It was not because I purposely avoided him, it was simply because even though it was the Chinese New Year holidays, I as per usual, had to mostly work.
"When are you coming home again?" I asked while we sat. "July," he replied. "For how long?" I continued, "For good," he answered. I wondered if he was serious this time and it became clear that if A. had it his way he would stay in Toronto forever.
I was not surprised anymore. In fact I rather encouraged it. Mainly because I do not think he could be happy at home after spending so much of his life in Toronto. What I did not say perhaps was that I had mixed feelings about it but those feelings I should not air on this public space...
We all bid our goodbyes and A. slipped money into our hands when we shook his. I ended up giving half of it to my grandmother later.
We watched L.L. and A. say their goodbyes and when L.L. chastely kissed A. on his forehead, I very nearly cried. The parting of lovers, what a sad and sweet thing it was.
A. waved at us as he went down the escalators. "Salam alaykum sayang!" L.L. called and abruptly went quiet as she held herself back. She had been calling A. by his name all this while and seemed quite appalled at herself that she slipped a term of endearment where people could hear.
"He's your husband." I said to L.L. in a tone suggesting that she does not need to feel embarassed about it. She smiled shyly and said that she was embarassed anyway. L.L. did not cry, she wanted to but she did not.
I thought of the tahlil we had had the day before. When A. lead us all in prayer and gave us a small tazkirah after. I noted the idiosyncrasies he has developed from his learning at Zaytuna. A. turned to face us during the dzikirs, dua and tazkirah. I found that worth noting. Generally, imams do not do that do they? Not in Malaysia or at least not any that I have encountered. A. made it a point to recite the dua in both Arabic and Malay. Because he believes that meaning is the point of it all. What is the point of duas when nobody understood it?
I felt myself longing for Ramadhan. The peace and simplicity of dedicating one's life to remembrance. How calm it always was when the soul ponders its origins.
I watched A. disappear into the crowd. His worn olive green and red Zaytuna scarf made it easy to spot him. He wore it when he lead the prayer during the tahlil too. I wonder what he attributes to the wearing of the scarf. A mark of his estrangement? A mark of his learning? A silent tribute to Zaytuna? Or perhaps just a personal vanity he indulged himself in. I personally thought it rather looked like the Gryffindor scarf at a glance. I did not mention that to A.
And so it was goodbye again. With L.L.'s parting words A. ventures 9000 miles across land and sea to the other side of this world.
Salam alaykum, sayang.
Peace be upon you, love.