Brown. Slightly almond shaped. Surrounded by dark lashes and mocha skin.
I am sitting in a corner in a small room, on a loosely coiled orange extension cord (don’t ask). The walls are beige and in need of a new paint job. Electrical wiring is seemingly haphazardly hung along the ceiling and corners where the walls meet. There are flats of iced tea and ramen noodles along the back wall with a microwave perched atop a cabinet. I try to take it all in yet am struck only by the sea of eyes.
The women are silently lined up alternating between bowed heads and fully prostrate bodies. They move lithely and with grace. But in the back of the small room, I sit near the children. Who, as with all children, talk and laugh, poke each other, and play games. It is not their voices or their games; nor their varied attire of traditional Muslim mixed with the classic American style — it is their eyes. Eyes that I realize I have longed to see my whole life.
I saw those eyes on Friday evening when a most generous new friend, S., brought me to her masjid for family night. Did you know that mosque is simply the American word for masjid? While I had attended prayer for Eid (the festival marking the end of Ramadan) it was held at a banquet facility due to large attendance. That made this my first time going to an actual mosque. I half expected to have some type of emotionally moving experience while my other half was wishing I had a cup of coffee to stay awake. S. informed me that prayer began at 8:30 pm and the whole evening was expected to last until around 10:15 pm. My normal bedtime is a pathetic 9:30 pm — lame. I know.
There I was at evening prayer in a masjid. As I mentioned, I was expecting to experience many emotions: surprise, hesitation, concern, maybe even some fear. But I was not expecting what struck me the hardest; a sense of coming home mixed with longing for a shared history I will never have. Because even though it was my first time in a mosque, this could have happened anywhere. A playground. A sidewalk. A classroom. It did not matter where. What mattered was the eyes. For the first time, I swam in a sea.
A sea of eyes. Eyes like mine.