We often sit around the shisha for long conversations. The seven of us blow smoke and think through life together. There are days when the puffing conceals our loud laughter over topics that should probably not be discussed in public; on others, the smoke is a soothing reminder of normalcy in a dating world that is dark and scary. Every time I sit to “shish” (yes, it is a verb) with these women, I am amazed. I feel proud, and I feel stronger.
These women are all different; all colours, flavours, stories and paths to the divine. There is Boots, who is the fearless warrior. She is strong, driven and, above all, extremely open. It is she who challenges my Virgo structure, my need for control. She reads me, and questions my every thought and assumption. We also have Buttercup, always observant and analyzing. She is the archetype of the successful woman: independent, knowledgeable, and settled. She grounds me. She reminds me that there is so much out there in the world and that, despite everything, Allah places little snippets of happiness in the most random places.
Then, there is Puff. She often sits there puffing smoke, like an Alice in Wonderland’s character, presenting us with riddles. You need an astrologer? Someone who can analyze your zodiac character? She is your girl! Extremely sweet and sensitive, she reminds me of everything that is cosmically beautiful. S., is our social butterfly. She is cheery, happy, and has a magnetic personality. I have never met anyone who does not like S. She is always surrounded by people, and she has a beautiful friendly aura protecting her 24/7. All I need to do is sit and listen to her quirky stories and the world seems to smile at me.
Then there is Ring, the newbie. She is my Virgo twin, just a little more vocal about her emotions. We overthink and complain together about the uncertainty of the world and, at the end, we try to convince each other that everything will be okay. And finally there is Hoops. She has Sophia’s impropriety and Lorelai’s wittiness. Inappropriate and loud, she is the embodiment of the challenge to the establishment. But underneath all that there is an undying hopefulness. She is the one who reminds me to keep dreaming.
Dear Single Sisters,
Lately, I’ve run into a lot of fabulous, beautiful single women who can’t find someone brave enough to show up for them.
I am one of those women, just like you. We are beautiful, growing in our solitude, and looking for someone fearless and strong enough to rock our world.
Life gets hard over here in the land of no-rocking, so let me tell you something about prayer and loneliness.
I’ve been on my knees. Many times, in fact, with a prayer rug and loneliness spread beneath me. And while bending down on that rug, I’ve wailed something awful. I’ve screamed until I tasted blood in the back of my throat, and blood and salty tears is the most pitiful, foulest drink to swallow. It tastes like decaying flesh. It is death.
Sometimes, it tastes like being born again.
It wasn’t the first time I had heard a woman give the azaan. In our Ramadan prayers in small activist circles with radical and queer Muslims, my friend Naaz would call us to prayer, her soft voice resonating through our small apartments. Her words were confident but her voice unpracticed and raw. Where else could a woman be allowed to practice the call to prayer? It felt rebellious.
But this time it was different. We were in the big hall of a vaulted multifaith center, wooden pews moved to the side along the wall, a huge, unused brass organ dominating the stage. Large sheets were spread over the carpet and women of all ages, ethnicities and races – some wearing headscarves, some not – were sitting on the floor.
The muezzina walked up to the stage, pulling her scarf over her copper curls. With one hand on the microphone at the podium, and one hand to her ear, she recited the call to prayer. With her face turning to one side and then the other, voice booming up to the rafters, she was both strong and feminine. There might not be a minaret, but her eager voice, full of joy, was weaving holiness over us.
My eyes welled with tears instantaneously.