Sûrah XIX
MARY
"Assuredly ye utter a disastrous thing..."

19
HAIL MARY

JOLEENA
(barely audible)

...full of grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. Hail Mary, full of grace...

Over and over again Joleena has muttered the Virgin's prayer

  • on their run to her car

  • their race to the hospital

  • their wait in the jam-packed ER

and while sitting and worrying, hiding her wound in the blood-sodden folds of a towel, enduring this dull throb... which ought to hurt worse; yet the unsightly damage feels numb... as in foreign... as in not really hers; she denied the resemblance that haunted each glimpse in her Jeep's rearview mirror, stunned by her insides exposed through her outsides, sick at the sight, aghast and unnerved, compelled to disown, hide the 'goof,' the 'mistake,' like a child tries to cross out some boo-boo. How ugly! Was she really disfigured? She writhed at the prospect. Deformed! Scarred for life! Could she, who already had borne subtle censure, face open derision from those unimpaired?

PLEASE, she implores! Her appeal is a humble one: quick restoration—no prettier, no homelier—but normal, the same, like she looked just before. "Just before"; what a boon! What a fabulous state! Would she were able to will the clock backward, elude Willie's knife, wrestle loose, lash out first. Any scenario, other than this one, was certainly better by far... save for him, the man seated next to her, nameless yet tangible, arm unabashedly wound around hers, indifferent to patients and staff raising eyebrows, attitudes hostile or feigning concern—whereas his was authentic, if mute. Who needs blah-blah when what is important stays put, by her side, supportive, effective in warding off insults; for though people ogled they did so covertly, instinctively fearful of Ahmed's fierce poise. Inscrutable; why had he helped her, stuck by her? Having taken her money—Bruce's money—why wait? Why act as her escort, her nursemaid, her chaperon? Or did he regard her a comrade in arms? She was wounded in battle; honor-bound, he remained—after whisking her off from their enemies; heroically! This was the sense that his loyalty conveyed, or such was Joleena's conjecture.

JOLEENA
(aloud)

...the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God...

Hushed by Ahmed's finger brought abruptly to her lips, Joleena looks askance at her protector.

AHMED

Trust alone in Allah, who is One. He hath no partner. Jesus sprang from woman, not from Allah. Pray to Him. The Beneficent is your pathway to salvation.

JOLEENA

I'd settle for stitched. You some kinda Holy Roller, or what?

AHMED

Do not make joke. You folk of the West laugh much, think little, pray not enough.

JOLEENA
(sarcastically)

Ain't that the truth; a gang of Godless, yin-yang apes is all we is. Back off, Jack. Shit.

Joleena disengages arms to adjust her hiked-up skirt, then changes hands—the towel still concealing her dreadful laceration.

JOLEENA

You wearin' undies?

Ahmed's blank expression suggests the term requires translation.

JOLEENA

Under pants, boxer shorts, briefs. Left mine at home. This is SO embarrassing! S'posed to have on undies that are spotless, just in case. You know, of emergencies? Could you maybe lend me yours? Provided, of course, they're clean.

Ahmed still appears to miss Joleena's meaning.

JOLEENA

Never mind; it's not my privates they'll be gawkin' at—IF I EVER GET SOME TREATMENT!

Faces turn at the sound of Joleena's outburst. An armed guard turns and glares. Woeful, self-concerned, she resumes her supplication...

JOLEENA
(silently)

...pray for us sinners...

...while Ahmed makes a gesture that suggests he needs the restroom.

Fearful, tense, Joleena tastes an orphan's fear, feels abandoned, feels forsaken; doubtlessly, her 'hot-blooded man' will not return; she has offended him. Fuck religion! No one's prayers are ever heard; appeals to Allah, Christ, or Zeus are of equal ineffectiveness. The pleas she makes are remnants only, vestiges from childhood when belief in myths could inspire a toddler's hope. What recourse now? Expecting miracles done by Deities, never mind denomination, strikes Joleena as a stupid waste of time. Yet who else ask?

NURSE

Are you insured?

Were eyes equipped with teeth, Joleena's would gnash.

JOLEENA

I filled your forms out HOURS ago. Yes, I'm covered. In blood. Here; look.

She peels the towel from her cheek with a wince of anticipatory pain as though revealing it were akin to reliving the moment of mutilation.

NURSE

I'll speed things up.

Skeptical, out of patience, out of tolerance, out of sorts, Joleena once more hides in the sanguinary wash towel.

JOLEENA
(silently)

...now and at the hour of our death...

The nurse returns.

NURSE

You're next.

JOLEENA

A-men! I have to pee.

Hands in pockets, Ahmed wends his way through the overcrowded corridor, stopping short where Joleena intercepts him to ask directions.

JOLEENA

Where's the head?

He looks confused.

JOLEENA

The john, the restroom.

Ahmed points.

JOLEENA

I'm in. You'll wait?

He moves to shield them from whoever might bear witness to his passing her a garment.

AHMED

Clean.

Joleena's throat constricts, tears well upon receipt of Ahmed's briefs. She can barely nod her thanks for his chivalrous gesture.

AHMED

Go. I wait.

As Ahmed mans his post Joleena clip-clops to the bathroom, ducking in and out in record time, hurrying back to where the nurse awaits with pen and clipboard, bending down to remove her mateless pump, handing it to Galahad, her Knight, her newfound Prince, then proudly, resolutely proceeding down the hall.