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mecca and a baby boy

published: 2011-04-14

Off she goes. To Mecca. Her girls wear jeans and sneakers, while she wears a white Pakistani dress. It is a soft cotton with tiny embroidered flowers on it. Her silk veil is in pastel colours. It is the first time I have seen her tuck her hair away completely. She fidgets with it, keeps pulling it and even over her forehead, behind her ears.
“My feet are shaking” she says. So I hold her. The girls smile radiantly at me, and watch their mother somewhat curiously.
“Are you excited?” I ask them. “Yes,” says the elder of the two, “we will be staying with family. And we’re going on an aeroplane!”
“That’s lovely,” I say and I promise my neighbour I will take good care of their home. Does her phone work in Mecca? She nods.

“Have a good time,” and I wonder about whether there’s a better word to use, “a spiritual time?” I find myself wanting to say things like, ‘God bless you’, and ‘may God be with you’. But I’m not religious and I wasn’t planning to suddenly start believing. So instead I add, “be safe.”
She takes my hands, in that endearing way of hers. Her own hands are both cold an warm, her pupils are big, black, fearful blotches.
“For whom must I pray?” she asks. Next she opens her hands in the form of a book and humbly bows her head. I immediately know and say, “please pray for (I am not mentioning any names because that’s between me and her God, whoever he may be. And god do I suddenly desire for God to exist.)”
“Thank you,” I whisper. My eyes are damp as she turns to leave. Her girls follow her on either side. Pray, dear neighbour, pray. I so hope your God listens. One last thing though: instead of praying for the child that is growing in you to be a baby boy, pray for its health and yours, regardless the sex.
The smallest of the two girls suddenly turns and runs back to me, “I am going to pray for a baby brother!” she hugs my thighs. I smile and gently kiss her head. Off they go.

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