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Letting Go (part 1)

3:40pm I pull my floor length dress on over my modest top rushing, a bit, because I need to be there soon. I run back to my office and chat with my bosses who kindly have let me off early. I run to a store nearby and buy a tin of cookies (better than the watermelon that we brought last time?). I decide to walk to the Damascus Gate instead of taking the train, it would likely be faster now anyway because my office is only two stops away… in the short distance sweat has already collected in various parts of my body and I am pretty sure the space between my back and backpack would be obviously wet to another person at this point.

3:58pm A couple ask me for directions to the train stop, I explain then continue on.

4:06pm I call Rebekah, we spot each other, meet and walk to meet Sarah closer to the Damascus gate. Rebekah asks me if I am nervous, “no,” I reply without evening thinking.

4:20pm We enter the hotel in East Jerusalem after winding our way down Sala-e-din street. Our friend’s husband meets us and we wait in the hotel lobby. We are sitting in the large chairs and the three of us are staring at each other, accessing, then begin chatting, while waiting for *Hadiya’s husband. We wait before riding together in a car through East Jerusalem to their home. It is not until we are sitting in the car about to pull out of the hotel that it occurs to me why Rebekah might have asked me if I was nervous. I realize that my trust in Hadiya and this situation has not really wavered, I consider this briefly taking note of the fact that I am generally more skeptical but am not right now.

In the car Hadiya’s husband explains the Ramadan fasting time frame, which begins with a light meal at 4am then no water, no food, no cigarettes until sunset which today is 7:51pm. He notes the cigarettes are the most challenging for him… Later in the car I ask about Iftar at Al-Aksa. (“Iftar” being the name for the communal feast that takes place at the end of each day of fasting during Ramadan) Al-Aksa mosque hosts an “Iftar for the poor” and, according to Hadiya’s husband, in recent years many people have taken advantage of the dinner who don’t really need the support so those who monitor entrance to the Iftar are very strict this year about who can gain access.

We walk into a compound filled with fruit bearing trees with tiny lemons and grape vines and enter a building which holds Hadiya’s apartment. My mouth is dry. The apartment is cooler than the outside because the blinds are drawn but the air is warm. I feel relaxed. I have chosen to semi-fast for Ramadan today and eaten only a small amount earlier in the day. I stopped water consumption around 4pm. We enter Hadiya’s apartment and are invited to sit down, shortly after Hadiya emerges smiling, her hair is down. This is the first time all summer we have seen her without her veil on. She greets us in traditional fashion and we settle into conversation briefly passing over the question of thirst, before moving on, Sarah, Rebekah and I assure her we want to partake in the fast, albeit an abbreviated version at this point… The fan circulates the air in the room I am aware again of the sweat, but no longer bothered. We move our conversation into the kitchen where Hadiya begins cutting onions, our conversation is comfortable, easy and the occasional laps into silence are not awkward but instead acknowledge the familiarity we feel after spending time together this summer.

5:30pm The sound of the knife slicing onions against the red glass cutting board, Hadiya’s pattern of cutting, always in half than slicing parallel to the board. She stir various pots on the stove. Big beautiful whole wheat pitas are cut in half with kitchen scissors…

Hadiya senses tiredness and prompts us to lie down in the living room, normally taking a nap when visiting someone’s house for the first time might seem odd but it seems like the most natural and pleasant idea in this moment

Hadiya brings me a blanket and tucks me into the couch, a blanket could seem crazy because it’s likely 100 degrees outside and this third story apartment has no AC but the blanket and the warm air embrace me and I let them hold me and I let go, I realize, for the first time since 22nd of May when we stayed in a Hostel in the Galilee (because of the bed and setting, I suppose, in the Galilee I had been able to sink into a deep, relaxing sleep) and now again in Hadiya’s apartment. My thoughts, again I take note, of the not having “let go” (now several hours later I am fairly certain having someone tuck me in indicated to by brain that I was no longer responsible for my self or anyone else in that moment, who knew being an adult would actually feel like something tangibly different?) I sunk into the most delightful sleep, appreciating the tranquility in this moment

Sometime later we are back in the kitchen and Hadiya is slicing cabbage, in the way only someone who is well experienced in chopping does, she has different bowls and moves in a manner indicating her own fatigue but she smiles and laughs as we again offer to help her, she prompts me to practice my Arabic while she pulls pans from the oven and the most heavenly smell, that has lingered in the kitchen emerges with great fullness and we ask her about the spices. A breeze comes in through the kitchen window.

6:30pm Hadiya looks at the clock, moving slightly faster, I notice my thirst and hunger but somehow instead of a nagging feeling I appreciate it and look forward to the meal that lies ahead

While time was everything for this occasion it also held no significance and seemed to float by, I suppose, because of my state of mind…


Part 2 and photo soon

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