The Season of Hajj.
When he returns home to me after two weeks of walking through sand and circling black stones that fell from the sky thousands of years ago, after brushing his hands against the Kaaba build by the callouses hands of Abraham, fingertips cooled in golden threads that drape over it, after he has cast pebbles at the devil and remained in the calm state of ihram for two weeks/
After he has prayed below gilded, vaulting ceilings, stood wall to wall to wall with 4 million muslims, will he come back to me a man that can still be in love with me?
He was wrapped only in two white drapes of cloth, he has shaved his head to show he will begin again anew.
Will this path that takes him closer to his God, but pull him far away from me?
The house smells of mushrooms and pasta and truffle oil. I pour a glass of apple cider and cover his dish with a lid to keep it warm. I nervously work through the last dishes, slopping oily water on my tank top.
He is in the car coming home, snaking through Parkway traffic. After the flight into Egypt and then the flight from Egypt into JFK- the first from Egypt since the storm, as we have our own kind if reckoning here. He passed into security. And they released him to come home to me.
When I buzz him up I can't help it and dash into the hallway with the boys, but I stay with a foot on the doorjamb. He walks down the hallway to our apt door, I laugh: you crazy man, of course they profiled you!
He is bald and his beard is thick and peppered with white. He has the scarf of Yemen or Saudia, the pattern of green and gold around his neck.
You crazy man! I say again.
We will be shy. Me, because I don't yet know if he is still mine, him...well, I can't say why.
When S was still toddling around, a baby, L went to the Hajj for the first time. One pilgrimage is supposed to be enough in a lifetime but not for him, I guess.
The smells were the same then, just as the first crisp cold breathes that swirl red and orange leaves smells of autumn each year, there is a smell to the Season of Hajj.
These are for you. Does he feel unsure of his gifts? The way he looks away when he gives me them, that he doesn't meet my eye. What could he find for me there, that would suit me, that I would wear? He unwraps paper-silk dresses of blue and gold and white and gold and the fragrance they release into my home is just what you might think: sweet and heavy and clinging.
After so many years of working to convince those around me that THERE- the Middle East, is HERE, it is not a foreign universe where nothing makes sense, not a place where people live under values we could never conceive of. After years of bridging THERE to HERE and back again, the perfume that unfolds pushes me back into a polarized world of The Other.
I feel how far he has been away. I feel how different he might have become. Where he has walked that I am not allowed to enter. How he has bent his body in prayers I have forbidden myself. The space that has grown between us brings me to tears as I fold away the dresses, unsure where I will wear them or when.
How do we fit our two lives together again?
When I fall asleep I am wrapped around him but still I dream I have lost him. In my dream I am walking through Algiers yelling his name and the lights keep blacking out. I enlist strangers, begging them in Arabic to help me find him.
But everyone has that name here. How could you ever find him again, they ask me. Give up trying. When I wake sobbing, he is doing the morning prayers and dawn has not yet arrived.
It is the season of Hajj, here. And the perfumes of Mecca and Medina are know through the world as ones that envelope and stay and stay after you dip your fingers in and streak them, sweet and dark across your wrists and in the divots of your collar bones. Once you invite it into the folds and dives of your body, once you have invited it into your home it blooms on the walls like flowered paper that fire cannot char, it twists about the legs of the wooden table and I find that open windows do not blow it away.
This season has just begun for me and I can't know how long it will stay and what storms it may bring or how far away it will take me from the one I love.