Character: HANNA JOKHOE, 24, Guyanese immigrant, a devout Muslim.
(Hanna at 20 years old.)
We are close, so close as to be breathing the same air. My heart is galloping...aching toward Miriyam. She presses her face into the crook of my arm and we move together, in a nervous embrace. Wait! This is not shameful. This is not so very different, I think, than Mumma's loving caress of so long ago! I grow bolder. We explore each other as a blind man might explore a rare and delicate sculpture, a work of art. An iris. The petals of a peony.
The taste of Miriyam is cinnamon, paprika, anise...a dizzying blend of flavors to savor...a thousand colors...I am giddy with Miriyam, Miriyam, Miriyam....!
Suddenly, a terrifying shock surges through me, a great weight, paralyzing my hands, my heart...My body betrays me and seems to work alone.
"Shall we stop"?
I can't speak.
"You are frightened".
A ball in my chest. I cannot breathe.... "What… is… Allah… saying?"
"He is saying love is a sacred duty." She strokes my hair.
"But Allah says this is evil. Disgusting".
"Not Allah. Only man."
I turn over and bury my face into the pillow. Miriyam knows I am so afraid...She slides down and presses her lips to the small of my back. I feel hot tears grow behind my eyes...They are pushing, pushing to get out...Such intense beauty, beyond all imagining, can't possibly offend Allah, can it? And yet....and yet....
As for the righteous, they shall surely triumph. Theirs shall be gardens and vineyards, a truly overflowing cup.
I am not afraid anymore. And then, for at least one person, I am enough…