Friday, October 24, 2008

People Who Live in Glass

Part I

Abdi didn't have his shoes off; didn't even have time to wish his wife, "Asalamu alaykom," when she rushed him at the door.

"Alhumdulillah you are home now."

Abdi stood up and asked, "What's wrong?"

"There is a sister who needs help. She lives here. She lives over there, actually; across the parking lot."

"She Somali?"

"No, I saw her. She's American. She is...astragferallah..." and Aisha couldn't finish.

While Abdi knew his wife was well-meaning, she was also one to make a confusion out of something simple. He really just wanted to wash up and pray, but she stood in his way.

"I told you that you shouldn't care what others do." But then curiousity got the best of him, "What did she do?" he asked knowing that he probably shouldn't.

"She---astragferallah---is infront of her window and I can see her."

Abdi's mind, tired and dull from hours of driving his taxi, couldn't quite understand.

"She's naked in front of the window?"

"No," but then his wife paused. "Maybe. I don't know. All I know is I can see her shape in front of her bathroom window."

Even with little sleep and almost no food, Abdi knew that sounded crazy. "But the bathroom windows here are those glass blocks! You can't see anything!"

His wife was having none of it. "When I am here and I look out, I can see her shape moving through the window. This is wrong. She should not think it shows nothing. It shows something."

Ever logical, Abdi said, "Let me go see."

Aisha pulled him back, "Astragferallah! No, you cannot! Astragferallah! Haram!"

Abdi sighed, "Well, what do you want me to do, then?

"I want you to write her a note and tell her don't do this thing. It's haram and she could be tempting men and bringing them to do major sins."

That was one problem with being the only English speaker in the family. Everything fell to Abdi. Sometimes, he wished that his wife would go to night school like he had asked, but she had refused, since men and women co-mingled in the classroom. She was so against the Western ways that she continued to wear not only the niqab across her face, but gloves as well. She didn't understand English and didn't understand America.

"A note?" he didn't need one more thing to do, before his prayer, his dinner, and his rest.

"I'll tell you what to write. Tell her, 'I see you through the window. Stop doing this bad thing or more bad will happen.'"

Without thinking logically any more, since logic wasn't getting him closer to the rug, the table, or the bed, he found paper and wrote. His writing wasn't really that good. It was all large capital letters and they were more scrawled than written. Abdi eyed them critically, but Aisha was happy.

"Good! Good!" She praised his efforts. "Now, you go slip that under her door."

"What?! Come on. I---"

"You don't expect me to do it, do you?" Aisha always said this. That's why she had gained 60 pounds. She never went anywhere. She had been slimmer as a high school girl, but as a young women she had become sedentary inside the home. She never left without a fuss. She loved the safety of their one-bedroom apartment. Maybe too many years of civil war and refugee camps left her wishing for those four walls more than for her freedom.

"OK, but can you heat up my dinner? I have to pray and eat, and then sleep. I want to go out again tonight for the late night fares." He used to say, 'bar rush,' but had learned not to talk about the drunks he carried around town. Aisha almost had him quit, since his actions, "contributed to the haram of others"

What a life. Some nights it just seemed like being a man was a never-ending job. Abdi trudged through the windy night and made his way across the dark parking lot to the other building. He got in when someone else opened the door. He walked up the stairs to her door.

For a moment, he paused outside the door. Something didn't seem right. It didn't. He wasn't sure which piece of the puzzle was missing, but he knew that he should stop. Instead of stopping, which took a lot of energy to think about, he did the easiest thing, which was to obey. The note was slipped under her door and he left for his own door with hopes that his second arrival would be more welcoming.


"You didn't leave the note, or what?" Abdi was greeted at the door the following night.

"Asalamu alaykom," he greeted her in a way to remind Aisha of her duties as a wife.

"Wa alaykom asalam," she answered, but she didn't give the kiss and there wasn't any smile.

"I put the note. I told you."

"OK, then there has to be another note, because I saw her again," Aisha stated emphatically.

Abdi knew he could discuss but wondered how many more discussions he really needed. It was easier to submit. He never thought he would become one of these men who let the wife wear the pants. The pants just didn't seem as important as the food or the night's rest. He sat down and had her dictate another note.

"You didn't listen to me," Aisha wanted him to write. "You better do what I say or you will be sorry."

"What does that mean?" Afterall, Abdi had to listen to the Somali from his wife and then translate it the best he knew how into English. While his English was better than hers, it's not as if he had a full command of it.

"I mean, Allah will be her judge on Judgement Day."

"I don't want to write, 'Allah,' because the note goes under her door unto the floor."

"True. OK. Tear that up. Start again."

The next attempt went better. It met with approval and Abdi was off on his delivery route again. He was more decisive this time. It had to get done and he had to go home and sleep.

"Oh, and take the trash out before you get your shoes off," was his wife's request once he walked back in.

It was on the way back from the trash that he saw the police car. The apartment complex was so quiet. Normally, the police didn't cruise around. This one actually pulled up and parked. Two officers got out.

"Good evening," the fat one said to Abdi. "You live here?"

"Yes, sir," Abdi wasn't a fool. You don't act anything but respectful with the police. They meant the difference between jail and Jennah."

The skinny one asked him, "You seen anybody outside here in the parking lot?"

"No, sir, only me. I am dumping my trash."

"What's your name?" the fat one asked. This didn't feel good to be questioned by police, even if he hadn't done anything wrong.

"Abdisalam Mohammedsadek Dire."

The skinny one was now writing it down in a notebook.


"Which apartment you live in?"

"Over there," and Abdi pointed, "in the first floor. Number 10."

He walked back to his apartment with a troubled heart. If he hadn't done anything wrong, why did he feel like he had?

Aisha greeted him with a hug and a kiss, "What did the police want with you?"

"I don't know."

There was a knock at the door.

"Open up. It's police we just want to talk to you."

There had been a paper grocery sack in the dumpster which included a crumpled note, with the words, "I said stop what you doing." Seems that the crumpled note in the trash, had been sitting next to junk mail addressed to Abdisalam Dire.

"Abdisalam, you been watching the woman across the street?"


The conversation was too confusing to his mind with his empty stomach and his tired head and his wife constantly asking for him to explain what was being said. Her. This was really all because of her. She had wanted to help some stranger and ended up hurting her husband.

Aisha began to cry as her husband was led away in handcuffs. She left the apartment and followed him without even thinking. She watched him as the police car drove away then looked up to search the heaven for Allah's mercy. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the light on in the apartment of the American Muslimah. Aisha turned her head to see that the shadowy figure moving in front of the window really wasn't that revealing.

"Alhumdulillah," she spoke alone in the night air.


egyptchick7 said...

Very thought provoking...but I don't get it :(

LIke why would he be arrested? For putting notes under a door? Why does she now realize that what the other woman was doing wasn't revealing....

Beautifully written though, as always :)

tulip said...

I'm sure this story has some underlying meaning I'm supposed to be getting... but i'm not getting it.

But it was a good read nonetheless


Imanubillah said...

As Salaamu Alaikum:

This was an interesting piece, I have to say that. And that is because it shows how some people think of women like myself; women who wear niqaab and don't find themselves out of the house everyday of the week. I don't know if this is just a story, but in my time of creative writing, usually the author projects their own ideas and feelings into their writing, hence making it, well, creative.

I can't say this is how you think of women like me; that we must be over weight from being sedentary in the house because we are so gung-ho Islaamically that we don't want to go out. Or that we are soooo extreme that we would rather see our husbands locked up over telling another Muslimah what "she" needs to do. But I can say, for myself and a whole slew of women I know, we are not like this. We are educated, with healthy weight and a great out look on life. But of course, the basis of our out look is from an Islamic standpoint. Is that extreme?

I, for one, would never do something like the woman in this story did. That is because I have more to do than to look out of my window all day and see what other people are doing. I really could care less. I mind my business on a lot of issues. But I have never thought it my place to get on a soap box to correct everyone I see. If I speak to a sister regarding and issue, it is one on one. But I don't put myself in those types of situations so this has never been me and it never will.

This is an interesting story, as I said before. The only troubling part is the likening of Muslim women who do what others do not as extreme, backwards and not knowing anything about America or western culture.

Anonymous said...

Asalamu Walaikum,
Subhanallah, that was interesting to read it, let it simmer, read the comments and then reread it.
So, ya looking for criticisms right? Hehe.
The opening is tight, very engaging. I am super sensitive to race and writing for or about others, so I feel akward with painting the "Other" as the busybody, ya know. It would sit better for me if the American had uber-convertitis as we so many prone to catch. Just my thing.
BUT! I totally get (as much as someone outside yer head might be able) where you are going with the sister taking "refuge" in her home. I know even American sisters (not niqabis) who do this. They just don't want to "deal" anymore. I know sisters of other nationalities who do this to.
I hope you do more with this talent of yours sis, masha Allah. I said that to you years ago, but I know you are very, very busy ~wink. Do you need a list of the Muslim mags that take submissions?
Love and Peace,