FATIMA ABBY TALL
A Cow With No Name
On Saturday morning I will race my brother to the mailboxes on Pride Lane. Pride Lane holds too many homes with empty kitchens and clothes lines. I will teeter the line between gravel road and white fencing – call the cow with no name in hopes he’ll lay his chin in my palm. Palm basketballs and volleyballs that have forgotten their origins, who were found in a ditch or the potato filled next to the abandoned consignment shop. The consignment shop where I’ll steal a full-sized tootsie roll and in late afternoon return it half eaten and with tears in my eyes. I will wear glasses at the age of seven and they will break every summer. Summer comes in flooded yards and black n white John Wayne movies and orange sherbet push-em’s from the Schwan’s delivery man and bunny rabbits in irrigation tubes and Play-Doh on wax paper on dinner tables and donuts cut with old lipstick tube caps and Ramadan in July and a yearning to leave and start something entirely new. Two New Years instead of one. One seasonal cherry glazed cake to share between my three siblings and I—these are the days I remembered I liked being Muslim. The days where I wanted to be.
In June I will sit on a Persian rug inside the home of a Muslim man. He lives besides the Baptist church where my grandmother hosts Friday Cowboy Nights when the Rodeo is in town. This town full of horseback riding, god loving, country folk that my grandmother adores. My grandmother tricks me into going to church. The lord knew my name before me. That’s what she says. Tells me it’s never too late to be saved. I’ll ask too many questions about Jesus. The savior’s name whispered three times while knocking on wood shelf above bed. Lay me in hell – that's what my cousins say. Said I’d pray more, believe in Jesus more, here the spirit speak in white bunk bed more but nothing feels right anymore. Sitting on that Persian rug I’ll listen to the surahs of the Quran song on old cassette tapes and as I draw circles in plush floor, I’ll watch my Father laugh and create smoke O’s on a back porch. A porch with glass vases and plants I had never seen. Seeing Paradise on a porch in Caldwell, Idaho. Idaho a place I did not know I could exist in.
My legs burn in abrasive sun as my grandmother makes me pull weeds on a Saturday. It’s Saturday and my grandmother is making me pull weeds. She says it’s good for me. That I should get the blood pumping and flowing – feel a little more alive. My cat exits the garage with the head of her new born baby in her mouth. She whimpers and I realize for the first-time things can exist without a body. For weeks I have nightmares of dislocated kitten heads and I pray to Jesus to make them stop. (I’m not sure if Allah likes animals, the way the Christians do, so I do not ask) My brother laughs at me and says I take things too seriously. We never find the rest of the body and at the age of ten I wonder if it will haunt me.
In a coffeeshop in Amsterdam I think this is somewhere I could exist. It’s June again in some year. I talk to no one and pretend that my home is the little apartment above a white and red printing shop that has two cats sleeping in the window. The window that’s across from the farmers market with a man that sells red cowboy hats and checkered berets. The berets worn by summer high school students who I guess are from Ohio or Iowa or maybe Utah. I imagine observing their awkward interactions while sitting on my balcony above the printing shop arguing with a friend on whether tampering with the natural flow of water is ethical – they point out my existence here is a contradiction in its self. I’ll self-reflect on why I moved here in the first place. Place too much value in my nomadic nature. How can I naturally love everything and nothing at all? All of this seems silly when I have to return home soon. Soon I’ll be enveloped by source and she’ll pry my mouth open while the sun holds me between their legs.
Some nights in July I sit and listen to myself. Listen to my heartbeat and when I really want to listen I’ll fold my ear over and lay it against the pillow. I’ll listen as my whole body synchronizes with the breath of my old apartment building on 30 Lincoln Ave. With the thud of the old water heater in the dark hallway closet. You’d think someone else was here. Do you know what living sounds like? I am not scared to talk about death, if anything it makes me feel more whole. My body is so loud, and I wonder if it knows it.
I talk to a spirit guide on Friday nights in my empty living room. The two pieces of furniture I have hug the corners of the room like they’re hoping the walls will just absorb them. I sit on itchy carpet that looks inviting and wonder how much longer it will take until I finally realize I am just as insane as my father. We are two in the same, except he talks to Allah and I have never met him.
At the end of September, we’ll bury the mother behind the house where the pool used to be. The ground is flat and bare there. Near the garage - it’s easier there. My sister crying will call my grandmother who minutes later I’ll see at the end of the road in her red truck. She parks beside the lavender bushes and carries the shovel. My paternal grandfather will die this year, but I’ll cry more during the cat’s funeral. I wonder if he’ll haunt me.