It was nearly three years later when I found one of my prayers tucked inside my then boyfriend’s wallet. By the time I met him which is around a year and a half ago now, I wasn’t making prayers so much anymore. I had persuaded my parents to let me go for art classes and I had begun sketching. But for him, for us, I made a prayer.
We were at a Chilli’s on our first anniversary as a couple and Amir had gone to the washroom. I looked around out of habit to see if any relatives were in there. The coast was clear. Most of the tables were empty actually. The lighting was dim and the walls marine green and dull red. The whole restaurant seemed quite and lonely as I sat there sipping on my coke. I decided to rifle through Amir’s wallet for his driver’s license. His picture on it made me laugh. I pulled out the prayer instead. It was smudged and the sides had slight tears where it had been folded. The prayer was red and black and yellow and white:
Help me, help her, help us
Help us become one though not the same.
Help us carry each other.
Help us care for love.
Ya Allah let us not forget the rose for the thorns.
We are in love
And in love let us live.”
My insides curdled in embarrassment as I read the plaintive words and I felt sorry for any God that had to take them seriously. I smiled ruefully and put the prayer back in the wallet.
By this time my mother had eased up on me a bit. Whether because of my age or hers I do not know. Of course if she found out about Amir all hell would break loose.
“I only have one daughter, I want her to look beautiful.” She had said while spraying me with body mist in front of a mirror. This was the day I met Amir.
“All the boys will be looking at you. Be careful. Stick with your friends. Your father doesn’t know there will be boys at the party. Just be careful, okay!”
She had stood over me as I looked in the mirror. My acne hadn’t gone entirely but had diminished to a few minor blemishes on my forehead. And thank God the red spot hadn’t appeared on my nose! I had tweezed my upper lip and my hair fell down in these lovely waves to my shoulder. I still didn’t look like my mom but I didn’t look bad.
At the party, which was at one of my friends’ houses for another friend’s birthday, a boy had looked at me: Amir. It was the first time a boy had flirted with me and it was quiet flattering. Especially when the boy in question was tall and athletic with gorgeously untidy black hair, an infectious grin and the ability to play guitar.
I had stared out at the sky. Cloudless, plain and dark like my sin. The moon was in the horizon behind us. Underneath the sky, the sea slowly rocked and swayed. A gentle dance; it had cooled my nerves.
“Look at that sky, isn’t that beautiful?” He had said.
“Can you even see the beauty you soulless atheist.” I had teased. And then there was an awkward silence in which I realised that he had been building himself up and I had just ruined it.
Eventually he had said “I dunno when I look up there. I feel like something stirs within me. Something emerges maybe? I don’t know. I can’t explain.”
“I know, I think that’s God speaking.” I shudder now thinking of what I had just said.
But then he had taken my hand. I’d turned around and he took my other hand too. He then got down on his knees, right there on the pavement.
“And it’s the same feeling I get when I look at you.”
Well, how many boy hungry sixteen-year-olds can resist something as grandiose and silly as that?
When Amir came back from the washroom I said. “Well Atheist McGodless, you still have a prayer in your heart eh?
He shook his head. “What?”
I told him about the prayer. He frowned.
“You were looking through my wallet?”
“Relax I just wanted to see your driver’s license again.”
“Loser.” He kicked me under the table.
“Well, so what about it?” He said “I still keep the beautiful prayer that my girl wrote for me.”
I laughed “It’s so silly.” Honestly, I was disappointed that he still thought it was beautiful.
“How are your classes going?” I asked him changing the subject before he could insist further on the prayer’s beauty.
‘Meh…” he said. “They’re okay. Gotta get a degree for my bread and butter no?”
He was in the final year of his B.B.A Degree (the same one I was going to be a sophomore in) and he hated it. I didn’t care one way or another. I was stuck here.
“Once we get enough money, babe. It’s only you, me and the whole world. Nothing can stop us.”
I nodded pensively sipping on my coke.
I felt irritated all of a sudden at the ease with which life presented itself to him, a man. I was cooped up at home in Dubai and any day my mom might start looking for suitors. This was something Amir and I never discussed. No, it was just grand pipe dreams we fed on.