My middle son misses me. He called at all hours of the morning (the time difference did not help), crying and crying. I felt so helpless, being so far away, but I completely understood what it feels like for him. The best I could do was stay with him on the phone until he was able to calm down and put his mind on other things.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from today. It was important for me to find my mom’s old house, and the apprehension in what may lie ahead kept me from getting restful sleep. When it became apparent at 9 AM that there was not going to be any more opportunities for me to go back to bed before I had to check out, I went ahead and gritted my teeth and got ready for the day. I mapped out the street she lived on, then went to the nearby garage and retrieved my car. I drove from Hyde to Mission to 24th, and found a side street to park on.
Just as I remembered, Lilac St was nothing more than an alley. I wasn’t sure if I would remember her door by seeing it, but I was going to give it my best shot. I slowly walked toward the alley, uncertain if it was a good neighborhood or not. There were a lot of trendy places on Mission just around the corner, but alleys always seem kind of scary. I proceeded cautiously, and was relieved to see there weren’t many people around. Some guys were just taking a smoke break from the back door of the restaurants that lined the alley, and others were residents unloading things from their storage spaces.
The alley itself was colorfully painted with one graffiti mural after another. One one telephone pole were three faces of middle eastern looking men, and on the next were three women in hijab. Most of the alley was lined with sliding doors that led to either garages or storage areas. There were not many entry doors, and as I looked at each one I could not hone in on which might have been hers. What was clear was that this seemed to be an area where artists congregated, and that explained why she -with painting being a consuming passion of hers- would’ve chosen to live there.
I walked the entire length of the way searching for the impossible. I recalled that my brother had told me once that the building itself used to be a train station that was converted into living units, but none of the structures appeared to fit that description. When I reached the other end of the alley, I felt disappointed and lost. I turned back around, hoping that the alternate view might trigger a flash of memory to help me find what I was looking for, but that didn’t happen.
I returned to my car feeling defeated. This was something I felt I needed to do, and I couldn’t even do it. I sat in the driver’s seat and began weeping profusely. Something so simple, yet so elusive, can hurt so deeply.
“It’s only natural to want to have a mother in my life…”
Yes, it is.
“I didn’t deserve what happened…”
No, you didn’t.
“I didn’t do anything wrong!”
You couldn’t have.
The tears wouldn’t stop. The confusion burrowed deeper. The pain painted pictures before my eyes, and I hated it for being the very thing that was chaining me to the unhealthy habits I am struggling to break even now.
“Ya Allah, please show me how this loneliness, this constant loneliness that’s been a part of my life since birth, is really the best thing for me!”
I sat, trying to figure out a way forward. A way to heal and find peace from these deep scars. I kept thinking that finding my future was the answer, but the future is uncertain…..except for one thing: Islam.
Islam would be my way forward. Islam will help me find myself, and find my peace. It already has in so many ways, but the more I focus on it the more Allah will meet me where I need.
And so that’s where I wanted to go from that place, that empty alley which had no answers or comfort. I sent a message to a friend trying to find the way to the Muslims in San Francisco. While awaiting the response, I tried to find the information myself via Zabiha.com and Google. Both were inconclusive, so I was glad to get a reply with a general direction to move toward.
As it turned out, I ended up scouring the area I was pointed to block by block. I didn’t see any cluster of shops with signs in Arabic to indicate what I was looking for, so I thought I would just make due with popping into the nearby masjid to make dhuhr and from there go on my merry way. However, there was some type of event going on in that area, so the streets were being blocked off one by one. I couldn’t find a place to park by the masjid; in fact just getting out of the area and back toward the interstate was nearly impossible due to gridlock traffic and took almost an hour.
In the end, I drove to nearby Fremont to attend a zikr which was scheduled for this evening. I originally had planned not to go, but I felt like I needed something like that right now. I got into town and mapped the venue, which was located at a park. I decided to make my dhuhr there, and kill the time by eating a late lunch at a local halal restaurant. After that, I drove to the closest masjid and made asr, then returned to the park center for the night’s activities.
I am so glad I went. Being able to only focus on Allah and my iman was just what I needed, and it changed my state completely. Masha’Allah, they even served us a free dinner. The nasheeds lifted my spirits and I felt lighter than air after it was over. As I walked back out to my car, I looked up to see the wispy clouds sifting past a brilliantly shining full moon, beautifully set in the starry, cobalt sky. Alhamdulillah!
I located an affordable room for the night in town, which is where I am staying tonight. I like Fremont; it reminds me of the San Gabriel Valley where I spent half my childhood. In shaa Allah I will begin wending my way down the coast toward Southern California tomorrow. My trip will be coming to an end soon, so I hope I can make the most of these last opportunities toward self-discovery as I continue exploring the land I love.