Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bus Stop

Asalamu Alaykom,

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.

Allahu Akbar.
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.

The Sun

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.

The Fig

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.

I cried.

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.


Party of 5 said...

You have grown subhanAllah. You are so wise- I have always admired that. I too do not weep for the people I have left behind, but the reality of where I could be now, had I not made changes.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Party of 5,

I really liked your comment. Thanks for sending it. You succinctly wrote what I was trying to write. I tweeted that comment out this morning because it's really well said. It's meaningful for me but I believe it's true for everyone who moved from that stuck spot. When you move you must leave things behind. Alhumdulillah for the moving and the leaving.

Love and Light!

Marie Harmony said...

I feel like tears are there to heal our hearts and help us to move on. It's not always tears of pain, but maybe crying is a way to see it's better to leave the past where it belongs. As for us, we are different, stronger, wiser and only where we are standing now counts.
Glad to read you again Yosra. You're such an inspiration!
Take care and love to you.

imenbouyahya said...

Salam Alaykum Dear Yosra,

It took me a week or so to read ALL your blog posts..yes All of them at a time! I felt as if I am on a space ship and looking at a woman's life on earth and zooming on her journey's ups and downs and deep inside her heart and mind.
You've gone great legnths, you've been through a lot, and you're such a wise lady, getting her everyday's intake of wisdom coated with bittersweet moments.
I admire both what you were and what you are now..Thanks for this piece of light aka your blog, It really let us, readers, see clearly Allah's blessings and messages sent to you throughout your path. You've been amazingly taken care of in every single step you made.
You widened my vision and let me do a lot of meditation while reading your posts, thanking Allah more and feeling blessed. This is All what I needed coming to my hands at the right time SubhanAllah!
I am really proud of, as a Muslim woman, sister and teacher. You taght me valuable life lessons. Jazaki Allah khayran.
I looked for a post where I could post my comment--thank you not and I didn't find better than this one.
Thank you for allowing me to search through the rooms of your heart and mind to discover keys to some doors that were shut in my life.

Thank you for letting me choosing battles worth fighting and feeling fine to loose some.
Thank you for speaking out loud some of thoughts I buried deep.

Thank you for reminding me to fell the blessings and being grateful for Allah's plans.
Thank you for sending ripples of courage and faith.
Thank you so much for every single word you wrote here, It went straight to my heart and sank inside and made the difference!

May Allah be pelased with all your good deeds and this blog is a great good deed.

Please keep blogging more frequently Dear Yosra.

Your sister Imen from Tunis.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom to Marie,

You have always been a faithful reader. Thank you for being so supportive and kind.

Subhanallah, how each one of us becomes an inspiration for others. Sometimes we know it (but I bet often we do not).

You are an inspiration to me, Marie. Giving the world new light is not easy when you feel the darkness around you. God bless you for continuing your path---and you're not alone :)

Love and Light!

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Imen,

Subhanallah! You win for best comment today. I don't live for the support of others (that truly has led to trouble) but sometimes God sends support when you could really use it. Tonight is a good example. I was leveled by a few well-chose mean emails from (can't say "back home" any more) back in the States.

Wallahi, I feel a kindred spirit with Nabi Nuh (AS). All of us must travel away from those who drown us and find a way to stay afloat. Thank you for being such an understanding person. Did you REALLY read EVERYTHING? That's a little much! I had much, much more written but it's gone. It was right to let it go, alhumdulillah.

Inshahallah, I will post something soon. I'm just finishing up the school year and also preparing to visit the States. It's a double whammy!

Inshahallah, I will regain my literary voice and put some sensible thoughts on the screen. After all, if you're willing to read it, the least I can do is write it!

Love and Light to You in Tunis!

imenbouyahya said...

Wa Alaykum Assalam Dear Yosra,

Bonjour :)

Yes I read it All :) I left some work intentionally on the backburner and kept on reading as I knew that I'll come up with a new fresh version of me upon completion.
Please be sure that you're making a difference in some people's lives. It hurts a bit that those people aren't exactly family or relatives or whom the thoughts should be conveyed to, you already said it better by feeling a kindred spirit with Nabi Nuh AS and fellow prophets who had to leave their loved ones in order to please Allah.
May Allah be pleased with you and send ease your way Always.
You are constantly in my Duaa, Dear Yosra.

Have a nice day.