Heavy Moans, Achy Joints

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“If it turns out that I have an incurable disease or I’m dying, will you still love me?”

Our bodies held on to each other while Twelve-to-Six whispered, “Of course.”

That day we didn’t go to our usual spot in Prospect Park to make out. We would walk deep into the greenery because I was always afraid that my father or some Bengali uncle or aunty would spot me without a bra and catch a glimpse of my luscious 36 double Ds.

I had already gotten caught far too many times, no, not topless, but while locking lips in front of a porch that wasn’t mine or his. Some Bengali lived there and word spread quickly.

How was I supposed to know that me kissing some dude was news worth spreading? Why didn’t anyone warn me about being Brown and barred from kissing in public?

After struggling to get up the Bay Parkway station stairs with knees so weak and feet feeling heavy – not from sex because I was saving that – we hugged as if it was my last day. I was feverish and fatigued so instead of a steamy French kiss, my lips softly caressed his right cheek. I had never done such a thing before, but I guess I cared about him. I wanted him close.

It turned out that I did have an incurable disease. Its name: Lupus. Something about it being autoimmune, which I still don’t completely understand, and an undesirable amount of protein now liberated from my body to coexist in urine, explaining kidney failure, sudden weight gain, achy joints, swollen everything.

It made sense now as to why I hadn’t been able to bend my knees… to do the deeds… to worship. It was my first time. We were in Prospect Park on a hilltop surrounded by unforgiving summer bugs. Knees bent and in excruciating pain.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I envied the white women I had watched in porn. They knew how to maneuver the penis so comfortably. Was it learned or inherent? Some of them even wore high heels!

I had ditched my volunteer hours at Methodist Hospital to perform like the ladies with voluminous blonde hair, perfectly shaven, and so flexible. No matter how much I shaved, hair specks were very much visible along with a hue darker than the Brown on my skin. Focused but fearful, I pushed him to direct me but I guess his lack of response and happy moans meant I was doing okay.

The ICU became my permanent home for the next three months.

Lupus was serious. Incurable but treatable with high doses of anti-inflammatory medicines like Prednisone which turned my slim and curvy figure to an abstract shape befitting the dully printed white hospital gown held together with threads. I wasn’t used to so much immodesty.Completely naked inside the robe, I assured Twelve-to-Six that he could get a feel when he visited me.

He didn’t come until the day of my second kidney biopsy, which was at least a month and a half into my stay at Maimonides. Our midnight conversations – mostly him helping me explore parts that were now swollen and distorted due to the Lupus consumption (even my vagina was ugly) – also faded and didn’t last until six in the morning anymore. He wasn’t living up to the codename I had given him.

Because the nights were calmer during my stay, all I could think about was masturbating. Was it wrong for me to want to touch myself while bedridden from disease? I shared these sentiments with my best friend over the phone who asked, “Are you serious, Shahana?!” As if I could no longer be sexual or desire to be sexual because, after all, intimacy and disability could not belong together.

Twelve-to-Six called one night asking for “space.” I didn’t put up a fight.

Two years later, I was living in an apartment close to campus.

Twelve-to-Six reappeared and wanted to visit. I wore my best wig. It wasn’t colored like the natural jet-black he last saw me with, but rather a brunette, long in the back, layered in the front. With it, I was a woman, feminine, confident, able. Chemotherapy had left me bald.

He looked at me diligently. Did he know I was wearing a wig? Did I look different to him? Did he notice the longer, straight strands covering my breasts?

He wanted to hug. I did too. This hug escalated from the living room to my bedroom where I silently became pious and prayed for the wig to not go lopsided lest he find out I was hiding a bald head.

“God,” I thought, “I know Lupus might’ve been a test of faith which I’m doing miserably in, but I’ve not touched a man in so long, please let this wig stay put.”

Don’t touch my hair. No hair pulling please, though that’s what turned me on the most. It didn’t matter that he didn’t want to kiss me on the lips or that our clothes stayed on.

I lay on my back with him on top of me. Our bodies caressed gently. I missed his smell, though he reeked of the chicken wings he had eaten prior to the hug. His hands made way from my cheeks to my breasts, kameez on. I moaned, longing for more, to get a peek of his thighs and the boner I felt on my body.

He motioned it was time for him to leave. Wig in place, I directed him to the door.

I pulled off the wig and sat on the couch.

“If it turns out that I have an incurable disease or I’m dying, will you still love me?”

“Of course.”

Nirbhika M. is a Brooklyn-born storyteller.


15 Comments on “Heavy Moans, Achy Joints”

  1. nyrouz says:

    I found this story to be rather inappropriate. I understand that this is a blog where Muslims can relate their love affairs without the usual cultural constraints of displaying emotions. However, I did not think that there was need for pornographic descriptions. After all, it is a Muslim site and I believe that it would be beneficial if we could maintain a level of linguistic modesty and avoid graphic descriptions.

  2. TMI says:

    I think the message of this article could have been much better delivered without the soft porn tactics. I mean we are Muslim, and we should at least *try* to have some modesty, even when writing. The fact that the author was sick was sad, and that promises were broken. But the story was eroticized for what reason?

  3. SensAttude says:

    I thought this story was great, I enjoyed reading the intimate perspective of her experience and it was articulated well. Kudos to her for having the courage to share the story so honestly. As for the comments on this piece being ‘inappropriate’, her story is her story, she has the right to tell it as she chooses, much like you have the right to do the same. In our quest for modesty we should be careful not to impede on the right of others to voice their views. Allah is judge.

    • TMI says:

      Yes, you said it, Allah is the judge. And as such, we should also respect His commands for us to carry ourselves modestly, in speech and action. Vulgarity has no place in Islam. I speak to myself first, and then others.

  4. slomojo says:

    Loved it! Made my night, thank you Shahana!

  5. Abdallah says:

    Take the illness out of this story, and you are left with erotica, which has no place in Muslim discourse. Let’s try and remember the Sunnah of the Prophet, may the choicest salutations of peace and blessings be upon him, in upholding modesty, refraining from spreading fitna through any means, and keeping our sins covered by not sharing them permanently and publicly online.

  6. Ayesha says:

    May I remind commenters of Ibn Hazm (456 AH), an Andalusian polymath, religious scholar, historian, theologian and poet, whose only surviving literary work is the erotic “Ring of the Dove”? It is focused on his desire for someone he was not married to.

    In addition, many orthodox Muslim scholars have recommended that married couples read erotic stories together to keep the spark alive over a lifetime. Sexuality and sex are a celebrated, beautiful, and joyful part of Muslim life.

    While readers may disagree with certain aspects of the story (as is their prerogative), the author is following a long Islamic tradition of frankly addressing sexuality. Calling it soft porn or saying erotica has no place in Muslim cultures shows just how little some Muslims know of their history.

    • TMI says:

      Key word: MARRIED. Talking about sex within the martial context is one thing. Blatantly and proudly exposing your sexual sins before marriage is another. Even when married, we are not supposed to share our sex lives with other people.

  7. Maya says:

    This was wonderful; thoughtful, beautifully written, painful. Thank you for sharing.

  8. mayaisai says:

    This is beautifully written; thoughtful, painful at moments, and an important read–it so vital that we love ourselves, including our sexuality, when we receive so much messaging that tries to tell us we are not good enough for that, for self-love. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Abdallah says:

    Ayesha,

    Our contention is with the author’s revealing sinful behavior through a first person account. The orthodox scholarship you mention does not condone removing Allah’s cover from one’s sins, and if you believe that, please share proof with us, so that we may consider its textual evidences.

    Further, the Islamic tradition also mentions commandments and prophetic counsel such as:

    The prohibition of revealing one’s sins is demonstrated by the statement of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), “All my community will be excused except those who commit sins openly. Committing them openly includes a man who does something shameful at night and when morning comes tells someone that they did such-and-such, while Allah had concealed it for them. They slept under the cover of Allah, and they removed Allah s covering from themselves in the morning.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

    With commentary from Imam Munawi who stated said, “This is because from the attributes and favors of Allah is the manifestation of the good and beautiful and the concealment of the vile. Revealing sins is showing immense ingratitude towards such a blessing.” [Khadimi, Sharh Bariqa al-Muhammadiyya]

    Though the basis is prohibition of revealing one’s sins, exceptions do exist when there is a shari’ah countenaced reason.

    Imam Nawawi said, “There is no harm in telling about a sin to one’s shsykh or other person who may be expected to teach one how to desist from the act or refrain from similar acts, or apprise one of the causes that led to it, or pray for one.” [Nawawi, Adhkar]

    Even here, if it is possible to mention a thing in general without mentioning the actual sin or oneself then mentioning specifics would not be permitted.

    Ergo: there is no shari’ah countenanced reason to share with a global public audience one’s personal experiences which detail pornographic descriptions of extramarital intercourse and sexual behavior, written in the first person perspective. To say otherwise is frankly dishonest.

    Differences of opinions exist in Islam, but not in this case. Let’s not pull the wool over our eyes.

  10. Sherry says:

    For anyone who’s hating…let’s not forget a long list of Muslim authors from centuries olden whose writings were locus classicus of fervid passion, desire and union.

  11. Evie says:

    this is poignant and beautiful. thank you for sharing

  12. Laura says:

    Dearest Shahana, I found your article through your friend Tahsin. Thank you so much for your writing, your words are the stuff that the stuff is made of. You must know you have just virtually tapped my shoulder and nudged me in the right direction in several ways when it comes to myself, to what I am and what I’m trying to do, when it comes to my health, and my love of sex and my creative work. You’re my kind of girl. I think I kinda love you at first sight (first read?) Alhamdulillah for you, you’ve done something to me. I would very much like to give something back to you, so if there’s anything you might need from a stranger to whom you’re not quite a stranger, do fire away. I hope you’re well, soft winds only blowing at your back now!🙂

  13. Laura says:

    And, anyway, what’s with these astaghfirullah-ing comments? We’re a sexually propagated species, folks, I’d be very surprised if anyone here has been actually polinised rather than shagged into existence. Seeing what it takes to conceive and deliver us into the world, I’d say we’re all way too familiar with vaginas and penises already to act this coy and puritanical around the stuff.