Let’s go somewhere.” Said Lana as she fastened her seat-belt. She was in the front seat of Mohammad’s Opel Astra.
“Where exactly do you wanna go?” asked Mohammad with a smile, that smile that means he can hardly believe he’s with Lana.
“I don’t know, how about your house?” suggested Lana returning that same smile.
“You know what I love most about being in college?” asked Mohammad, still smiling. But this time it was a different type of smile, the type that means something’s aching and even Lana can’t heal it. “Getting the green card to rarely be in my house.”
Lana raised her eyebrows and remembered how much she loved her house, her pink-wall-papered bed room and staying out late at night with her sister. If the AUC wasn’t the best college in Egypt, she probably would have never entered a college which took so much of her quality time.
“Why do you hate your house so?” was all that she could speak out.
“It’s not exactly the house that I hate, though I don’t have such great memories in it. It’s just my father; we don’t get along quite well.” Lana was silent, she was about to speak, probably about Mohammad’s domestic life, when he stopped her, saying, “I know where we could go, you’re gonna love it.”
He started the engine of the car and in no time, he was speeding out of her home’s parking. Lana opened the CD compartment in front of her and began looking for something to play.
“Forget about that.” Said Mohammad. He reached out for the control buttons of the CD player and turned on the radio. It was the official F.M station for English songs. Lana liked it, so she stopped looking for CDs. It didn’t take them a long time to reach their destination. In less than half an hour, Mohammad stopped the car and pronounced: “we’re here.”
They were on the highway, basically in the middle of nowhere. “That’s your favorite place? That’s what I got dressed up at 8 at night for? The highway?”
Mohammad, still smiling, raised the volume of the radio. “I love that song.” He said referring to the song Torn by Natalie Imbruglia. He began singing along.
Lana knew the words of the song, maybe even better than Mohammad did, yet she did not sing. She had been avoiding all sad love songs ever since her break up with Nader. Being with Mohammad also helped, he knew she had broken up with her boyfriend; however, he never asked about neither the reasons nor the consequences. And that made Lana prefer spending time with him than anybody else. Nevertheless, he was now hurting her. Whether or not he meant it, she didn’t know. But she did know that she was hurting.
“I sometimes think … I mean, about … cutting my wrist.” Mohammad’s singing stopped. Suddenly the song seemed so empty, or was it meaningful whatsoever? “Not because I wanna die or anything, but I just want to know how it would feel like; drowning in your own blood, having a fountain of gore streaming all over your arm, seeing your noodle-like veins cut and scraped. It must feel great!” Lana said with a sigh. She was looking straight ahead all the time, never for once looked him in the eye. “I mean, I know you’d feel a great amount of pain and maybe even regret. And passing out from the loss of blood, that’s gotta be sick. But, I’m sure before all that crap, there’s gonna be that moment of euphoria. And even if it’s really short, it’s gonna be totally worth it.” She now lent back, with her head pushing against the tip of the car seat, and closed her eyes.
“Then why didn’t you do it?” asked Mohammad, not as shocked or panic-stricken as she had expected him to be, “Why didn’t you cut your wrist?”
She opened her eyes slowly, but still didn’t look at him. “The usual,” she replied with a ton of boredom bursting in her voice, “all this stuff they say about being burnt in hell if you ever kill yourself. I’m not religious, but I still don’t wanna go to hell.”
He wasn’t looking at her either, but now he suddenly turned to her and said, “You know, I tried committing suicide once.” Now she was the one shocked. It was the first time she looked at him in minutes. She said nothing; however, her eyes asked all possible kinds of questions. “I didn’t cut my wrist, though. I used the pills instead.” Still, with staring eyes and dropped jaws, she remained silent. “I was having issues with my dad. It was right after my mother’s death and I totally felt alone. I don’t know why I did it, but all I thought about with every extra pill I swallowed was that I wanted my father to pay for what he’d done. I wanted him to be as lonely as I had been. If my mother’s death hadn’t gotten to him, maybe my death would. But,” he sighed; now he was the one looking at her straight in the eye, “I think you can tell how that one ended.”
“You didn’t die.” A trace of surprise was still audible in her voice.
“I didn’t die.” He echoed. Reaching out to the backseat, he got two cans of Pepsi out of the ice box, but first it took him a long time to separate the Pepsi from the beer.
“I’m sorry about that,” he said as he handed her one can and opened the other, “but had I been out with my boys now, we would have been having a totally different drink.” The freezing Pepsi splashed all over his hands, but he didn’t seem to really care. He just drank.
“What happened next?”
“I turned to religion afterwards.” He resumed, returning back to his story. “There was this Sheikh my dad hired to help me memorize the Qura’an. He was such a nice guy. You know the one who’d make you give up all your allowance for charity and still feel great about it?”
“So, you’re religious?” asked Lana hesitantly.
“On and off.” He sipped through the can,
“I bet mostly off nowadays.” Concluded Lana, with a quick, humorous glance at the beer in the backseat. As much as she has gotten used to being around liquor, she still felt a certain degree of menace whenever it was within a small distance from her. She couldn’t get over the number of times when her father got manifestly drunk in public and disgraced them all with his unstable behavior. He still drank heavily in those days, especially on important occasions; all the reasons why Lana couldn’t stand a drinking fellow. But Mohammad was different.
“But sometimes,” he said, trying to make something of her simple joke, “I find myself waking up as the Mou’azen calls for the Fajr; dawn prayer. I just wash for ablution and pray. Then, everything seems so bright and simple. It’s refreshing,” he looked at her again, now with a smile, “you should try it some time.”
“I do pray, frequently too.” Said Lana, rather defensively. For the first time ever, she felt ashamed of her negligence to religion. Even Grandma Dodda with all her religious preaching never got to her that way. “But I never pray the Fajr prayer at dawn. I pray it when I wake up in the morning.”
“Don’t we all?” said Mohammad, again smiling. “So,” he said kicking back, stretching his arms and attempting to change the subject, “that was such an interesting evening. I haven’t opened up to anyone like that in ages.”
“Me neither.” Replied Lana.
He looked at her bright brown eyes as they sparkled reflecting the moonlight. Something about them was so strange; it always felt as if they were smiling even at her most melancholy moments. He was shocked to find himself touching her face and gently running his right hand by her cheek to wipe away a lost tear. It felt so tender; he had goose bumps all over his body. It was one of the most electric moments of his life, so happy, yet so confusing.
Just as everything was going as he had planned, just as he was about to confess his love to her, she impulsively pulled away. She opened her window for air, then she turned to him and said;
“It’s about time; we have classes tomorrow at nine.”
A new song began; it was Damien Rice’s Delicate. Mohammad didn’t sing along this time; however, it felt that every single muscle of his body interacted with this song. It was one that described his situation best, and said all he wanted to tell Lana but couldn’t.