We live in a country of queues. We queue at the bank, at the Police Station and at college windows looking for misplaced course marks. We queue at the Immigration, we queue at the bus station, we queue at the hospital, at the salary counters and at voting stations. We feel at home. Even when we queue to wait for our turns at brothels, we always have a sanitised eye for the queuing.
Yet none of these queues is like the queue at Masjid Nuur.
Masjid Nuur queues are not long. Masjid Nuur queues are not short. They are only long enough to remind you that you need something alongside patience. They remind you that getting annoyed with nature is like causing drama because an elephant has outdone you in the toilet exercise.
And speaking of the toilet exercise, let me take you right home.
When you enter Masjid Nuur, right in front of you is a hall, preceded by another hall, preceded by another, where the decorated qibla is.
Go past the three crippled men with bowls – you can drop there something if you have a coin, but you can as well pass and they’ll not eat you.
As you enter, on your right you will see a store and a large shoe rack fixed on the wall. On your left is a set of taps and brick sitting places where people wash their sweat and sins away. But you will have to go further, past these washing people. At the extreme end of your left, still part of the first hall, is a small entrance written MASKHUL. Open the door by pulling, not pushing. Step inside with your left leg first. And behold, welcome to our queue.
Tall people. Short people. Old people. Those with hair. Children. Beggars. We are all here.
We are here for coronary thrombosis. Okay, doesn’t thrombosis just sound like the thromboting thing you thrombote inside there? See how unbalanced language is! Female cleansing is called genital mutilation, where in ‘mutilation’ we get an unwelcome sense of brutal tissue destruction. Yet men who mount men for the rectum are decorated ‘gay’ and the smelly process of bursting up your butt is flowered a ‘call’, not a thrombosis. It is okay, Mr. Ferdinand de Saussure.
The small corridor is so packed. It is narrow, so the only way of getting people jammed and securing some space for movement is by standing back-to-wall, on either side. We are therefore facing each other.
Funny. People you’ve never met before, yet you can sustain each other’s hard looks and nurse the hope that all will be fine. Every time our eyes meet, we exchange the silent understanding that that guy inside there is taking too long, that what does he eat? At least that is what I think. Our faces are tight and veins punctuate every sweating forehead from the effort we put in not to misbehave before the time comes.
The muadhin is now announcing the start of the daytime prayer. A few of stronger faith leave the queue. The old man before me turns and leaves, as do the two men next to him. So I move ahead, sideways.
We religiously wait for two doors to open.
Then one thing hits me. The second door has not opened since I came here. I quickly answer myself – it has been reserved for the guests. But why don’t they allow us to use it when guests aren’t around? Is it our fault there are no guests? It is like reserving a gas tank and mask for the unborn when the living are suffocating. And what a tough way to wait!
It takes like three years. The prayer is over. Some people join us now. There is this elderly man chewing at a toothbrush. The time he is not dancing, he is fidgeting. And he shakes all the time he is neither dancing nor fidgeting.
The available door squeaks and extracts a man. He is tired and indifferent. He doesn’t even show that he has seen us. I am personally bursting, but we agree that the shaking old man should replace the ungrateful believer who has just left.
We wait for three days and seven nights. Then six more nights. From the old man’s small body, we did not expect him to go thus far. The other man chewing at a toothbrush knocks at the door to remind him that shit is bad outside here. A groan comes from behind the door. Our person knocks again. The old man at last opens the door, asks us to wait just a minute, goes back and bangs it firm. That minute turns into half his marriage period.
The man who replaces him is a mid-forties piece. Due to my prayer, he is out the moment he gets in. at least God hears prayers.
As another person gets in, and as I edge closer to the desired door, I look back to find that more people have come, and all of them have this sad face of testing the depths of patience.
My bladder, God. I thought these guys are fasting! How do you thrombote all that long when you are on an empty stomach? Do they lie to their wives? It reminds me of how we used to hide in a latrine, chew sugar cane, smear chalk on our lips and go home complaining of hunger pangs.
The city weather is the thing. For a week it has been drizzling, raining, and pouring. It is July cold. So, basically, more people will be queuing here. And they are.
There is this man in a dark blue suit. Early thirties, at least. He’s been standing here with all dignity. But now he realises you don’t eat dignity in Africa. You don’t pay dignity to your doctor. So he paces to the door and bangs at it. He mutters some words in his vernacular. He is upset. He has lost the battle with patience. The targeted tenant replies from behind the door. This man of dignity barks a few more words and bangs again. At last the door opens and he jumps in there without exchanging a word with the exiting man.
By now, I am almost bursting. I curse the maize I ate last night. I curse the farmers. I should bribe the guy next on the line.
Then a miracle. The second door opens suddenly. I am ready to run if the devil himself shows up. A cough comes from it, followed by a fat boy about eight years. His face is grim but confident. So he’s been inside there all his childhood. It is here that one must portray his utmost patience, understanding, and experience with queues. This is the test for queue maturity, for you never know when your hand might become responsible for a slap accident. I think he is called Yokozuna.
I want to ask Yokozuna where he got this talent. Is it his grandfather who learned it from a Greek book or this is what they teach in schools these days? I would wish to know if his mother knows this. For a moment, I forget about my bad stomach. I look at his receding rudeness until he disappears beyond the entrance. Then the queue reminds me it is my
With the volcano stomach, I walk the walk of life. Pride is not pride. I lock the door behind me and know they will be waiting longer. Very long.