My Understanding of Truth
By Jordan Freeman
“I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” – T.S. Eliot
“My first thought was, he lied in every word.” – Robert Browning
Let’s see what the sea has washed up onto our shore.
Here’s what I believe happened.
Tracie and Mohammed met in college. They were young. Tracie ran wild with freedom, but Mohammed’s religion prevented them from consummating their
lust? love outside of wedlock. Mohammed offered nikah mut’ah as a convenient loophole.
[As supporting evidence of my view of the marriage as a loophole rather than a binding relationship, my grandmother asserted that she never met Mohammed while he and Tracie were together. And it would seem the only member of Mohammed’s family with any knowledge of the arrangement was his older brother, Adel.]
You may recall Rawan stating she didn’t understand why Mohammed had a temporary marriage when Adel had already truly married a “white lady.” My answer to this is simple: they just wanted to have fun. This explains a lot, actually.
It explains why Mohammed panicked when Tracie told him she was pregnant. This temporary marriage was just meant to be a fling while he finished up school; now it seemed like he might be saddled with a wife and child. All of his plans and dreams were at risk. He thought quickly of a way to reduce the legitimacy of her claim on him–the baby wasn’t his.
“We shouldn’t have been so scornful; we should have had compassion. But compassion takes work, and we were young.” -Margaret Atwood
Mohammed told his brother he had caught Tracie cheating and thus neatly tied up his loose ends. There is no love lost for my mother, but I find it unlikely that she cheated on Mohammed, primarily because I remember my stepdad steppin’ out on her throughout my childhood while she stood silently by.
To me, that indicates an unwillingness to relinquish a monogamous relationship, at all costs. And might Mohammed, as a Saudi national and observant Muslim, interpret certain actions as cheating that might not be considered such to a westerner?
However, the narrative is further complicated here because, remember what Tracie told teenage Jordan about blow jobs?
Before I left for college, my mother bragged to me that she had slept with over sixty men in college and had all her expenses paid for. She told me, “the going rate for a blow job is $20 if you want to be a whore.”
The possibility remains that she did cheat on Mohammed. Either way, he readily relinquished any possible responsibility in his wife’s pregnancy, and fled, never to be heard from again.
I was born fatherless and will remain thus until the end of my days.
When Mohammed left, he vanished. Tracie assumed he had returned to Saudi Arabia to his ancestral home, but in actuality, he lived in Arkansas with a younger brother, Ali. Tracie sent her package of letters to Mohammed, addressing them to his home in Saudi; not realizing he hadn’t even left her time zone.
“Other people cannot see what I see whenever I look into your father’s face, for behind your father’s face as it is today are all those other faces which were his.” -James Baldwin
The package was retrieved by a family member and placed into storage awaiting Mohammed’s return. Two years later, when Mohammed and his new family returned to Saudi after the death of Ali, the unidentified relative who stashed the package away neglected to inform Mohammed of its existence.
Or… Mohammed knew of the package but left it unopened after a long look at the return address. We’ll never know.
“People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It’s that hard. If God said in plain language, ‘I’m giving you a choice, forgive or die,’ a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin.” -Sue Monk Kidd
Regardless, Mohammed died a mere two years after returning to Saudi, succumbing at last to a lifelong battle with Sickle Cell Anemia, a genetic disease endemic in homogeneous communities of the Middle East and Africa. He was survived by a widow and
two three daughters.
Ten years later, when Mohammed’s widow relinquished the apartments, Adel began the emotional and arduous task of cleaning the debris and discovered a dusty, age-worn packet addressed to Mohammed.
He held it with reverence and sorrow, turning the crinkled envelope back and forth in his hands before opening it. And his world cracked open.
Three years later, on the other side of the world, I spit enthusiastically into a test tube. I reached out to my mother and gained my father’s previous phone numbers, addresses, and associated persons.
When a distant cousin reached out to me on 23andMe, I was sure it was a scam.
I didn’t know the name of the city my father came from and thus hadn’t posted it–so how would this stranger know more about my family than I did? I didn’t bother responding and gave up my search after several fruitless months.
Later, once Adel found me on Facebook and I began my daily correspondence with Rawan, I discovered Rawan knew Isra from their hometown of Qatif! Isra had recognized the surname I posted during my search, and she had attempted to tell me that AlGhawis come from Qatif. Families stay much more closely knit both geographically and genetically in Saudi than they do in the United States. If I had not dismissed her so summarily, I might have discovered my family years earlier.
While I will never know my father, I am being enfolded gradually into his family. It’s still overwhelming to me how precarious this happy ending was at every stage.
If Tracie had given up on Mohammed, if she hadn’t been able to get an address from the shopkeeper, if the letters had been lost, if someone other than Adel had found them, if Adel hadn’t known English, if I wasn’t on social media, if I had changed my last name upon marrying, I wouldn’t be writing this story right now.
And you wouldn’t be reading it.
“We were neither what we had been nor what we would become once we reached our destination.” -Jeff Vandermeer