The Future Of Secularism: Chapter 12


She dropped me home.

I didn’t know what to say. She’d never kissed a guy before, and I had just made out with her. I couldn’t resist the temptation of considering her, almost, well, conquered. I knew it was wrong to think that. But part of me was proud of me. And I did really like her, I enjoyed her company and her presence (and her body and her movements, etc., ad infinitum). When she stared at me through the window, I motioned for her to lower it.

She shrugged (that was cute too, but maybe not as cute as the bag of potato chips). I shrugged back, "Nothing, I just wanted to say Salam again."

She smiled as if that was it, as if I had to give in, as if I was the one conquered. In my zeal to conquer her, and assume I could, it was me who got conquered. I smiled at this realization, because I loved it, and then I said, "Allah hafez te."

And the thing was, I really meant it. As her BMW pulled out of the driveway, I prayed -- for the first time in years, maybe. Maybe I had never really prayed before. Not without wanting anything, at least. But this time I prayed to Him. No namaz, no bowing, nothing. I just stopped and asked Him to protect her.

After all, I didn’t want to see anything happen to my conqueror.  

I stepped in the door well past 2 a.m. My mom was actually sitting at the kitchen table, staring at a book. It didn’t seem like she was reading it. I was surprised she was up. It was Wednesday night, but still...

"Well how was the game? We watched on television. It looked great, can you believe how we came back?"

Last I remembered, we were losing badly. I hesitated. Right then, my father stepped into the room. He grinned and wondered, "Rather - how was your ride?"

My mother smirked and neither spoke a word. I lowered my head, embarrassed. My father gazed at me: "Something wrong?"

I had a sudden urge to tell him everything. About Khattab. About her. About Sophia’s dad, the politician, and how I wanted to teach philosophy. About how all I ever cared about was being noticed. About my first prayer. But then I reversed my thoughts, and returned to item number five. All I cared about was being noticed. So what did I expect my parents to do? Listen to me and act impressed? Wow, son, they’d say, your life is so interesting and damn we just wish we could have something like it. No, I didn’t want that.

They wouldn’t understand how I wanted to be different, about how all I cared about was to be noticed, about how I fell in love with this girl and how I don’t even remember her last name, about how I took a ride with an Islamist, about how I prayed to God and I really wanted Him to take care of her, and about how for the first time I didn’t want to be noticed.

My dad looked worried. "Who’s this girl?"

"She’s in one of my classes. We’re just friends."

"She seems like a nice friend, Hayy. You spent five minutes staring at her outside the car."

"Nah, I was just thinking, Ata."

"Yeah in her direction."

I smiled, awkwardly, as if I didn’t believe what he was accusing me of, and so he smiled. But then I loathed him. I think only kids can do that to people that close to them, and I felt really bad for it. I was angry. I knew it was immature, but a part of me wanted to go do something stupid, just to attract attention. I went for a cup of water because I didn’t want them to realize what I was thinking about. But it hit me hard. Stupid Khattab and his psychoanalysis -- it was driving me mad.

Why did I resent my parents? 

 They didn’t know me. Maybe no one ever cared about me, like really showed me love. I wanted to tell them I was going to pray, to get them upset, to get them to think: ‘where the hell did we go wrong?’ I just wanted them to notice me, so they could figure out all their imperfections without me ever having to talk about them.

My dad asked, "Where’s she from?"

"I don’t know," I replied, coldly. "She’s a nice girl."

I had never been so reserved about my interests in girls. I think my parents sensed it. At least my mom did. My dad didn’t understand sexuality, I think, and he only wanted me to have a Western life. If that meant promiscuity and sexuality, then so be it. But I knew it made him uncomfortable. He came of modest origins and conservative parents. So I was mad at him for being so weak.

He wanted to be noticed as a rich man. Our country wanted to be noticed by the West. If I knew anything about Berkeley (which I really didn’t), I would’ve said that at this moment I became a Berkeleyan. Or however the hell you spell it. All people wanted was to be perceived. We took this whole esse is percipi crap to a whole new level.

That night I slept late and dreamt about her. Yeah, one of those dreams. The kind I felt bad about after because had I cared about my Wudu, I wouldn’t have had it, and I would’ve had to do Ghusl, but it didn’t matter because I didn’t care for Fajr prayer anyway. So I let it slide. But I felt bad because it was her, and by dreaming about her like that, it was as if I had violated her. 

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