September 28, 2011 Leave a comment
For the past two years during the winter season Idil never missed the 6:30 train that takes her home every day. That is the last train before the sun sets. Since her parents have agreed although reluctantly but nonetheless agreed to let her take the subway from school, it was Idil’s routine to never miss the train before sunset. These precautions were taken for safety concerns. Two years have passed since the terrorist attacks in New York and now with the war in Iraq, times were difficult for visible Muslims like Idil, who wore the hijab and long dresses. Although she has never encountered any real danger, only ugly stares and xenophobic taunts, still she felt unsafe being out after dark.
This evening was the first evening she risked missing the train before sunset. Idil lifted up her long skirt and sprinted to the subway station as fast as her long athletic legs could take her. She had exactly five minutes to catch the train before sunset and a half block to go. In two minutes Idil was inside the building and running up the stairs. By four minutes Idil had set foot in her terminal. At 6:30 and on time the sliding doors of the train were shut closed on Idil. She let out a loud exasperated sigh as she watched the train leave without her. Disappointed her painstaking effort fell short, Idil found a bench to sit on to wait for the next train. Once she sat down she carefully looked to her surroundings. To her left she saw three African American men engaged in a conversation. Next to them was a young college aged Asian girl reading a book while listening to her iPod. And next to the Asian girl was a mother with a small child. Idil began to relax. Then Idil looked to her right. Immediately she sensed danger and the beating of her heart accelerated.
He looked young, in his early twenties, was of medium height and athletically built. Idil first noticed his shaved head and solid unflinching hateful expression across his white face. He wore blue jeans and a short sleeved grey t-shirt. Idil could see his heavily tattooed arms and neck from where she sat. He looked like a poster boy for skinheads, she thought. But most unsettling to Idil was his icy cold stare towards her. She could feel how much he hated her. She swallowed hard and prayed under her breath for God’s protection.
More people entered the terminal and took their seats on the empty benches. I should be safe with all these people around, Idil thought to herself. Idil pulled out a book from her bag to keep her nervous mind occupied. Several minutes of her reading passed and she glanced back to her right. The same icy cold stare was on her. Idil exhaled and went back to her reading. I am safe with all these people around, Idil reminded herself once again. Finally the train arrived and Idil walked to the most opposite side from the one who had terrified her.
Idil was not the only one terrified that evening. Abdul too was terrified, but for an entirely different reason. Six weeks ago he had taken the train before sunset and had laid eyes on Idil. Since then he has been unable to think about anything or anyone besides the most beautiful girl in his eyes. He had never in his life seen a sight as beautiful as her. He didn’t know what it was about her, but something inside of him was ignited. Perhaps I have fallen in love, Abdul wonders. Her flawless glowing black skin, her high defined cheekbones, her thin glossed lips, and her innocent eyes haunt him each second. He knows his new religion discourages lusting after a woman and encourages him to lower his gaze, but neither his mind or heart are under his control any longer. Abdul is sure this has to be love. He has never felt such intense feelings before. Each weekday he looks forward to catching the train before sunset so he could see the girl who took his soul. Seeing her brings him immense happiness. And each day he tells himself he will summon up the courage to greet her. But she took away his speech too and all he has been able to do is stare blankly at her.
Abdul watches Idil walk to the other side and he follows her without getting too close lest he frightens her. Muslims confused him for a non-Muslim at best and a skinhead at worst. But tonight felt different to Abdul. The girl of his dreams for the first time held his eye contact, a prayer he had been wishing to come true for over a month. She had finally noticed him and tonight was the night he was going to say as salaam alaikum.
As the doors slide open Idil moves swiftly to find a seat away from everyone else in the nearly empty train. She hopes no one bothers her tonight especially the racist skinhead that terrified her. Once she sits down she opens her book and begins to read. Her destination is twenty minutes away. The train starts to move and Idil gets lost in reading the fascinating story about an unlikely love. Meanwhile 6 seats away, Abdul is lost in her. At the moment he is admiring her devotion to her faith. He finds the way she covers herself incredible beautiful. She moves him and his soul yearns for her.
Ten minutes pass and Abdul has yet to make a move. He becomes restless, fidgeting in his seat and his heart begins to pound harder. He knows in ten more minutes she will get off at her stop and its Friday, which means he won’t see her until Monday. He has an urge to make his way to her, but at the last second convinces himself it’s not the right time as she is focused reading. Once she is unoccupied I will say salaamu alaikum, he tells himself.
Idil closes her book to look up at her surroundings. She is shocked when she sees no one is left on the train except the skinhead. She had been so focused on her reading that she had forgotten the danger she was in. Idil notices his cold stare, holds his gaze for longer then she had intended to and immediately looks away. She doesn’t want him to notice how much he terrifies her as that may encourage any evil actions he has in mind for her. She prays for God’s protection and pulls out her cell phone, ready to dial. In one minute she will be getting off and her brother will be waiting for her on the other side.
Abdul sees that Idil is no longer reading and is preparing to get off the train. She stands up and heads towards the door. This is your shot, Abdul thinks, so he too gets up and heads over to where she is standing.
Idil doesn’t turn to look at him, but she can feel that he is approaching her. She trembles on the inside and curses herself for having not bought pepper spray. Oh God he is going to stab me right here before I get off this train, she thinks. Oh God save me from his evil, she prays. Her hands are shaking as she pulls out her cell phone and presses speed dial number one. She begins to talk loudly to the phone well before her brother answers.
Confused, Abdul halts his step once he sees the girl of his dreams is engaged in an animated conversation. He cannot understand the language she is speaking, but assumes from her gripping expressions that it is an important call he should not interrupt. Seconds later the doors open and she runs out quickly. The doors close and Abdul sits back down frustrated. During the past six weeks he has taken the train only for her sake even though he doesn’t know her name. Tonight was his first real attempt to greet her and he felt like he had failed. When Monday comes I will most certainly greet her, Abdul vows. He gets off the next stop to find a cab to take him home; back in the same direction he had first caught the train.
On Monday before sunset, Abdul is there at the train station waiting for Idil. He had been practicing all weekend in his head what he would say to her. He waits for the train before sunset and when the train arrives Idil is not there. In the past six weeks she had missed the train before sunset only once, maybe tonight will be the same he thinks to himself. Abdul waits for the next train. When she doesn’t show up for the fourth train Abdul decides she wouldn’t be coming tonight. He goes home disappointed. Abdul follows this same routine in the next few days. Idil never shows up. Each day he goes home with a heavy heart. After weeks of going to the train station and waiting for her return Abdul comes to the painful realization she is never coming back. He doesn’t know her name or where to find her in the big city. The source of his happiness had vanished.