I wrote this post several years ago on the first day of Ramadan. I now live a thousand plus kilometres away but hearing that Ramadan has started I immediately think of my lady in the dry cleaner in the town where I used to live. Can picture her hunched over a sewing machine, a tiny television set tuned to an Arabic language station, the always-exhaustion in her voice and in her eyes and the day those eyes smiled and how it left me feeling that our connections might sometimes feel strange or tenuous but they’re always there, that regardless of everything else, we are all connected, in moments, in milliseconds sometimes, and in the most surprising memories.
This following first appeared as “Promises”, on July 10, 2013.
A couple months ago in a post that began as one thing but ended up being about my dry cleaner, I wrote about how my dry cleaner’s husband kept telling her that he wanted her to have nice hands and how this frustrated her because she worked too hard to have nice hands. She would love to wear polish, she said, but who has the time.
It reminded me of a dance that went on for years between my mum and dad, who’d also come here as immigrants.
I promised myself I’d buy my dry cleaner some really good nail polish and give it to her, and today I did. When I entered the shop she was sitting at a sewing machine, head covered in a shawl. I’d never seen her in a head scarf before and wondered at the reason for it but didn’t ask.
I gave her the polish. Hot pink. I explained why, reminded her of our conversation and she laughed, said she loved the colour, asked how much she owed me and I said, no, that it was a gift. She was surprised and delighted and then told me it was the first day of Ramadan. She said it’s especially hard when it falls at this time of year because of all that daylight stretching late into the evening. The month-long fast, which includes no food OR water or anything, ends each day when the sun goes down and begins again when it rises. Much better in November, she said. Even March is good.
She normally walks an hour to work but for the next month she’ll be getting a ride. I was happy to hear it given the humidity and heat.
I said I hadn’t realized Ramadan began today, that it was just a fluke I came in, but that I was thrilled to be able to offer some small thing to mark the day and happy to have learned something so wonderful and I thanked her for that. She smiled, said she’d pray for me.
I said I’d do the same for her.