I invited myself over to a friend’s house yesterday. Normally I invite people over to my house instead, but since we’ve been without a housekeeper for the past three weeks, I don’t think any of my friends would appreciate an afternoon in the sty with tea and- well, that’s it. Tea. Because I don’t have cookies and there’s nothing made for lunch.
So MayG let me invite myself over. And she very patiently waited for me to arrive two hours late after I was delayed by urgent work. She sent me very detailed directions to her house.
(I buckled Musfira into her seat and started driving towards her part of town. Five minutes into the drive, I noticed some alerts on my phone.)
I needed to go north on this road, take this exit, and then look for that building with the thing on it. I had a google map point as well, which is fantastically useful.
(I’m in a Whatsapp group called- of course- Brain Surgery News. It’s a small family group where my sister- who is in Singapore for neurosurgery right now- shares updates about what’s going on. There were 29 notifications.)
So I started driving and skimmed through the messages when I stopped at a traffic light.
(My sister is allergic to the materials they could have used to fix the aneurysm in her brain.)
And then I realized I had starting driving towards the wrong city.
(The aneurysm is too wide for the second option, coiling)
So I turned around and headed the other way, but I got stuck in Deira traffic because I hadn’t accounted for the time of day. But when does Deira NOT have traffic, really.
(The third option is to open up her brain and manually put a titanium clip on the swollen vessel. Which is behind her left eye. Which she may lose sight in.)
I worked my way through Deira and got myself going in the right direction. When I was finally five minutes away from her house, I drove right past the exit.
(But losing sight in one eye is a small price to pay to keep your brain from exploding. So Alhamdulillah.)
I made a U-turn using the next exit, except it wasn’t a U-turn. It pointed me back in the direction of home again.
(The surgery has been delayed until the doctors are sure they’ve picked the right course of action. Owl is being tested to see whether her form of EDS- a connective tissue disorder that we both have- is the kind that makes your veins fragile. That’ll take another week to come in.)
I made another U-turn, and got myself pointed in the right direction to make a second pass at the correct exit.
(They also need to see if she’s allergic to titanium, because again- you can’t install things in someone’s brain that their body is going to have a problem with.)
I nearly missed it again. I swung my car into the exit ramp at the last possible moment, grateful that traffic was light and there were very little cars on the road.
(They would have to break her skull.)
I finally found the building. Musfira and I located the entrance, pushed the button for the ‘alligator,’ went upstairs and then rang the bell for MayG’s flat.
Breakfast was lovely. It was served the moment I arrived- at nearly noon- as all breakfasts should be. We had eggs and toast and chicken and nutella and juice and tea and cake. Musfira and her four year old played beautifully together, we chatted about random interesting things, and just as I finished my last piece of toast (this was the one propping all that nutella up) MayG suddenly said, “Hey, you want to paint with me?
MayG printed out some Arabic calligraphy using a machine that cut the art into adhesive vinyl. Then she painstakingly removed the excess vinyl around all… err.. most of the little fathas, dammas, kasras, and other little wiggly bits that go around Arabic script. Then she transferred them to watercolor paper and handed me a brush.
(She had asked me if there was anything I wanted to paint in particular.)
To say that I enjoyed the painting wouldn’t even begin to do justice to how I felt. I felt renewed by the painting. I felt freed by the painting- even if it was for a little while- from the non-stop worry, fear, pain, and anxiety that had pounding on my brain the entire drive down. I dipped the brush in water, I touched it gently to a deep, uncomplicated blue. I dabbed the thick, textured paper and watched the paper soak up varying shades depending on wet the brush was, how long the brush had already been on the paper, and how quickly I moved the brush from one place to another.
It was soothing- not only in the action of painting itself- but in reading and re-reading the words I was painting around.
(On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. Stroke, stroke, dip. On no soul. Stroke, stroke. No burden greater. Dip, dip- stroke. On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.)
I painted for Owlie-bird, who is floating in fluorescent white medical limbo somewhere in Singapore. The course of treatment is unclear, the risks are scary, and the waiting is hard and scary, but InshaAllah, she’ll be fine. Allah said so.
(If she dies as a Muslim, Alhamdulillah.)
I wish I could get it to her now because I want to frame it and prop it up next to her hospital bed, not because my untrained, unstructured, and uncomplicated blue watercolor is beautiful, but because Allah’s promise is beautiful.
(If she survives and lives as a Muslim, Alhamdulillah.)
I’m pretty sure I thanked MayG three or four times before leaving. I was hoping to convey just the right sort of thanks- one where you’re insanely grateful but not hoping to show your insanity. I don’t know if I succeeded. But I thanked her.
And now, I’m going to thank her again.
MayG, thank you. Really, very very much. For tea and cookies and company and calligraphy and paint and green masala chicken and qeema and gajar halwa and poking out all those little sticky vinyl bits with a pin. And for listening and hearing and giving me emotional sanctuary in your beautiful home for the better part of the afternoon.
Thank you for making me a larger, prettier version of the same calligraphy that I painted for my sister.
Your decorations are awesome, and you are one of the most creative people that I know, MashaAllah. I left your house feeling calmer, clearer, and less likely to miss my exits because I was crying- which is what I had been doing on the way to your house. I was also crying while you were printing things out with your magical cutting machine, and I would also like to thank you for either not noticing or not letting on that you had noticed.
“Whosoever relieves from a believer some grief pertaining to this world, Allah will relieve from him some grief pertaining to the Hereafter.” Hadith Source Here
May Allah bless you and forgive your sins, and return the kindness you showed me thousands of times over with His mercy towards you and your family.
May Allah relieve the distress of Muslims all over the world, wherever they are, whatever their source of distress.
Ya Allah, please bring my sister home safely.