dont even know this girl you are talking about and Im being asked if I want to spend the rest of my life with her.' He nodded, he understood, I knew that.

His father walked into the kitchen, noticing me he seemed shocked that we were sat there drinking tea. Looking at Nasser sternly he said to me, 'Oh, you're here. Well do you want to come inside and talk with us? or sit here and make us wait?' He was smiling, I liked this family, which made it all the more harder to reject what they were offering me. 'Shes upstairs,' he told me... she was upstairs! with Sadia, what would they be talking about? what would Sadia say when she asked her about me? All these questions kept going around in my head and it was making me dizzy. 'She will come down in abit when things have settled. So shall we?' he stepped aside and directed me to the living room. 'I can say no? right?'I asked Nasser and his dad, wanting that confirmation, his dad shrugged, Nasser grinned, 'if you want to,' was the reply. Had I already made my mind up? I was unsure. I just prayed things would work out for the best as I opened the door and stepped in the front room.

The atmosphere wasnt as I had imagined, Amani was sat in the corner finishing homework, Aisha was sat on the couch and Nassers father joined her. There were a few chairs spread around and I did notice things had been moved from how I had taken that mental picture the first time I visited them. I saw another older gentleman who I assumed was the father of the girl we were discussing and Nasser's younger cousin Taheem playing with some toys on the carpet. I assumed he was some relation to the older guy. I was surprised at how many people werent there, for some reason I had imagined more older men and ladies all trying to ask me questions and get me confused. Aisha motioned for me to take a seat and Nasser sat next to me, although why I wasnt too sure, his mother asked how I was.. usual formalities.. and I answered every little question she asked me. She was making me feel more at ease I realised after awhile, making it more normal alhamdulillah. I was introduced to the older gentlemen who I found out was the imam at the masjid behind the house that we had prayed in all that time ago. I found it weird that this was how he was introduced and not as how he was related to the girl in question.
'So, you know why we are all here dont you Ethan?' I nodded. 'Zain is here to just go over a few things that would be expected from you as a husband. The islamic things and feel free to ask him any questions you have,' ok now I was more confused but I listened to what the imam had to say and did even ask a few questions. I had never been in this situation before and as I wasnt really looking for a wife previously I hadnt really read up on the subject, so was grateful for this crash course in islamic marriage. The imam chatted for about an hour, which went by quickly and I even embarassed myself by making a few notes of the things he said, to the amusement of Nassers dad and to the gentle approval of his mum.

Once he had finished I reached for my glass of water and Nassers father turned to me saying, 'so now we should discuss if you think you are ready for this responsibility of looking after our daughter' I dropped my glass, got very flustered and apologised profusely. Aisha realised what had happened and yelled at Nasser in urdu while slapping him around the head. His father came back from the kitchen with a cloth to mop up the water and demanded to know what was going on. I couldnt talk, I grabbed hold of Nasser and looked at him smiling to himself.

'She didnt want him to know it was her!' he told everyone so matter of factly, 'she wanted to make sure that he wanted the same thing before giving him the idea. And... well... it seems he did cause she aint here objecting now, is she?! and you know she would if she wanted!' Aisha shouted her daughter from upstairs. I sat down as I heard her gently walking down the stairs and into the living room, she had changed, was now wearing a loose blue cotton skirt with a white flowing top and one piece hijab that she must have stored away for times like this. She looked at her parents but wouldnt look in my direction when her mother asked her to explain. We all sat down, she sighed and started to explain her reasoning behind the secrecy

October 25, 2008

The "date"

I stood patiently waiting outside the building Sadia had given me directions to about 30 minutes ago. I tried not to look like I had been waiting long and was aware of how I was standing and also how I was feeling. So I took a little walk, picked up a bottle of iced tea and some water for her from the corner store then sat outside the building. I started up my ipod finishing a lecture that I had started to listen to the night before about the changes in the west and how islam was seeingly trying to keep up with these changes. The lecture was by Tariq Ramadan, a liked muslim lecturer from UK, I liked his thinking masha'allah, he had become a favourite speaker of mine over the last few months. I sat back on the bench and closed my eyes, maghrib wasnt for another few hours, so the sun was still shining and the weather was still pleasant which was nice. I was glad I had changed a little, although still questioned why I hadnt thought I was dressed well enough in the first place but I felt good and I wanted that to be reflected in my clothes. So I had changed into a pair of loose black cords, a white long sleeved tshirt and a black beenie, holding a record bag containing my photos, camera and a few random bits that I normally carry around in my trousers. I must have been sat there for 10 minutes with my eyes closed, only sensing the world go by, when the lecture finished. I opened my eyes to find something else and only then noticed Sadia inside the building watching me, I looked around to see if she was actually watching me and laughed to myself when I looked back. She pushed the door open with a shy smile and walked towards me wearing a long black cord skirt with a matching coloured blazer and a coral loose shirt underneath. Her shoes were flat and dark, her hijab was bright to match her shirt and brought out the blueness of her eyes. 'Assalamalikum,' she said sitting next to me, 'Walikum salam,' I answered pulling the headphones out of my ears and pushing them into my bag. 'How long you been waiting?' we both asked each other at the same time and laughed as I urged her to answer. She shrugged, 'not long. You?' ''Bout 15 minutes, I thought it would take me longer to get here,' I slightly bent the truth. I had thought it would take longer, and it did.. but I was still early because I had set out that much earlier than I should have. I wanted the chance to relax by the building so I didnt look as nervous when she met me.

We chatted for a small time outside the building, she saw people from her meeting leaving and introduced me to them as her 'brothers good friend' I had never been someone's good friend, so it was nice that she was introducing me as this. We talked about what I was listening to, I learnt Tariq was also a favourite speaker of hers, as was Zaid Shakir, Ziaullah Khan ( a brother from Canada), Said Rageah and some others that I hadnt really heard of. I noticed that her tastes were similar to mine and I liked that we had a connection that far when it came to the people we listened to. We chatted about our days since we had last sat down with my camera at her house last week and the things we had been up to. She mentioned some things she may need help with for the MSA and I told her about the assignment I was trying to finish early, the bball game that got cancelled and my never ending problem with my wardrobe. Although I think the last conversation was something for me to just tell someone and somewhat regretted it once I started, but she was open about it and even teased me.

We started to walk away from downtown after deciding to pray at the student prayer room around the corner, grab a bite to eat at the italian place down the road and sit at a coffee shop for a bit. As we walked over to the prayer room my phoned beeped with a message from Nasser telling me that this family wanted to meet me tonight if it was possible. I wasnt too sure if he knew I was with Sadia, so I contemplated how to reply, her phone rang as we were walking along. As she was talking I realised it was Nasser, so was relieved when she mentioned she was with me, I watched her as she talked to him.. typical brother sister relationship which I loved and envied at the same time. She passed the phone to me to talk to him 'Can you come over?' he asked... I looked at Sadia, emotionally torn by what I was discussing with him which in my head totally disrespected her. 'She told me what you guys are doing, but the time she was looking to get back home would be perfect, so??' I laughed quietly, he wasnt the subtle type and thats why I liked him. He didnt care about other people, I knew that the instant I had met him, I thought about his question. 'What time did she say?' I asked, sort of asking the 2 of them. She mouthed '9' to me and he said 'about 830 is what she told me,' I smiled 'insha'allah,' I told him... and then I handed her the phone. I wondered what he had told her about why he wanted to know if I could come back to the house, I would ask her when she got off the phone. By the time she got off the phone we were just walking into the room to pray so I figured it could wait, we grabbed a quick date, I passed her the bottle of water and we joined in the salah.

I made a prayer while in sujud asking God to steer me to the right path with regards to my relationship with Sadia and prayed that things would work out for the best. After prayer had finished I waited outside for Sadia pulling the bottle of iced tea out of the bag, I sat on the wall when I saw her talking to a few friends. She acknowledged me, waved and held up a finger to tell me she would be a minute. I pulled out my camera, I had recently fallen for out of focus shots and used them as a way to blur the world around the object of taking the initial picture. At this point, as I watched her surrounded by friends I was envious of the ability she had to control her thoughts and be involved in such conversations, even though I never knew the conversation. I took 1 shot, 2 shots, 3 shots then focused on a group of guys who were walking past, they looked at the girls and stopped just to the side of them. The prayer room entrance was also close to the entrance for a social room which was frequented by many students outside of class hours. Through the eye glass I saw 2 girls look over their shoulder at something one of the guys must had said, for some reason my camera focused on the sly smile of the guys and I noticed how they moved a little closer to the girls. I noticed Sadia look down and blush slightly, at that moment something took over me and I stood up walking over to them quickly. I stood between the small group of girls and the 3 guys who seemed to be making comments which I could now hear loud and clear. One looked at me with resentment in his eyes, I knew that look and I wasnt prepared to stick around to wait for the comments that came out after it. I looked at Sadia, 'you wanna go?' I asked her and looked towards her friends too, she nodded trying not to catch my eye. I walked behind them in what reminded me of a herding action although it was only meant as a protective gesture I kicked myself for how stereotypical it seemed. 'Frigging Arabs,' I heard one guy comment in a distinctive accent as we walked away. I stopped walking, pulled my ear phones out, Sadia noticed and grabbed my arm to stop me from reacting, I shook my head slowly 'dont worry,' I told her, 'walk on.. Ill catch up in a minute' I noticed the concern in her eyes as she went to grab my arm again but she caught my hand as I walked away from her motioning her to walk on. I walked up to the guys quietly and respectfully, nodded my head to say hello and told them 'I dont know if you treat your women like this where you're from, but that isnt how we do it here. Vale?' the main guy, who seemed to be the talker, his ears twitched at the use of a known word in this sentence of foreign language to him. 'You arabs..' he started.... 'woah dude, Im gonna stop you right there and tell you that none of the girls you just started harassing, or myself are arab ¿Como te llamas?' I asked, showing my lack of respect for him in the words I chose to use in our mutual language. I noticed him tense slightly, 'Miguel' he answered '¿Y usted?' I didnt answer him, just told them 'to learn respect because there are plenty of people around here who would be more than willing to help them learn' If you want to know more about the girls, I suggest you go to a mosque and learn about their faith' I then handed them a small booklet I occassionally gave out to people who asked about Islam. I didnt mind if they threw it away because this was their choice. '¿Es usted musulmán? ' One of the other guys asked me, I nodded my head before walking off to join Sadia who I noticed was stood on her own now holding my bag that I had passed her. She was going through my pictures and I noticed her wiping her face as she looked up and smiled at me.

'You ok?' I asked when I got to her taking my bag from her shoulder, she nodded and handed me back my camera. 'Sorry, I hope you dont mind me looking through your pictures,' I shook my head 'thanks for that' she said quietly. I frowned, not quite understanding what she was talking about until she threw her head in the direction of where I had walked from. I waved off her gratitude with a gentle flick of my hand 'Well youre bro aint here, who else is gonna look after you,' she looked me dead in the eye, 'I dont need looking after,' she told me sternly. 'I know that!' I knew that! I did, 'but I want to,' I had let my guard down and I kicked myself for it.. everything was ruined now. The moment had gone too far and I had submersed myself in my fantasy too much, we walked to the coffee shop in silence only for her to tell me that she would rather go home after coffee to which I was grateful for. Now I just wanted to go home and block out the world, I had ruined it all and for this I would have to answer for it.

We sat down after I picked up the coffee tab to her constant pleas to at least pay for half, it made me feel better to pay for it all. She picked a table that looked into the mirrored walls and we sat on the high stools, her bag rested over her knee and I placed mine on the counter next to me where I could see it. I noticed her foot moving to her internal beat, refreshed that she was still in the same frame of mind as during our garden conversation. Then I wondered if she always did this, or if it was the frame of mind that I put her in, which ever way I was never going to find out.

I broke the silence and told her 'I think Im just gonna drop you off at your place then get back to mine.' She was drinking her tea, which I had timed to see how her reaction would be, she finished her sip and slowly placed the cup down. 'Didnt Nasser want you at our house for something?' I nodded and shrugged my shoulders, 'nothing that cant wait' I told her looking into the mirror, I had to say something this was killing me. 'Listen about what I said before,' she stopped me with her hand and shook her head, 'no' I carried on, 'I didnt mean to make it sound so oppressive or big brotherly, I guess its just how I feel, how I am.' 'Its fine, honestly... dont worry, Im sorry I snapped' Was this how it was going to be now? I looked into my mug and swirled the hot chocolate around the inside to break up the pieces of chocolate shavings I had sprinkled on the top. I sighed. I looked up and caught Sadias eye before she looked down at a newspaper she had just opened. Did I feel that then? Or was it something I just wanted to feel? No, I had definately felt it! the way she looked, she was watching me. Before I could piece these thoughts together she told me, 'look, you should still come round for whatever you were coming around for. Nasser obviously wants you there, I think its something the family want. Please,' Did she know why I was going? I wondered... she continued 'And I know its something you want,' she was still looking down.

She knew, my heart broke. She knew I was going to meet this lady and she was either fighting her feelings to make things right or the mutual feeling wasnt really mutual. My heart snapped in half and my head slapped me around. Pull yourself together man it told me, its obvious how she feels now, so you can move on and live. I didnt know if I could. We spent the time it took to finish our drinks in silence, I messaged Nasser to let him know the change in times and then I walked her home... make or break evening was how it had turned out to be alright

October 19, 2008

Avoidance & realisation

It took me 3 days of dodging Nasser's calls for me to final unintentionally bump into him on campus. I didnt even realise I had bumped into him until I was walking off after muttering apologies and he shouted my name. 'Dude, where have you been hiding? did you get my messages' I nodded trying not to hold his gaze. 'oooh.. I get it, youre avoiding me?' I frowned, 'of course not, Ive just been really busy with coursework and classes. I was going to phone you once I gave in this assignment and talk about what you had mentioned' He waved me off 'whatever, I dont mind and I totally understand if you dont want anything to do with the situation. But just give it some thought, give it a chance, you never know.' How could I tell him I didnt want anything to do with the situation? this was his family, he would obviously be upset, maybe even think that I thought I was too good for his family. I didnt want that, I didnt want to alienate the only true friend I had made since moving here and then I started to regret my whole attitude to it all. I would think with a more open mind from now on. 'Hey some of the guys I know have a game of bball tonight, you wanna join in? just some guys from my building, not all students. Around 7pm' he thought for a moment before asking 'will this lessen my chances of having to put up with family for a few hours? count me in!' I laughed and remembered why I liked Nasser. 'Come round to mine for iftar if you want, it wont be as big as your party but we can eat, pray then walk around to the courts. It isnt far,' 'Sure, lemme tell the family' And with that he pulled out his phone and phoned his house, I heard him talking to Sadia and my heart ached.. this was another reason I had been avoiding Nasser, I thought if I avoided him I would forget about her, but it didnt work that way and it was hurting me. I realised that they were separate entities and that I shouldnt give up both for one.. I definately wanted the bond I had formed with him to carry on, I wanted a bond with Sadia too but it just wasnt possible and the realisation of that hit hard.

He came off the phone and we started walking down the street, it was still 5 hours until iftar and I didnt know what his plan was for those hours. 'So whats the plan with you until food?' I asked him slightly hoping that he was busy. He scratched his head and thought for a little while 'I got to pick up some things from work to catch up on while Im off and then I got to take Sadia to some meeting downtown. You wanna come?' I shook my head at the thought of seeing Sadia again, 'Ive still got this assignment to finish remember' glad that I had previously mentioned it to him without wanting to lie. The assignment wasnt due in for another 3 weeks, but I had previously made a decision to get it finished early so was giving myself a deadline for 2 weeks earlier, which was actually coming up quickly. 'Ok, well Ill give you a call when Ive dropped her off,' I nodded my head, 'send her my salams,' I told him as we moved apart before stepping forward to shake his hand. 'Ill catch you later then, you want anything particular?' He shook his head and waved before running off in the direction of his work.

So had I come out better for staying away? not at all and I realised that now. She was still in my thoughts occassionally, and I missed the guy who had become my right wing man. I sat down in the park with my books on my lap and thought, I thought about this girl that Nasser had mentioned last week, I thought about Sadia, about how I saw our relationship if any in the future. Was I prepared to forget about it before it even started? Or was I willing to fight for something that might not even be mutual? After an hour of sitting there, on the same bench I came to a conclusion... I couldnt just let it slip by without fighting for it and if it wasnt mutual at least i would know. I took out my phone and sent 2 text messages.
'Wanna meet up and discuss these meetings soon? Can show you some pictures :) lemme know, Eth'
'Maybe I will sit down with you and talk about this girl you mentioned. I need to occupy my mind, see you later. Dude'

I sat and waited. Im not usually a waiting on messages type of guy but the answer and the response time to these were important. I didnt have to wait long for a response, my phone vibrated and I opened a message from Nasser 'insha'allah Ill talk to the family, you can meet em at my place.. think it would be more comfortable. Speak to u later. Dude' My phone vibrated again as I was reading this message 'Hope youre ok over there, be good and please stay in touch, I worry about you. Lots of love, mum xxx' I smiled at the thought of how long it had taken my mum to write those few words. Then remembered who I was waiting for a message from as I dialed my mums number. I sat there for about half an hour talking to numerous members of my family at my mums house and finally made my mum realise I was ok after Lisa nicely told her about my physical appearance when she had seen me last week which I was grateful for. We said our goodbyes and I promised to phone more often, then I hung up to find 3 messages in my inbox, which I wasnt expecting. The first was Nasser apologising that he would have to cancel iftar and the b game with me cause of family stuff. The second was from Sadia suggesting tomorrow night to meet up at the local coffee house on campus. The third was from Sadia asking if I wanted to come over tonight to get her out of some family stuff. I smiled at the thought of brother and sister, 2 opposite sides to the spectrum and also at the thought of me being her scapegoat. I wrote back to Nasser calling him a wuss and telling him to phone me when hes free, during the time I was writing I got a call from a buddy who lived down the hall from me cancelling the game because of work commitments and study sessions within the group. So then I texted Sadia and told her of my open evening, she immediately wrote back and mentioned she was finished at her meeting in 1hour, did I want to meet her from the highrise? 'dad will feel better if Im walking with someone, esp u!' I agreed with her dad and agreed to meet her from her meeting.

This was it, I told myself, this was going to be the make or break evening. I got the bus home to pick up my camera and a few of the prints I had developed the evening before in the campus dark room.

October 8, 2008

The proposal

After Asr we walked to the library to pick up my books, much to the dismay of Nasser who said that me walking around with books made him look stupid. So I let him carry my books. We bumped into one of his cousins on the bus ride over to his house, so the 3 of us made our way together to the communal iftar. I actually knew of his cousin, which made things a little more bareable for me. I was fine with spending time with Nasser but I knew this was his family and didnt expect him to spend the whole evening with me, however I didnt want to look like the gooseberry in the corner of the room. The white guy! I wasnt used to being the odd one out, but I knew it was something I would have to get used to. At least in other situations I was usually mistaken for an arab, maybe from North Africa where european features are seen more, thanks to my latino roots. The eyes usually threw people off though, and thats when they thought more palestian, or maybe afgani... whatever they thought, I enjoyed hearing their reasonings.. helps you figure how their minds work.

Nasser had told me a few of his aunties didnt speak much english so to not be surprised if they started talking to me in urdu, he had already told them I was coming and it seemed the ladies were excited. I raised my eyebrows quizzingly and they both burst out laughed... 'bro, dont be modest' Nasser's cousin Hasan said to me 'our family arent into marrying in our culture, and we have many female cousins' Ok, so now I was freaked out and contemplated turning around. I actually stopped dead in the middle of the street and refused to walk further until Nasser assured me there were plenty of places to hide in his house and to just shout him over if I was nervous at the extra attention. That didnt make me feel better, but the thought of seeing Sadia for this short time made it worthwhile.

We got to the house, Id walked past it a few times before now but never knew whos it was.. It had always stood out to me, its architecture, the colours and the materials used, but now... knowing who lived there made it extra special. I tried to think back to when I first came across this street and decided to take a few shots around, I believe I actually took a picture of this house and I think there were some people outside. I told this to Nasser who told me I would have to look for the shot and show him insha'allah, I agreed and was actually excited to think who was in the picture and to remember any thoughts I had had at the time. Walking through the front door was like stepping into a different world, the smells, the colours, the furniture. A mix of modern, exotic and old school, i loved it and made several mental shots of the rooms as I got the grand tour of the house Nasser had lived in since moving from India when he was still in nappies. Then he took me to the best room, the outside, the garden. It was a neat and tidy 50 foot square patch of green grass that his mother took care of. There was a vegetable patch, and area for the babies to play in, the soil was so supple that I felt like I could take off my shoes and not worry about weeds or stones. His mother, Aisha, came out to tell me a few stories about the relationship she had with her garden and the life it had lead. I asked her if she minded if I came over one day and took a few shots in the sun of her working in the garden, or not working I squeezed in so she didnt feel like I wanted to take pictures of her. The garden had a sense about it, you know.. where you could sit there for hours and not remember what you thought about.

Nassers father eventually came out to join the part of his family who were sitting in the garden with me. He shook my hand strongly and welcomed me to his house 'Ive heard alot about you Ethan, and I hope you live up to what Ive heard' I was nervous, what had he heard? from whom had he heard it? 'now theres a relative in the living room asking for your details my good friend for her daughter' I shot a look to Nasser who smiled and pushed me towards the door, 'dude, dont be rude... just give her your details, it doesnt have to go further' I stopped dead and turned to him shaking my head 'I cant do this bro, it isnt me... this isnt what Im used to' He smiled and patted my arm, 'you do realise that whoever you marry you are going to have to go through this?' I nodded.. I knew that, but I wasnt ready for it just now... to my relief the adhan sounded over the speakers from the masjid behind their house that I hadnt even realised was there. Nassers youngest sister Amani brought us some milk and a few dates, we drank the milk and ate the dates on the walk over to the masjid to pray magrib salah. He looked at me and said quietly so noone heard 'listen we can take off after this if you want' I shook my head.. I was being selfish, this was his family and he was right, nothing had to go further 'Dude, Im hungry!" I told him breaking the silence, he laughed and put his arm around my shoulder protectively. I wandered if he would protect me against the ladies as he would his sister from me, then I stopped myself 'was he protecting her from me?' I tried to clear my head as I walked through the doors and followed Nasser to the prayer area. I was pleased to see no separation between the female and male congregation and shocked myself when one sister stood out to me from amongst them all. She was stood up praying the sunnah salah of entering the masjid wearing a long turquoise dress that skimmed the floor with a long sleeved black open cardigan and a black hijab. Sadia. At that point in that first glimpse before I lowered my gaze to the floor infront of me, I knew this situation wasnt going to be easy to get through.

As I prayed I made duaa that things would work out for the best and I asked my creator to give me strength to stay away from the temptations around me and to realise what would be better for me in this life and for my deen. I noticed that they did things a little different here than at the other mosque, things were a little quicker because it was ramadhan and because people wanted to eat. So they made the khutbah shorted and recited smaller verses which made things a little easier on my spinning head as I stood up from ruku.

On the way back to Nassers house I made him promise not to leave me alone with any older ladies to which he replied 'dude, you dont have to be alone.. they have already seen you, now the interesting bit starts' I hit my forehead to show my frustration in his obvious enjoyment of the situation. When we got back to his I was pleased to find the ladies eating in the living room and the guys outside in the garden. We all sat down to eat around a low table in the midst of the flowers, colours and fragrances, I was passed rice, salad, meat, sauces, and some things that I kindly passed on when Nasser or Hasan wasnt there to tell me what it was. It was enjoyable and I resisted the temptation to fill myself, I still had to walk home and I wasnt used to such a big meal in the evening. After eating, tea came out to everyone, now mint tea I was used to from a moroccan family who had adopted me back home, I missed home I suddenly thought and made a note to phone my mother in the next few days. She was always worrying that I was going to collapse from not eating all day, so I tried to reassure her.

I stood in the corner of the garden, the furthest from the house, drinking my tea and staring out at the stars. I finished my tea and held the cup next to my side as I bent down to gently push a frog that seemed stuck in the moist soil, I smiled as it sort of stared back at me before jumping off into the darkness. I was lost in my own world until I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned around and nearly fell over as I saw Sadia stood over me looking at me with her big deep blue eyes 'I asked if you wanted more tea' she asked shyly, probably embarassed at my reaction. 'Sorry,' I muttered standing up, 'I didnt hear you, sure why not.' I handed her my cup and awaited the tea to stop flowing, was it my imagination or was it taking forever? 'Its such a lovely house you live in, this garden is amazing, your mother must spend a lot of time out here' she nodded smiling, 'yes, masha'allah she loves it out here.' She was silent, 'she mentioned you wanted to take pictures out here, you never mentioned you were into photography' I laughed, 'more a hobby really, your brother calls me a geek' she noticed the camera hanging from my shoulder. 'Take no notice, did you take anything today?' I nodded before realising she was hinting that she wanted to see 'would you like to see some?' I asked, she smiled shyly 'if you feel comfortable' We sat down on the stone wall, so close I could feel the heat radiating from her but far enough to not disrespect her or her family. I think I actually moved away when I realised I could feel her presence so much more than I should have been. She flicked through my 5" digital screen and I watched her reactions to my shots, I watched her bare toes moving in time to an internal beat only she heard. There were a few that she really enjoyed, and it made me smile to see how much she liked them and how she envisioned them on canvas, on a wall, in a frame and I made several mental notes at the enthusiasm and ideas she gave me. She laughed at a few I had taken of Nasser and some of an unknown Hasan as he walked infront of me before the whole marriage incident. I told her about the incident, dont ask me why. She laughed and said they were probably right, that the aunties were probably in there now discussing my credentials. 'Did you see how he stands? such a straight and affirmative posture. What is he doing with his life after university? I heard he has good relations with his peers. He looks in good shape, important for a future family. Good eyes, shows strength in his mind. Looks comfortable in himself, in his surroundings. Masha'allah' I blushed when I realised that everything she was saying was from her own mind because she hadnt been in there with them. So to change the subject I stood up grabbing my camera from her and focused on the daisy just left of her hennaed foot, from my position on the grass I looked up and saw how the moonlight reflected on her face as she was looking over to the group of guys to the right of me. A picture with a thousand memories I told her before she was shouted over by her father. She picked up the teapot, handed me my cup, our fingers brushed and the electricity flowed 'I hope I havent gotten you into trouble' I said softly, she smiled and shook her head... 'it would take more than that, and thats more than Im prepared to do' I laughed and let her go to her father and his friends.

Hasan walked over to me and commented that he was going my way after here so we could walk together. I agreed, it would be good to know him a little more as he was in my department at school and it would be nice to have other brothers that I could rely on. About 30 minutes later we set off after saying our salams to the family, I made arrangements with Aisha to call around one day over the next few weeks while the weather was still warm to take a few shots. I told Nasser to call me when he was free and I said goodbye to all the people who I had met and chatted to in those hours spent away from my 4 walls. I felt free, I felt wanted and I felt at home alhamdulillah.

It took us about 20 minutes to get back to where me and Hasan parted, which we did to a shake of the hand and I stiffer hug than I was used to. We agreed to meet up for lunch once ramadhan was finished and swapped numbers and email addresses. It took me a further 10 minutes to get back to my crib, I walked in, kicked off my shoes and headed to the fridge for some water. I noticed the answering machine flashing, so I hit the play button as I filled up my glass.. as I gulped down the cold liquid I stopped mid swallow, nearly choking on the once refreshing liquid and almost dropping my glass. There was a message from Nasser 'Yo bro, gimme a ring back.. I got a lady here from tonight thats very interested in hooking you up with her daughter. You'll like her insha'allah. Peace, assalamalikum.'

October 3, 2008

Collective iftar

I ate, prayed fajr and tossed and turned until dhuhr. I awoke unrested and grouchy before absent mindedly walking into the kitchen, I scratched my stomach as I realised and turned towards my computer. Sitting infront of it waiting for windows to open, my mind wandered to how things looked so different today than they had yesterday. This time yesterday I was at the mosque, awaiting the ground to open up and swallow me, then I met Nasser and was connected with his family in ways I only imagined or saw in films.
Today I was going to relax, wake up properly and enjoy the day. Windows kicked in as I walked out of the room and stepped into the shower, I let the water relax me and wake me at the same time. Soaped my hair and was grateful for the workouts that I had pushed myself into from a younger age. Stopped myself from shaving and stepped out the bathroom with a towel around my waist to bump into someone I wasnt expecting. My sister! we didnt get on very well, she had always been jealous of me and got me into a lot of trouble when I was smaller. However, I was a grown man now and I was also aware of the islamic etiquette when it came to your family.
She smiled, which made me question her motives instantly astagfrillah... 'I bought a friend around, and somehow bumped into someone who was looking for you too' I frowned, why was she bringing a friend around here, and who would she bump into looking for me. I followed her to the living room to find her friend, an ex of mine sat on the couch, I breathed in and shot a look at my sister Lisa... God only knows why she was here, and I think she read my face too. She smiled walking over and kissed me on the cheek, I straightened at her touch remembering the reason we had finished. She sensed it too and stood back, 'I thought we could chat,' 'Id rather we didnt actually. I dont want you in my life anymore Alina we made that decision a long time ago. Ive moved on, Ive grown up and Im enjoying life now.' She laughed slyly and followed the contours of my chest muscles with her perfectly manicured finger, I stepped away from her and asked them both to leave politely. At that point I remembered the other person who Lisa had said was here, 'oh some random brown guy, hes in the kitchen' I looked around the corner to see Nasser looking out over the park infront of my building and smiled. He saw me and walked over, trusting his hand out to shake then I pulled him close for a manly hug and smiled inwardly at my comfort at doing this. 'Dude, whats with the ladies?' I rolled my eyes, 'sister & ex, dont ask!' he nodded before we heard the front door slam shut, it was then I remembered I was still wearing just a towel and then I blushed at holding my new friend so close next to bare skin. Things are changing within me, and I felt so much better for the comfort I felt in the things I was now doing.
'So I came over to remind you about tonight, I was just at the school dropping Sadia off and she wanted me to remind you' I blushed slightly and excused myself to go change while nodding my head in the afirmative motion of agreeing with him.
I looked over my wardrobe looking for something a little more dressy than my usual casual gear. In the end it took a lot longer to find something dressy than I had imagined and I made a mental note to sort my clothes and buy some nicer stuff in the future. I eventually finished with a cashmere sweater in a warm brown and a pair of baggy camel cords, thinking to finish with my my tims. Sorted, I thought quite pleased with myself as I walked out to meet Nasser in the living room. 'So what you up to today?' he asked, I shrugged and asked myself why I felt nervous around him... was it because of what he represented? who he was related to? then I shook that thought out of my head.. I couldnt think of her today, not like that, it was too early and I wasnt ready for any of this. 'Probably go down to the library and pick up some books, I need to do a bit of food shopping too. Thats it really, you?' 'Less than that,' he said laughing... 'so we still on for tonight though yeh?' I nodded. '6pm?' he agreed... 'that gives you chance to meet everyone before iftar and salah, if thats ok' 'Hey, if you arent doing anything now.. we can hang together if you want, I was going to take my camera over to the park too, if youre interested that is' He mock punched me in the arm 'youre such a geek dude.. I really dont know what these girls see in you' I laughed deeply, which shocked me when I realised I couldnt remember the last time a laugh had come that far down from inside of me. 'Its my sensitive side' I told him jokingly, 'you should try it, so you wanna come?' 'yeh, may as well.. not much else to do.'
It was amazing the bond and relationship I had formed with this guy, we had spoke briefly on the phone the night before and chatted on MSN about computer and car stuff for a few hours. The bond went further than guy stuff though, I was totally comfortable with telling him things I would never have told anyone before, muslim or non muslim. Which is why I felt ok to tell him about the break up of my relationship with Alina as I focused on the bluebells hanging over the long grass in the area behind one of the ponds in the park. Which is also why I felt ok to tell him about my curiousity and respect for his sister while focusing on the bus parked behind the grey steel fence that kept the rest of the world out of the peaceful section of grass in this busy city. He didnt seem to mind and confessed that as soon as his sister had mentioned me he could tell that Ethan wasnt like the other guys his sister mentioned meeting through the MSA. I blushed and he made fun of me... 'Dude, shes a cool girl.. but shes still my sister, and I will defend her to my last breath' I was totally awestruck at this obvious gesture of protection he felt over his sister and immediately felt bad for my own relationship with Lisa. Which is when I told him about my family and how messed up they were, then about my teenage years venting the anger and hiding the pain. I could tell he understood, I dont know how, but he knew and he allowed me to talk about what I needed to talk about. Then I confessed that I felt like I had known him for years and how it shocked me I could be this open with him. He lightened the mood by telling me 'thats my senstive side bro' we laughed as we fed the ducks (just cause we were fasting, doesnt mean they had to be!)
After all the things we talked about it was nearly time for asr and we started to walk over to the masjid on the opposite side of the park in between the skyscrapers and suits. A park in a city, i loved this city alhamdulillah