Jasmine (letters part one)

719px-Masjid_At-Taqwa_1266_Bedford_Av_Fulton_St_jehRode through the spray of a busted fire hydrant. Broke fast in a mosque in Harlem. Prayed, rode the bike to Union Square and sat on the steps and watched the chess games. Laughed, the jokes people crack. There’s this sad, russian guy who came to New York to to be a private teacher in chess, “not sit here and hustle people with five-dollar games”. Old woman there who sells water, “Ice cold water! Ice cold gatorade”. She’s also muslim, we talked a bit, she’s fasting as well, she is cool, when I left she said Take it easy.

J

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It was hot today. I can’t write. I can’t talk. I think and feel the words “horrible” and “pain” as they vibrate through me with every breath. I feel myself stretching into something else. Something alien and strange. Turning inwards, eating up something I was. My heart is a foreign mechanism. Thin glass shattering into splintered shards, only to shatter once again. I think this is what her dying is. I think it can’t be more of this. But there is. I think I will go swimming in the lake later.

S

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I go to these lectures in a mosque in Brooklyn, sometimes, in the afternoon, near my apartment. This young scholar who’s studied in Medina somehow looks very old as he sits there in his white garment, teaching us about the afterlife and history. He is in his early twenties but looks as if he should have a cane, you know? So, anyway, yesterday he said that some muslim scholars have suggested that baby talk – dada, bubu – that thing – is actually a language, and that the angels understand it.

When my father was dying it was as if I was watching a man being pulled into a black hole, as if he was approaching some boundary that would swallow not only him, but my memories, and even me, in a sense.

There’s no AC in my apartment. The nights are hot and somehow dense, like being inside a piece of heated iron, a meteor.

Did you know that arabic doesn’t really use any verb for existence – no “is” – but rather – he said something I didn’t understand, some quality of arabic grammar. Basically, in arabic, whatever you say, that hing is, you know? That’s why we say “no god but God”, rather than “there is no god but God”.

Peace.

J

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Yesterday I sat on a rock eating lemon sorbet. My mom hobbled around the parking lot outside her apartment. Some days she makes it once around the lot, and some days when she is too sick she doesn’t. She becomes very sad when she doesn’t. I looked up into the blue sky. A jet plane shot up and up cutting diagonally through the blue sky. I wondered what my mom and I look like from up there. I followed the jet plane as it made its flight’s progress until the light from the sun was too bright for my eyes. Squinting, I could still see the white stream it left behind it like smeared chalk. My mom called out to me to help her. I looked back down from the sky, from being so far away in those minutes, to see her there, hobbling around in the parking lot. She deserves more beauty to hobble within than upon pavement and amongst cars. I didn’t know watching her die would feel like bleeding out. She leans in on me and I hold her steady just underneath her arm. She says there is something so unreal about dying during the summer. Kids are shouting and chasing each other, people are swimming in the ocean, and just now all her flowers are in bloom. “It’s like having to close a book at the best part and never getting to open it again.”

S

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Today a child took the microphone all the time, from the young scholar who was talking, and spoke in it. He let her do it, again and again. Say “mama” and “salaam” and such – the girl was like two years old and he had such infinite patience with her. He explained afterwards, that there is a hadith about kids that climbed onto the Prophets ﷺ back , when he was praying, and that he didn’t remove them. I liked that. I like that we have scholars that know such things, and say them with such seriousness. That this story is part of the knowledge we have preserved.

J

night_jasmine_tree_in_bloom_by_abstractwater-d5fijniI smell the jasmine outside my mother’s bedroom window waft through the sick stink of her room. We lay on her bed holding hands. Inshallah I die outside near trees and water, not clenched between four walls. My mom tells me that she will always watch over me. “You will always be my child.” I squeeze her hand to let her know I hear her. She becomes silent, she has fallen asleep. I can hear the space in between her breathes. So I lay here now staring out into the darkness of the room, listening to the rhythm of her breathing, smelling the jasmine. She doesn’t like to wake up with no one here. She has become afraid of the dark.  Her sleeping body is a shadow in the room. Wound tight in her white sheets she looks like a cocoon. She wakes. I bathe her. I wash her hair, shielding her eyes with my curved hand from the shampoo running back down into them. It is like she has become one of my children.

S

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