In my dream, I was back in Riyadh. I needed dates for the family picnic, but the clerk had only hamburgers. Hamburgers. How strange are dreams, but now I am thinking of shopping. First I will bathe, dress, and pray. Then, with Abdullah as my escort, if it pleases Allah, I will buy presents for my children and for my husband, perhaps an I-Phone 7. The flight back home is still twelve hours away, so there will be time for the trip to Quincy Market.
He is late, as usual. We must have breakfast, and checkout time is ten o’clock. Abdullah, I am hungry. I am waiting.
“Ah, good morning, Abdullah. Breakfast now? Before shopping?”
He has already eaten. No matter, I will have fruit in the taxi.
The driver stops the car in front of the hotel door. He is not smiling but he waits for Abdullah to enter. I follow him but the driver is angry now. I cannot understand what he is saying. He is speaking too fast and loud. “Out, out!” Abdullah says in Arabic. “It is your abaya and niqab. He is angry. He is afraid, I think. He is afraid of the bomb. We are not Wahhabi, but he does not know this.”
I show only my eyes in public to protect my modesty. I am a believing woman, and I am protected in this way. It is not easy for me, but I do as The Prophet – peace be upon him – would do. I forgive the cab driver. Now, how to get to Quincy Market?
Abdullah is still angry. He cannot think clearly at the moment. He is a good man, but old now, and his heart is not strong. I wonder if he has remembered to carry with him his medication. He is a doctor and I am a nurse but we are human, and we can forget.
I remember that the hotel has a shuttle bus. They will drop us off at Quincy Market, and they will take us back to the hotel. I think we can do this with time to make the flight back home. I tell Abdullah, and he is happy. I know he also wants to purchase gifts; for his wife, daughters, and grandchildren. They are many but he has a big salary, and he loves his family.
It is not so hot, not like at home, but the people shopping at Quincy Market look browned and moist, like grilled chicken. This woman’s hair is shaved on one side only. Her pants are so tight. The outline of her buttocks is clearly showing. This is immodest. That one is wearing a beautiful dress. It is green and white. She is looking at me. Oh yes, and I at her. She does not know that I also have a beautiful dress of green and white that I wear at home with my husband and children. Her hair is lovely. It is clean and shines, as does mine.
I will shop when Abdullah finishes but he is taking too much time. He is trying for the bargain each time but it does not work with these Americans. Hurry, Abdullah. Buy the gifts. It is not complicated, and time is passing. I seek to be patient, and as the Prophet – peace be upon him – said, there is no better gift granted by God than this.
He has now four bags to carry. He cannot, so he gives me two bags. It is okay. He is old now, and could have a heart attack. These bags are not so heavy but how will I carry the bags with my family’s gifts? Where to start shopping? The time until the shuttle bus returns is short, and Abdullah walks slowly.
This boy riding the bicycle is like my son, but he is going so fast among so many people.
Careful. Careful. Oh, no.
“Abdullah, are you hurt? Are you injured?”
His arm does not look right. I think it is broken. The gifts are scattered on the ground. The teacup is shattered. The boy is lying under his bicycle. His leg is bleeding. I must stand. Abdullah and the boy are injured. I must help them. The niqab has slipped over my chin. I must replace it quickly. Many people are now standing around us. The woman with the shaved head and tight pants is kneeling over Abdullah. The boy stands now. He looks at his bicycle and then Abdullah and now me. A man leans close with hands on his knees. He asks if I feel pain. “My neck, but it is not bad. Please do not touch me. It is forbidden.”
I dream again that I am in Quincy Market. My husband is shopping with me but I cannot see him. I have many bags with presents. I cannot find my abaya and niqab, so the people see me wearing a dress of green and white. I am panicked. I see Abdullah standing nearby. He is rubbing the humerus of his left arm. He says nothing and turns away. The rest I cannot remember.
My children are sleeping, but not in the house of my husband and me. They are with their families now. Today is my last day of work as a nurse. It has been thirty-three years. Yesterday there was a young man injured in a car wreck. We did our best, but he died.
Rick Forbess lives in New England (Maine) with his wife of 44 years and 96 year old mother-in-law. For the last 32 years he has worked as a consultant and trainer for the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University.