The Town and Its Outliers: Tonight’s Encounter.

On the map – and I can’t tell you how many maps there are of Palestine over the years of Israel’s “divide and conquer” – the place I reside in is considered a city. However, I have never truly seen it that way. I am a fast typer, but every time I come to mention the place I live in by name, I hesitate for a few moments in the midst of wondering whether I should put “city” or “town” after it. Tonight, I will refer to it as the town I find it to be.

My siblings and I always plead with my mother to drive us around town before we head home for the night after spending a good half of the day at my grandparents’ home. Sometimes, we’re overruled, but tonight, my mother decided to drive us around but “not for too long.”

The town isn’t too big if you’ve been living in it for a while. If you are a child, you’d know every corner of this town within three years. If you are an adult, you’d know every corner in this town within one. In other words, there’s not much room left for exploration. There’s that constant need to “get out” and “go somewhere else” because “you feel so choked up.” Since it doesn’t exactly rain money or opportunities and life gets in the way, we manage by taking little strolls or drives (though we’re old enough to drive ourselves) around town.

As a writer who tries to find a story in everything I observe, I also try to take on a different perspective in the “same, old scenery” and “boring town” that’s constantly in my face. Though, I have found that while I’m looking, I seem to not have been able to find much for my mind to play with. It’s when I’m not looking that I find that outlier*, that one thing that speaks of what I already know and see but I desperately needed to hear.

Tonight, as my mother was driving through the quiet streets of town, I found an outlier. We were at this fairly awkward intersection between a mosque, the cemetery, and this five story apartment complex. From afar, under a street light, an old man in a neat light brown suit was walking, a cane in his right hand.
As we got closer, I could see the old man wearing a red/white checkered koffieyah with an ‘igal situating it on his head. Suddenly, as he stood between the mosque and the cemetery, the man put the cane under his arm and raised both of his hands to the sky as the mosque called for prayer.

As we drove past him, I looked through the rearview mirror and saw the man’s lips moving, mumbling something. Perhaps it was a prayer to his late wife. Perhaps it was a sweet prayer to the people around him. Perhaps it was something else entirely.

In Islam, Fridays hold a great importance. It is even said that the day of Resurrection will take place on a Friday. Fridays are also said to be a day where prayers are accepted. There is a saying by the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) that goes along the lines of there being a certain hour on Fridays in which prayers are accepted so one must use Fridays to pray.

That is what this old man, this outlier, reminded me of. He reminded me of the people we love so much that we constantly pray for. He reminded me of the dreams we spend days and nights trying to achieve and in moments of desperation, we pray for.

The town is a small town, and I’m pretty sure I’ve explored every corner there is to explore, but that outlier that catches me by surprise…That’s what I live to tell.

*In biostatistics, outliers are the not-so-common data. In short, they are the “odd ones out.”

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