When they talk around me: when they’re smoking in the small shed the smokers are allowed; when they are talking, intermittently distracted by their phones, the facebook chat that so engrosses them, and the real conversations that are going on in the shed — the shack, its ceilings stained the colour of death — of which they are capable of many. When they talk around me — distracted, dissolute and demanding, equally; when they talk around me, they sound like children chatting; like children playing at being growned up — Adults speaking the small voice, all high pitched and seering: an incendiary device, let loose in the wild.
The mosque calls. The mosque calls five times a day.
Before dawn, the mosque calls and my cat wakes up. He comes a’crawling, a’creeping, and he paws. He dribbles and he stinks. All over me, all over my bed; I wake up wet and deeply unhappy. My cat does this as the mosque calls.
But when the mosque calls I am reminded of the calm I felt in Damascus, in the courtyard of the grand mosque there — now bombed, now unrecognisable — irreconcilable, because of those bombs — and how much peace i felt there. A lot. I said at the time, 10 years now: “a calmness descended upon me unlike any other I have ever experienced; it is a sacred space, filled with history, and the community of souls that have ever walked there.” I am torn apart by what has happened there.
Later on, the mosque calls less loudly. Except on fridays when it calls the faithful, calls them to arms (at least round our way.) The imam calls, he shouts and decries: he demands attrition, acquiescence and accountability. He does it in the most beautiful tones.
My children — Big and Little — love his tones; they say: Little: mosque, no prayer, praying — song. Big: where’s the imam, what does he look like,what’s his type?
Happy here? I think so. They are; they hate the fact that there are no parks, or at least, none we can walk to. They hate the fact that all their friends no longer live around the corner, that they can’t, anymore, just go out and play.
Me, us? I love the fact we are no longer in China, that here, Little is loved for all of her difference, is patted and stroked the way that Big used to be exclusively in the Motherland — much to the detriment of Little. I love the way in which we seem normal; no one asks us questions about who her dad might be, her mother — depending on which one of us is holding her.
I Love the fact that here, In Jordan, we have two daughters of equal worth. In china, we had one blonde one and one that looked like them. One eye always closed to one of them.