No Answers

Oct. 31st, 2010 03:25 pm
seesonlysmoke: (Serious bzns)
[personal profile] seesonlysmoke
He liked living at the rock house. More to the point, he liked living in the same house as Ryan and doing things with her. Over the past few weeks since he'd healed they had grown steadily closer, and while he might not be very experienced, he wasn't totally innocent or an idiot. They had talked of friendship, and they had, held each other. He couldn't deny, to himself at least, that he had feelings for her, but he wasn't sure what to do about them. His conservative and religious background made him uncertain how to progress without looking foolish, or even if he should. When he managed to dream, as opposed to the regular nightmares, Ryan was now in them instead of Sufi, but that had gone so wrong with her, he was afraid to have the same thing happen with Ryan. There was Ryan herself. Altaaf could sense she was also dealing with something in her past. Had she been let down by someone and was she still waiting for them to return? Did her 'uncle' Alex have something to do with it? If so, was he prepared to get in the way of that?

But she was the only person he was sure accepted him and what he had done. Even though he now had documents legalizing his presence in America (thanks to Ryan's aunt), he was still reticent to go out, except without Ryan. He had seen enough reports on the TV to know how many would see his skin and hear his accent and assume he was an Islamist terrorist...which, of course, he had been. Even those drunks at that bar had called him an Arab, factually wrong, but the message was clear enough. He wondered if he should pretend to be Hindu as he was familiar enough with his adopted mother's religion, but he was already struggling with his true faith, so would denying it help him?

That was something he continued to wrestle with every day. Some days he believed Allah had not deserted him, other days he felt no reason to still believe thanks to Hilal. If all his teachings had been lies, did that make everything?

One day, after leaving a small note for Ryan just saying he was going out for a ride, he had taken the Harley and rode to where he had found the closest Islamic centre. Prayers were just starting when he arrived, so he quietly joined them. The cleric's sermon was one of peace and tolerance, so refreshing and different from the lessons he had learned in the Peshwar madrassas, but there was also so little he could relate to. He stole a look at the others praying with him. Most were dressed in regular business attire or street clothes, whereas he wore a kurta. Maybe it was just this area, but after, when he overhead some conversations, they sounded as American as Ryan. The disconnect he had felt was emphasized even more. What did these men know of war and what drove a good Muslim to the radicals? Each man who had been in his cell had told a story of trauma, poverty, of family being killed, being beaten by police, or losing limbs to mines all of which had forced them to flee Kashmir for Pakistan. Even the corrupt and evil Hilal had survived torture and death at the hands of the Soviets. Such brutality turned men into jihadists. What did these Americanized, middle class Muslims in their comfortable lives know about seeing your parents and sister murdered? He felt the anger and unreasonable hatred well up inside and sought to leave as quickly as possible. Although he had overcome most of the manipulation and brainwashing Hilal achieved on him, he hadn't managed to escape it fully.

He had wanted to speak with the Imam, or someone, about his confusion, but he felt so out of place here. This was so different from what he had known. Perhaps Allah had abandoned him, after all, sickened by what he had tried to do in His Name. He was almost out of the door when an elder stopped him.

"You are new here?" Altaaf nodded. "I noticed you looked...restless." Altaaf shrugged, just wanting to go back to Ryan's home. Sensing he would not get much out of the young man, the elder relented. "Well, you are welcome to come here again. It looks like you've been through much." That earned the man a sharp, guarded glance, and he pointed to the older scars, one above Altaaf's eye, the other on the back of his hand which he quickly buried in his jacket. "Those. God is here for you."

He could sense the man's sincerity, but perhaps he was too jaded, still too hurt to trust such an invitation. Perhaps his own failure made it wrong. "Is He?" He sighed. "I will think about it. Salaam alaikyum." Not even waiting for a response, he walked out and to the Harley.

He hadn't even reached the bike when someone passed him, and he heard him mutter none too quietly under his breath, "Fucking A-Rab." He pretended to ignore it and once on the bike, rode home. For a trip that was supposed to help sort his confusion out, he returned just as confused and more angry.

Back at the rock house, Altaaf thought about finding Ryan, but what would he tell her? Instead, he went to the kitchen and looked into the refrigerator to grab a Pepsi and he saw the beer in there as well. He was angry, angry at himself, angry at people who didn't understand, angry at God. What would Allah do if he had a beer? Nothing. And only Ryan understood, and she drank alcohol. He took a bottle, opened it, and after a moment's more consideration, took a sip. He frowned at the taste, not sure if he liked it or not, so he took another. It didn't help to make his head any clearer. After he had drank almost half, he set it back on the countertop, partly from being unsure if he liked the taste still, and partly because due to guilt.

Sighing, Altaaf headed to his room, and where he once might have laid out his prayer mat and prayed, he just laid down on his bed.
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Altaaf Khan

November 2012

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