I have been writing this for a while, it was never really ready. It still isn’t but that is what makes faith such a beautiful thing, isn’t it? Faith that this story will make sense to you. Or you. And maybe you.
Faith knows the future. It knows that the seed sown in love last night is the chubby little girl in white, clapping her tiny hands in delight, that you see in your dreams. It is a boy meeting a girl for the first time and already picturing her in a white dress walking down the aisle. It is the cancer ridden body that finds strength enough to lean on a friend for a walk around the hosiptal because its owner can see a future involving hiking with a white bandana wrapped around her head.
Faith is now. Faith is tomorrow. Faith is the in between. And love? Love is the greatest of it all, love is the beginning of faith.
PS I have been Bible Thumping, can you tell?
The next man that I love…
His eyes will be the color of hope and not blue. He will stare at me for the first time and know that it was worth it, this hope that he has been holding out for so long.
His lips will be tested and true, refined by time spent loving the wrong women. He will know better than to say the first thing that comes to mind, he will know to use his heart as a filter between his head and his mouth. He will know to do love before his lips ever form the word. He will know that while stick and stones may do much harm to our bodies, we must fear those that can kill the soul; words and the Word.
The palms of his hand will be hard from working so hard at mending hearts that were never his to mend in the first place. He will place them on my scars and the puzzle he was never able to figure will fall into place.
I will never need to raise my voice, his ears will be sensitive to the words that I don’t say and the meaning beneath the ones that I do say.
He will have dreams that fight harder than dreams normally do. This is because they have died many times before; murdered by easy words like “impossible” and ” no”. His dreams will be the type that never let him give up, they will be embryos that refuse to be aborted, fetuses that insist on a chance at life, babies that keep him awake at night, toddlers that keep him on his toes, children that never stop being curious about what’s around the corner, teenagers that will demand more than he can give…dreams that know better than to die.
He will find me at the intersection of today and tomorrow; a cemetery of dreams, a nursery of hope. I will be at my well, digging deep into myself to give to everyone that asks – camels, strangers, lords, servants… This is how he will know me: I will be sitting still, not fretting, unhurried, like a bride who knows her groom is the son of the time keeper. There will be flowers in my hair and leaves on my skin.
When he reaches where I am sitting, I will stand.
“Give me some water from your well,” He will ask of me, his eyes the color of hope and expectation.
“Many waters cannot quench love,” I will inform him.
This next person that I love… He will know to drink from my hand, to bring forth his camels and every other dry place of his life for me to water, to let my breasts satisfy him always, to arise and call me blessed, to clothe me with gold and presents from the father. He will know then why he had to come such a long way, past deserts where he almost died of thirst, through ruby colored seas where he almost drowned.
The next person that I love…I have seen him in my dreams, yet I am afraid he will never get here.
“He will get here,” She says, startling me from the thoughts in my head that I have let escape from my lips.
“Nana!” I exclaim, standing up from the rocking chair beside her bed. It is rarely empty, this rocking chair. We are many that love this woman and we are all happy to take our turn waiting on her as she has done for each of us sometime in the past.
“Sit down my child. There is no need to wake anyone else.”
“I thought you were asleep. Did I wake you up? Was my voice that loud?”
She starts to say something but it ends abruptly in a hacking cough. The fire is back in her eyes though and it is enough to bring back memories of the woman that offered me the only love and light of my childhood.
I rub her frail back gently until the coughing stops and offer her some water from the sipping cup that never leaves her bedside table.
“Zainab…” She starts to say, her voice stronger than I have heard it in a while.
“Nana, no talking. You need your rest.”
“I will rest in my grave thank you Surgeon-General!” She has called me that since I was a child operating on my cousins’ dolls and teddy bears.
It is my turn to laugh.
“This man you were talking about, this next man…I was once like you, you know. Afraid. Fear is such terrible thing.”
“The first time I laid eyes on your Baba,” She continued after taking a few long breaths, “fear assured me that it was impossible that someone like that would ever want someone like me. Fear will make you lose out on the best things Zainab.”
“I know Nana, I know.”
“Good. So stop being afraid. Yell Medical School didn’t frighten you, what is the future that can scare you gaskiya?”
“Yale, Nana, not Yell. Haba mana…”
“English is not my mother tongue.” She fires back and falls into my arms and I into hers, cocooned by soft laughter. My ears are close to her mouth that is why I hear the next thing she says “Faith, on the other hand, is a seed that will blossom into a tree which everyone can someday see and eat of its fruit.”
“Like you and Baba?” I say and she nods gently.
“Yes, like your Baba. Me, I was fear but your Baba was faith enough for us both.”
“This man you talk about, this next man, I see him too in my dreams. Except mine will not be coming to me. I will be going to him. This is my faith, Zainab and I am not afraid.” She finishes.
I wait till she is asleep and then I cry a little because to cry bountifully would be an insult to the God Nana serves. She has lived a good full life. Death stands at her door but not as a conquering foe. With Nana, death is more like a defeated enemy, force to wait on scraps from the table of a life lived to the fullest. I have encountered death many times in my career as a doctor and rarely does it show up so perfunctorily.
It was Nana that taught me to dream and by so doing escape my reality of an unhappy childhood torn between parents that hated each other. I straighten the bed-covers that have gone askew from our embrace and say a prayer over her before settling back in the rocking chair. It might be the last time we speak and so I make sure to wrap up the few words she has given me, to give them a pedestal in my heart, and to say the last words she might ever hear me speak carefully.
The next man that I love, Nana, he is right around the corner, just like your Baba. In a little while, I will see him, just like you will your Baba. This is my faith and I am not afraid.
Song of the day: Adele – Hello (I am sorry but were you guys expecting anything different?”)