In honor of those who died on 911NINETY-NINE STORIES
By RW Richard
A wall of searing blue flames pressed Hussam to the melted and broken windows. He couldn’t breathe and the heat was hell.
“It’s you,” the pretty girl from personnel said. Over the months, he had stolen glances of her and she did the same, both gutless wonders.
“I’m Hussam Fayyad, your boss’s boss.”
“I know. Save your breath. I’m Sarah Bernstein.” He knew.
They locked their hands, tight. Leaned out and hesitated. Then, Sarah’s wavy auburn hair caught fire.
“Marry me.” She screamed from the pain, tears evaporating. Taking off his jacket, he wrapped her head.
“I will. I do.” Holding hands tightly, they jumped out from the ninety-ninth floor.
“I do,” she tried to say—her breath pushed inward by the rush of air—not that he could hear her anyway. She closed her eyes, he held unto her like a vise, as if they were one. Perhaps now they were.
“Mom and dad I’d like you to meet my fiancée, Hussam Fayyad.” Her folks' home, a big split-level in Oradell New
Jersey, had beautiful large tile floors, a modern kitchen, with a menorah on the table. The candles had pooled on the tabletop.
“I guess it’s stupid for me to tell my daughter she should have chosen a nice Jewish boy?” Sarah’s mom asked rhetorically.
“We’re soul mates,” Hussam said.
“We’re besherte, mom.” She put it in Yiddish terms.
He dared not open his eyes and lose this vision of her mom and dad. He had always thought about Sarah, trying to get up the nerve to ask her out. Worried of cultural, political, and religious differences. He didn’t believe in treating women like second-class citizens, not at work, not in marriage. His hiring practices and office policies touted the heart of a modern liberated Muslim.
“We’ll always love the thought of you,” her mom and dad said, hugging him.
“We have to go to the wedding now,” Sarah said, pulling his hand.
At the wedding, Hussam’s little brother carried the ring on a purple pillow. Sarah always knew Hussam would come by, lean on her desk, ask her out. They’d marry; have three kids, two girls, one boy, or the other way around. They both wanted to be outvoted in either case. These gorgeous kids would grow up brilliant and loving, real menches; oh yes, two dogs, just right.
“I am so happy to have you in my heart.” Hussam’s parents, both a little portly, hugged her by the orchids stationed at the first row of seats in their garden.
Tears turned to rivers. Images rifted through her of falafel, lamb kebob, along with gefilte fish, Manischewitz Blackberry for the toast. Bruce Springsteen’s band struck up, ‘Here Comes the Bride.’
“He took my hand,” she explained to his mom and dad by way of apology.
“Thank you pretty Sarah. My son, he always work, work, work.”
Sarah wished the world a better place, maybe a little less work, a little more love.
“He needs a strong Jewish girl to love him,” his dad said. They kissed her cheeks.
“I always had and always will love him,” Sarah said. She had harbored a tiny love, like a seedling, hoping to water it. No doubt about her feelings, now.
Martin Luther King without thinking forgot to add one word, Muslim. “. . . when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews, Muslims, and Gentiles, Protestant and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'”
Sarah’s heart beat the rhythm of Martin’s words. She felt Hussam heard and saw Martin with her at the Lincoln Memorial, because he squeezed her. He’d never let go.
I am within you, Sarah.
I am within you, Hussam.
“Great Grand Papa.” Isaac Bernstein was gassed at
Auschwitz, yet thin, young, suspendered, a silly fedora, munching on a pipe, his eyes opened to heaven.
“You bring the right man with you, mazel tov. Hussam’s great grand mom and pop are at the bridge table with your great grandma, waiting for me to come back. You see, I’m the dummy. Those two died in
. Bam, to pieces.” He splayed his hands. Gaza
At the wedding, Cyndi Lauper spread her many orange, red, and yellow petticoats on the back step. With a sad face, she sang, 'Time After Time.'
The Rabbi and Imam smiled from under the canopy on this day of brilliant blue. They finished with one voice, “in death you will start, because love is eternal.”
Almighty God, Allah, blessed them, opened his arms, and said, “Kiss already.”