after prayers, noreen and I decide to go for a wander. we wander through the deserted grounds of springfield hospital, by the derelict remains of the lunatic asylum. by the old mortuary, and disused workshops, the ballroom, the secret gardens, fading purple petals litter the ground, the wisteria is gone... we wander into a building, the corridors are empty and shadowy, I follow Noreen, it's so quiet, we keep walking, we shouldn't be here. we approach the end of the building, above our heads, a magnificent vaulted blue ceiling, I spot a nurse behind glass, she is shrouded in darkness, she looks otherworldly, hearts pound, we exit, we sit on a bench by the empty water fountain in front of the old victorian admin building, we spot a dead crow, we are surrounded by disfigured palms.
noreen borrows my jumper and spreads it out onto the grass. she says she wants to pray for the mentally unwell, she wants to pray for all those who have died in the hospital and all those who have been killed. I keep watch. She finishes and gives me my jumper back. I wipe the dead grass off with my hand. we sit on a bench a while, she reads up horror stories surrounding the hospital on her phone. we think about the nurse, and all the things she must have seen. we feel sad for her. then she reads up on its history, we learn our old school neighbouring the hospital used to be a farm, with over a hundred cows, we learn there was an orchard of apple trees and that they would grow food to feed the in patients, we learn about a water tower, and an ice house. we never find the ice house. we inspect pine cones scattered on the ground, noreen keeps calling them acorns. I stop correcting her after a while. what does it matter. we leave after a brief stop off at a little garden outside the support centre for the deaf. we wander to the shops, we randomly spot sofia outside tesco's. together we go to a few of the asian shops along tooting high street, we buy samosa's and things for iftar...... day 2
I glance at the clock, it's 4.15 am. I get dressed and decide to go for a wander. I leave the house. the sun is coming out. the sky is a light pink, the streets are all empty. I think about going to the lake, but instead wander down the high street. everything is empty, and i feel like there's only me in the world, I go past the market and up by the bus stand, a bus driver says good morning to me, he catches me off guard, it's so early, I smile and say good morning back. there are rowdy people shouting and laughing outside mcdonalds, I pass by the library, the sky is pink and yellow now. I wander back down a small road and make my way home, a night bus passes. I wish I had my card, I could get away, the bus is going to aldwych. I wander down an alleyway, at the end of it there's lots of smashed glass and sheets of mirrors. I spot charlie, the neighbourhood stray cat. I say hello to him, he scarpers. I decide to do the same. I pray and recite the quran in the garden.
later sofia and I go to the ramadan tent to hear noreen speak about her project. we get there a bit early. The volunteers are super perky and happy, I feel a bit uncomfortable. I go to take my boots off, but sofi comes up behind me, she says lets come back. I say ok, we wander around by soas and birkbeck, we have no intention of going back. sofi says she's not feeling very social, I concur. we head to hare and tortoise and order food in time for iftar, we call noreen and tell her to meet us after she's done. she does, we eat and laugh and talk and then sofi and i pray outside. noisy people pass by. I finish my prayers, we go back and pay the bill and wander through the empty night streets of bloomsbury. everything is strange and subdued and almost alive day 3
i wake up. I can hear the neighbours from the half-way house next door arguing. I close my eyes. my mind drifts, i think about how difficult it must be for them, this world can defile you. I get up and shower and pray and read the quran in the garden. then I finish reading the forty rules of love, i feel inspired by the transformation of rumi from scholar to poet, and by the mysterious character of shams, but for some reason the book leaves me feeling a bit empty, a bit confused and frustrated. I decide to go for a wander. I go to the cemetery. It starts to rain, the cemetery is empty. I do dhirk. I look at the big mysterious trees, the mirror image hazelnut trees, the sad weeping willows and worn oaks. It's so quiet and peaceful, the sky is an inky grey. I feel like i'm in the middle of the countryside, I feel like i'm in the past, maybe a hundred years ago- maybe more. I wander, everything's a bit hazy. a fox gallops off in the distance, then ducks beneath a fence, it's just me again. i decide to leave after a while. I don't want to get locked in. my shoes aren't the best for climbing over gates. they're not mine. they're noreens.
I go to the local mosque. It's empty, on the other side of the curtain I can see a woman peeling potatoes. Everything looks shiny and new, the gold curtains, the new prayer mats. I take a seat at the back and read quran. after a while a lady interrupts me and asks if i can go upstairs and read as they are preparing the food. I say of course. I feel a bit hurt that I couldn't finish the ayah I was on. I curse myself for being sensitive. I leave the mosque, feeling a little emptier than when I entered it. not the desert rose, or suleiman the drunk, just a wandering lost girl, whose sense of self is fading. just a girl whose been loitering around outside of the gates of paradise for far too many years, unable to catch a glimpse. I go home.
sofi asks me to accompany her to the shops. we go to aldi and do the shopping, we go to pooja and daily fresh and tesco's. we go home.... I listen to talks by shaykh hamza yusuf, a few of them move me to tears, rumi 'come, come again' everything makes sense. God is merciful, signs are manifest, though we may not understand them. this isn't a caravan of despair. the door it open. the door is open. i recite the quran. i feel myself heal. i feel myself getting closer. I fall short a thousand times a day, every miracle I've seen and experienced- everything I've been given, the door is open - blessings manifest.
I dash out the door and get on the tube. I get to south ken, I remember its half term, the queue outside the museums are too too long. there are crowds of people everywhere, from everywhere, every corner of the world, speaking so many alien tongues. I start my shift. time blurs. I tire of talking. I tire of smiling. I catch up with friends at the museum, M tells me she's leaving. I'm so happy. I hug her. I feel so sad. she can't leave.
I pray at the end of the corridor, on the other side of the door I can head muffled voices, thousands of them, peace is in the prayer...
I sit on the grass in the courtyard at the V&A during my break. I watch the children play in the water.
I see him come towards me and brace myself for the goodbye. I tell him I hope everything works out, and that i'm sure it'll be amazing. I feel sad knowing that I'll probably never see him again. I remember that line from stand by me 'friends come in and out of your life, like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?' I feel happy, knowing that nice guys don't finish last. Sometimes they get everything. their dream job at jaguar, a company car, their perfect woman. I feel happy. everything is beautiful. every departure is bittersweet.
on the bus journey home, I rest my head against the window and stare out of it. I stare at the people, below, at the buildings, the trees, the river. I feel like everything is changing again, and I feel unsettled, and as though my time at the museum is coming to an end. Ya Allah, show me the way.
I can't sleep after fajr. I get up and get dressed, Noreen asks where I'm going. I say on an adventure, I ask if she wants to come. She say's no, you're crazy. She gets dressed and meets me at the front door. It's 4.15, we leave and get the night bus. we sit upstairs at the front. the sky is still dark, but its gradually lightening, electric pinks and deep blues, silver chem trails leave patterns in the dawn sky. we chatter and we sit in silence. time before time. we get off the bus just before it crosses westminster bridge, the sun is rising, the streets and pathways and bridges are empty. we wander across it, beside the river. we wander over the golden jubilee bridge. there's no one and its mystical and magical. there are some women dressed in printed sari's, they speak in a language unknown, perhaps romanian. we wander down to the beach. I search for seashells along the foreshore. gold light hits the water, the pebbles, footprints in the sand, a single swan passes by. I pick up bits of pipe and rock and bone. I put them down, we sit on the sand against the river wall. there's no one in the the world, just the two of us....
I recite the quran in the early hours of the morning, the sun rises, everything is beautiful, my Lord is near, I feel myself ascend, to a place where there is only stillness.
the sun is shining, I wander, by the river. I wander around the fire brigade museum.
I wander around the migration museum. I enter into the calais jungle, I sit in the dark room and watch sad films sharing stories of the boys and men and women that called the jungle home. Valiant, courageous, desperate, visionary. My stomach rumbles. I feel grateful. Alhamdillah. I feel so grateful. I feel so sad. the world is unequal and harsh. eternity is forever. I look at the photos on the wall of boats filled with people, human beings with heartbreaking stories.
I leave after a long while. I wander around a tropical community garden. I wander under palms. I wander through a secret passageway that leads to another secret garden. I wander the streets. I wander to Oval. I wander to the bus stop. To home. I buy a frame for my neighbour Mia, and when I go home, I put her painting in it.