Running out of juice on your phone when that’s the only tool you have to find your way around a new city, late at night, sucks. I eventually managed to reach my hotel past midnight when all I’d gone out for was a few minutes to drive around and get a feel of the area, and the Mosques nearby.
Being around here in a new city made me realize how lucky I had been in the last few years, surrounded by an active, strong community that wasn’t very different from me – culturally, socially, and religiously. I thought if I get to go back again, I would attend every class that I had missed all these years, and every prayer in the local Mosque that I wasn’t attending, in congregation.
It’s a very small community – in fact, when I went to a supposedly big local Mosque which was obviously a converted church with Gothic architecture, I found that there is no Imam or five regular prayers. Anyone with an access code could walk in and pray when they want to. Everyone knows each other, and they have potlucks every once in a while. I made myself known to everyone and hung out. Someone mentioned that I had a Noor on my face, and that my presence makes people around happy. I could only attribute that to all the Qur’an I was reading.
There are very few Halal or Indian restaurants nearby, and that was disappointing even though I know it wouldn’t stop me from driving anyway.
I was diversifying my social circle in a big way too, so it helped to have very different kind of friends and cuisines from what I have been used to, over the last few years. After all, this project was about rebuilding myself, anyway.
All along, I had to keep hiding really why I moved here. Of course, I have a better job here but that’s not what prompted me to do this. Before moving, I spent an entire day with my brother-in-law who was nearby for work, and he did the equivalent of slapping me on the face when I explained to him the immediate reason. It was during a miserable three weeks when I isolated myself from friends that I decided to move out. I perhaps wouldn’t have made the same decision later, but it was a good one, in the end. I got better work.
I had a dispute with a couple of friends while working on a volunteering project. I made some mistakes and so did my friends. I acknowledged and apologized right away, but after that, everything I did – my support, encouragement, help, not counting my time and effort was completely whitewashed away, unacknowledged, and reversed. Only a dead conscience or huge ego could stop them from feeling guilty about what happened or at least from some of what they did. All of it stopped bothering me, and so did the fact that my relationship with a couple of people had gone sour.
But there was a partial exception with one person. When I look back and would look back in future on why I moved, it would be because of just one person who decided to move away from me over our differences. I fight everyday trying not to forget the person as I catch myself forgetting them. I came to know first hand how easy it is for a guy to forget someone when you get busy with other people, some of whom relish your attention and give back more. I still fight with myself everyday to convince myself it wasn’t a friendship only because they wanted attention as some of my other friends had wanted me to believe. Acquaintances always continue being friendly acquaintances but friends, when things get sour, get to a degree even lower than acquaintances – they cut off or become enemies. I wished we had simply stayed as acquaintances so things would have always remained cordial.
It is as though I force myself to miss the friend, because I want to, even if I tend not to. I miss them. In reality, in the end, I didn’t care what anyone would say of me or treat me. I wouldn’t have cared if 99% of the world had turned against me, as long as I had this one friend, with all their great and not so great attributes, and with all our differences. I was under no illusion that we’d be such good friends forever for personal reasons, but after a birthday greeting last year, I thought our friendship was so mature and respectful that we would never slide down the wrong route again; that we’d be cordial, regardless, forever. But that was not to be.
Until people stop asking me why I moved, I would keep responding with half-truths. My career has progressed, of course. I wanted a change, and I’m excited about it, but I know it’s tainted by what drove the change. And it’s tainted until perhaps, my fight against forgetting my friend ends. I don’t want to lose it. But I’m not sure how long my memory will hold out.