There was still no glimmer of light between the slats of the blinds.
From the street below came the familiar creak of the neighbor’s metal garage door and the roar of the box truck. Greenhouse work doesn’t rest. A passing car dropped off noisy teenagers who were still on a high from their night-long partying.
It was like the morning exhaled and both happened.
I wrapped the covers over my head and tried to fall back asleep. Too late. Thoughts outside of dreamland had already kindled my consciousness:
- News from family.
- The Amazon order I just placed.
- The sense of standing on the brink of the unknown. And the accompanying senses of exhilaration and panic.
- The earthquake the other night that jostled me awake in a swaying bed.
- The moment when crying out to God for a definite answer, I only heard Him say, “You are my child.”
- I should get that birthday card written soon.
I finally crawled out of bed to welcome the morning with a steaming cup of coffee (special delivery from Nebraska). My quiet time was punctuated with an invitation to a spontaneous breakfast on the beach. Of course!
I caught a few moments of afternoon alone with David Copperfield and a nap long enough to let my body soak in the day off.
The evening brought what was supposed to be a literacy class. But when I arrived, alphabet flashcards in hand, my student and her neighbor were busy making shbekia.
I learned to roll out the speckled dough and run it through the press. I soaked the fried pieces in honey and picked pebbles out of sesame seeds. Literacy gave way to the urgency of Ramadan preparations.
One of the ladies went to pray. The other soon followed her. I was busy with the rolling pin when there was a burst of laughter. The first had recited her prayers facing the wrong way. She sighed, turned the rug toward Mecca, and started again.
We talked about prayer and food and family. And then a pair of women and a pair of children arrived.
One of the women was the female version of a man who had wanted to marry me. She had the same nose and the same intense eyes that sparkled but didn’t quite smile.
When they found out that I was an American to who spoke Arabic, one of them said, “Aaaah. She’s one that helps people.”
I played with the little girl while the women discussed which acne cream worked best for their teenagers, how many children was enough but not too many, how to make specialty Ramadan foods, and how the American prayed.
“She sits in a chair at the table and covers her head like this.” One of them made motion of draping a shawl over her head.
I smiled. “I can pray wherever I want. I can sit here and pray for you. Or I can bow down and pray. Or I can even pray while I am walking on the street.”
Blank faces stared back at me.
“God hears us no matter where we are.”
Yes, yes. That was true. And they all agreed and moved on to a discussion about their prophet.
The maghreb sounded. After a bit, I said my goodbyes and reluctantly took the proffered baggie of too-sweet shbekia.
I walked home in the dying light, smelling like old oil.