|The mosque was huge, elegant in every way imaginable. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling; marble floors were polished to reflect the shadows of those that walked the paths of the mosque. Beside the entrance stood rack for shoes. The crowd all rushed towards the entrance, each of the visitors wanted to see inside this place of worship.
She walked hesitantly, unsure if she should proceed into the room as the others had. Reluctantly, she slipped off her shoes and stepped onto the green carpet. The scarf around her head was a hassle. With each step she took, she felt that it might fall from her head. She pulled it closer hoping to prevent it from falling. The others were walking around, marveling at the walls.
Her eyes rose slowly, tracing over the Arabic letters on the wall and rising until she was looking at the domed circle that was the ceiling. Her hand gripped the scarf as she felt it begin to slip from her head. She could only stare.
The ceiling was perhaps what intrigued her the most. She had seen the gold writing on the walls and the inlaid doors. She had felt the marble under her feet as she walked and even been astounded by the pattern of the carpet when she entered, but it was the domed ceiling that caught her breath. It was so high, but so ornately detailed. She reached out with her free hand as if she could touch the patterns high above her. A moment passed and she shook her head. She couldn’t reach it, but that was fine.
The others had already seated themselves and were chatting softly. A few of the others were talking with their tour guide, who was not much older than they were. Most were afraid to do anything, for fear of disturbing the silence that they had intruded upon. Something here was stirring at their presence, but what she could not tell.
A chill ran up her spine. The desire to leave the prayer room seemed greater than her desire to stare at the beautiful ceiling. She stepped out of the room quickly, taking in a breath of what felt to be fresh air as son as she passed over the threshold.
The hallway was empty. All the others were in the prayer room marveling at the wonders of the mosque. She began to walk the halls, taking in the beauty of the building. One of the halls veered off. She looked around and followed it on a whim, curious as to what else lie in the grand building. As she turned, a staircase came into view. She went to it and began to climb the stairs quietly, careful to not disturb anyone.
The stairs ended in front of another entrance to the prayer room. A balcony protruded in the expansive room. She wondered vaguely how she had not noticed the balcony before. A few more steps brought her to a less elegant shoe rack. It held not only shoes, but also items left behind. Curiosity piqued, she examined the items on the rack. A green spiral bound notebook caught her attention. She took in from its place and held it in her hands. She opened the pages reverently, not wanting to ruin someone else’s property.
It was a young boy’s notebook. The child-like writing was obvious along with his name printed on the inside cover. “Muhammad”. She turned the pages, smiling at the young boy’s work. It was just the notebook of an Arabic schoolboy.
Math assignments filled the pages. One page was marked with red; a teacher had graded his work. She giggled at one of the problems he had missed. Seven times three. He had marked ten, obviously adding instead of multiplying. Her grade school days came back to her as she looked at his work. She had even had trouble with her multiplication tables.
A few more turned pages revealed stick figure drawings at the edges of the work. The same two figures littered the pages, interacting in different ways. Often they held guns. She laughed softly, thinking of a friend back home who loved to draw guns in his spare time. While the boy’s pictures were not as detailed as her friends, she could tell that the small child probably had the same fondness for firearms as her friend.
Another page turn showed more math. The page of the notebook was turned again, this time a picture covering the whole page was exposed. She stopped moving when she caught sight of what the child had drawn. Her hands trembled as she traced the lines draw by a child still in grade school.
The picture was crude, the same as any young child would draw. A few clouds were drawn in the sky. But it was not the clouds that took up the most space. Two planes were in the sky. They came from opposite directions, but both were headed towards the same destination. A single, tall tower stood in the middle of the picture. It was a skyscraper, that much was obvious.
Both of the planes were headed directly towards the tower. A single window at the top of the tower held a small stick figure. The speech bubble beside it held the child’s scrawl. The resident of the tower was frowning. The typical “Ahhhh!” of comics was clearly deciphered. They were screaming.
Each of the planes also held a stick figure. A stick figure was visible in the pilot’s window of the planes. On the left and arrow pointed to the figure, labeling the pilot as “Me.” The pilot on the right was also labeled; it was “Ali”, from the other stick figures that had been drawn. Both of the pilots spoke the same words, in all capital letters. “YAY!” They both shouted with joy. They were going to hit the tower and they were happy about it.
She turned the page, desperate to see what else lay in the notebook. All that remained in the notebook was more math along with a few other small stick figure drawings. She flipped through the notebook again, desperate for answers. The pages before and after the drawing were marked but no red marks could be seen on the picture. A teacher had seen this picture. And yet there was nothing in the notebook that suggested disapproval.
She closed the notebook and set it back where she had found it. She didn’t bother to go out on the balcony and view the prayer room one last time. She walked down the stairs in a daze. She could only look ahead as she considered what she had just seen.
The others were still in the prayer room, marveling at its graceful architecture. She pulled the head scarf from her head as if it burned her to touch it and nearly threw it into the basket where she had gotten it. A small cushioned bench was against the wall near the exit. She grabbed her shoes from the rack and proceeded to sit on the bench.
It wasn’t comfortable. But the again, she supposed that the bench wasn’t meant to be comfortable. It was meant to decorate, to make the mosque look even better. The crystal chandeliers dimmed when she looked at them again. What light reflected through the glass seemed miniscule compared to the sun that came through the small window by the door. The marble floor had scuff marks the would be polished off when night fell. The ornate, inlaid doors were no longer beautiful. She had no desire to look at the high ceiling of the prayer room or the gold dome on the outside.
She bent over, her head in her hands. She covered her eyes with her palms as she began to cry.
The news reported on terrorists from other countries. Terrorists seemed so far away. They hadn’t attacked for years. They were across the ocean, fighting soldiers, being defeated. No one expected them to come from within. She wept not because of a small boy’s drawings but because she could not tell a soul what she had seen. It would remain her secret, even if the secret broke her heart on the inside.