Chapter 3 –
The Way of Water
Her heart went numb, her eyes a bit teary from the heavy winds braising her sun-soaked hair as it somberly coalesced from her scarf to her beanie. Mimicking the tattered bits of memory as if turned on like a projector to those dark, cold corners of those streets she shied from walking on. However, she didn’t mind its presence now more than before. Like a piano whose few keys she kept broken to play differently from everything else. Always a new presence where she went, a story never played out before, maybe perhaps one that stroked something similar but never quite the same as each showed their way. A burden that she came to proudly bare as she climbed up the steps to her front porch.
A smile spread across her face as she could hear a couple of the girls’ voices. They had guests over! Aziza brought a couple of the high school girls from her cultural center to hang out. If there was one thing Aziza couldn’t go without in life, it was not being able to be a lively part of their lives.
They had known each other since elementary; Aziza had moved after her father had found a job in Istanbul right before the start of middle school. That day, when she moved, they had met up in the park and had just sat on the swings; they didn’t say a word to each other until her mother came over to pick her up. Sometimes when their mothers would host each other for tea, they would occasionally swing by their rooms to check in and would catch them quietly sitting. Fatima didn’t remember as much anymore, but she remembered Aziza’s mom always saying, “Ahh Lord, good thing you girls aren’t twins!” They kept in touch. Some of her relatives lived in the city so that they would see each other more often than not, once a month or so. Aziza indeed, was to her like the sister she never had. Being with her felt like a breath of fresh air; her heart would feel as light as a feather when she was around. They had made a pack one night in middle school to go to college together, away from their families.
Though fate had smiled on their dreams, it had taken its toll. Like the words of an old Sufi mystic, Fanni, she for some reason, never forgot, “O mature soul that dines at the banquet of fate and faith, know that for its taste you will either lose your teeth or your tongue.” They were together and had each other to lean on as they pursued their dreams, but not whole. Both their fathers were in jail, and they didn’t know if they would ever be able to see their families reunited again.
She remembered that walk through those airport gates. It felt like a never-ending hallway; time didn’t pass, for they had just hugged their mother goodbye, looking at each other; Aziza had tears in her eyes that she had tried so hard to hold. Yet, a part of her, not wanting to be let go, dug deep into the arches of her shoes, though she knew this was the only way.
All that had happened had changed Aziza to care more about her community. Though it didn’t seem like it to her at first, she saw that missing parts of Aziza that left as they boarded the plane two years ago, Aziza had found in others. That which was taken from her, she pursued for others to reach. It had bothered Fatima at first when she had thought about it that she somehow seemed to stoop so low. After everything that had happened. That maybe it was a waste for her to become the way she was. An anger that had burned through her soul for months on end. Though she came to see that wound, she carried had made her more aware of the younger kids. She saw them as her younger siblings and wanted to live life with them, to help and share her life with them, and to hope and dream together. It had arrived like poetry to her as her pain and anger subsided; that sense of selflessness soothed her. It made sense to her more than before. To lose one’s own life, but through it, find the meaning of life itself.
Fatima took off her shoes and set them on the rack. “Hey guys!” she beamed, sharing the joy in their eyes. The one that goes with age in most people but stays for a few.
As she leaned right by the hallway entrance to the living room, the bookcase on her left was adjacent to the huddled couches. They had tried to recreate their childhood houses as best they could. It was more of a mix, a set of antique wooded furniture they found at a local garage sale in the shade of a light blue, almost turquoise paint, and a couple of shrubs they had tried to shape after she had taken an elective course, where they had learned about Ikebana, a Japanese art form of shaping plants and flowers, an act to practice gratitude for the beauty and harmony found in nature. She loved to find and practice ancient traditions and celebrate their meaning.
“Hey, Fatima!” the girls all chipped in.
“We’re so hungry; we’ve been waiting for hours!” Rabia exaggerated.
“You didn’t have to wait; the kitchen is yours.” She said jokingly.
“Why do you think we come on Thursdays,” Rabia insisted.
“Ahh, I know girls,” Fatima laughed, “Let me go change, and I’ll be down in a bit, and we can make it together.”
“Don’t be late!” Rabia chuckled as Fatima headed upstairs.
“By the way, Aziza said she would be a little late; she will be home in like an hour, “Rabia said. “Usually, you’re the late one,” she added.
Fatima quickly changed into some sweatpants and texted her brother to see if he was available. Her brother and mother had moved to Belgium temporarily while they were waiting on papers to come live with her. They were supposed to be in the states a few months ago, but some items had been delayed, and Fatima was on the phone occasionally with the consulate to help things go a bit smoother than it already was. She didn’t quite get the hold-up; they had everything ready, except for some stamps that needed to be shipped to them once they were signed.
Her brother had graduated, but he wasn’t licensed to practice in Belgium, so he was taking night classes, learning the language, and trying to get his certificate while doing a few odd jobs during the day. He had luckily found a way to sell some products online that their dad had suggested, and they could live subsistently. Though, her brother wanted to come to the states and ultimately practice law here.
She could only talk with her father on Wednesdays over the phone for only thirty minutes, and due to the timing, she would get up at around 3 am to do so. They would do a family call together, though sometimes her mother and brother would be busy, and only her dad and she would chat. Yesterday, was like most of the days; they were together, a tinge of odd silence as they talked about their days like everything was normal, she would talk about her classes and friends, and he would listen patiently and earnestly. He wouldn’t want to say much but know as much as he could about how her life was going. A slight elation in his voice whenever she caught herself going into a tangent.
At first, he would mention good news about how a friend was set for an early release due to good behavior. Though, most of the time, they didn’t work out. So as time passed, he wouldn’t mention much about the situation that was going on. More and more, he would say, “let’s hope for the best.” Normally, dad was supposed to be with the family in Belgium six months ago, but due to an unresolved stimulation, his time got extended for another year. It had been 5 years since she had seen him.
He always said, “sweety, don’t be hard on yourself; I’m so proud of you.” Sometimes out of the blue, when she was talking about a random assignment that wasn’t even too hard. She fought hard to hide the tears from her voice as her eyes watered. Though, she knew he noticed because he would always change the subject, crack a joke and talk about his cellmates. They weren’t that funny, but for some reason, she would crack up. Yesterday he mentioned how some guy missed a meal, and they all chipped in some extra food for him. “You don’t need a calendar invite; it’s the same time every day,” he quipped sarcastically.
“Hey, sis,” Adam replied
“Did you guys get those documents, yet,” Nadia asked.