I hurried to the bus stop. It isn't an actual Bus Stop like in America. It's an unmarked gathering spot on the side of the street where people wait amid the garbage and feral dogs.
I felt someone staring at me. I felt it but I didn't know who it was. I turned slightly to my right and found his eyes then turned back.
For a moment, I didn't know who I had just seen. I hadn't smiled. He hadn't smiled. It wasn't that I acted as if I didn't know him. Truly, when I saw him, it was like I had seen a stranger.
Yet, as I stood there, it dawned on me who he was; he had helped me so much four years ago. He was there at the beginning. He was taking care of us and befriending us. I have a picture of him giving juice at a Ramadan iftar to a very small version of my big boy.
I couldn't look at the man so I looked at my boy. I thought of how this might be the first time the man had seen Mr. Boo since...the man got married.
He couldn't have married me. There literally was no naseeb. He was already engaged. He was too young. He was not mine. I didn't want him as a husband. I only wanted him as a man who could help me find a new life in Egypt.
We would joke and laugh together. This was before I settled down to a much-needed increase in modesty and decorum. It felt good to let loose and enjoy a kind of friendship. He and his family became a constant in my life those first weeks.
Then he said, "I wish I had met you first."
It was a crazy thing to say. He couldn't have meant it. No one throws away an impending marriage to a cousin in Egypt for the chance to marry an older, divorced American woman with a kid.
I knew that he meant it in the moment. I knew that we did share a fun together. We never crossed a line. We simply enjoyed each other's company.
So, what did I do? I stopped seeing him. I didn't stop by his family's house. Little by little, I faded away from someone who had shown us kindness because I didn't want any more trouble in my life.
The last time I saw him was when we were invited to his wedding. I was happy for him. He was getting a beautiful Egyptian bride and a normal life. In some ways, I wish my husband now could have had that too---however, it was his naseeb to get me.
Years later, standing there on the street, I felt self-conscious. I looked down to check what I was wearing. I had on one of my new, perfectly tailored, floor-length skirts. Everything was modest and matching. It was a far cry from how I had shown up in 2009. It was an improvement. I had changed for the better.
I looked up to my husband. He was standing there in his galabiya with my school bag full of books and Mr. Boo's heavy backpack. He walks with us to the bus stop everyday. God bless him.
I looked to my son. In many ways, he is now our son. Half of his life has been spent growing up here in Egypt in the protection of me and my man. Mr. Boo is, at age eight, all about getting bigger, faster and smarter. He's not the little boy who hadn't even started kindergarten yet. He's now a confident pro. I smiled at his mashahallah beautiful face as I fastened one more button on his school uniform shirt.
That man must have watched us get on the school bus that day. It wasn't the school where I had worked when he knew me before. Now, I work at this really impressive school. I do. Alhumdulillah, I do. I got on the bus, greeted the driver and sat down.
My son and I have a morning routine of making dhikr; remembrance of Allah as soon as we take our seats. You can read more about dhikr here. One of the big fallacies about making dhikr is that you need prayer beads. No, you don't. If you use your fingers, they will testify for you on Judgement Day whereas your prayer beads will long gone.
La illaha il Allah.
Then, I plugged the earplugs into my phone and we listened to four short surahs. I've realized that my rewards for reading Quran in English are limited. To really reap the most, I need to recite Arabic with my lips, mouth and tongue. To this end, I am memorizing these short surahs (slowly but surely) over time.
with all the words ending in "haha," which sounds like laughter to my ears. My sheik in the States used to have his little son in preschool recite it to me. I know it was supposed to inspire me but it only had me feeling inadequate.
which I had been memorizing in during my last year in the States in the bleak Winter of 2009 only to still be memorizing it now.
The Tribe of Quarish
and I know it's super short and I should have memorized it before.
and again it's short but it isn't sweet as it's about all those who envy you and give you the black eye. You really need it (along with Al-Iklas and An-Nas) to ward off any evil others attempt to cast on you.
My boy and I recited those four surahs quietly in our seats. I can't tell you how much I love that moment. I know I'm being a good mom and a good Muslim. I know I'm raising my son in that moment and not just letting life happen to him. Alhumdulillah for that moment.
After that, I do play some music. I wanted to hear a nasheed from Dawud W. Ali. Mr. Boo did not.
I sat there, on that bus, with my boy and all my memories. I played the nasheed, "Silent Sunlight," and I wept silent tears. I cried but it wasn't for a man.
I cried because so much has happened in those years since I first came to Egypt. I cried because I'm not the same person. I can't even wave to that man now. I can't. I can't be the person I was. Alhumdulillah that I can't. I have such a new life.
The nasheed brought me back to before Egypt. As I traveled forward to my school, I went backwards in time to 2005. I used to listen to that nasheed as a pregnant mom on my drive to teach at an Islamic school in America.
Yes, I was full of goodness. I had a great job and the promise of a new baby. On the other hand, I was already so full with trouble from my son's father. He had told me that he wanted to re-marry his ex. He had really ruined what was supposed to be the start of our family life together. Astragferallah.
It wasn't that I was depressed. I'm not sure why everyone is thinking that tears equal deep upset. Often they are simply a release from too many feelings. That's what I had that morning. I was filing away what had been and remembering that Allah is the only constant.
La ilaha il Allah.