Last summer, I participated in a great scriptwriting workshop here on the island. What follows is part of the work I did during that time, since I thought it turned out well. The first chunk of text is a true, if tragic story from my life, and the second is the vignette I wrote from that experience. I hope you enjoy it.
The Story Behind the Story
It was perhaps 3:00 a.m. on a summer night in 1998, somewhere between Toronto and Windsor on a warm, dry, mostly empty highway. I had been sleeping under a pair of quilts in the back of the station wagon while my husband drove, but now it was time to switch off, so we stopped at a rest area for the washroom and a cup of coffee.
Afterward, Sean settled into the back while I pulled out and gave the wagon some gas. The first things I remember after that were the golf clubs, strewn across the highway as if someone had thrown them there in a fit of anger. They shone in my headlights and drew my eye to the car overturned in the grassy median, its wheels still spinning. Just beyond lay two silhouettes, unmoving, so still.
On the other side of the road, a tour bus had stopped, and a woman was running toward the median from the other side, a cell phone in her hand. I jerked the wagon onto the shoulder of the road, snatched the quilts off my husband and ran toward those silhouettes.
I stopped between them and knew the young man to my left would die. He was crumpled in a way I've never seen before except in animals struck by cars and left on the road. I covered him with the heavier quilt, in case a little warmth might do him some good, and turned toward my right.
The young man there was reaching up a bloody hand toward me. His jeans were ripped, and white bone protruded from a bloody rag of denim below his knee. I dropped the lighter quilt over him, knelt, and took his hand in mine.
"What's your name?" I asked him.
"Ahmed," he answered, his voice soft and shaking.
"What happened?" I asked him. I wanted to keep him talking. He was clammy and shaking and distant.
"I fell asleep," he told me.
"Ahmed," I said, and squeezed his hand, "I'm going to stay here with you until the ambulance comes, okay?"
"Okay," he whispered. "Thank you."
I am not a Christian, and my prayers are more like conversations between my soul and the land, sea and sky. So while some part of me listened to the woman with the cell phone shouting directions to a first responder on the other end of the line, and another part of me called the soil, the wind and the water to give of themselves and spare his life, my mouth found my grandmother's religion, and I recited the Our Father over Ahmed's bloody hand while I held his eyes and willed for this one, at least this one to live.
Moments later, the ambulance arrived and I pulled bloody quilts from the bodies of these two young men. I stepped away, watched the sun rise, watched the road clear, held a sobbing woman in my arms whose young children were in the car and who had almost been involved in the accident. The RCMP opened the trunk of a squad car and pulled out a bottle of hand sanitizer to pour over the blood on my hand. Sean and I continued down the road.
Three days later, we came back the way we had gone, and I stopped by the RCMP station to inquire about the young men. The first one had died, as I suspected he would. But Ahmed lived, and I have never stopped wishing him well.
My Name Is Dameer
My name is Dameer, and I cannot feel my legs. My name is Dameer, and I cannot feel my hands. My name is Dameer, and there is dirt on my tongue. It tastes like blood.
"In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful, I seek refuge in Allah and His Power from the evil of what I find and I fear."
Ahmed, who is beautiful, whose father bought him a Saab, wanted to golf until it was dark. I wanted to go home; I have work in the morning, and I cannot afford to be late. But Ahmed does not understand the word 'no' unless he is saying it. 'No, I want to drive'. 'No, I don't need a coffee'. 'No, I won't fall asleep'.
He fell asleep.
Now the Saab is behind me in the median, which is good because that means it is not on top of me anymore, and Ahmed is awake beside me, but I do not know if that is good or bad. There is a white woman holding his hand - it seems there is always a woman holding his hand - and she is saying that she will be with him until the ambulance comes. She thinks I am unconscious, but I can see her there.
And I can see her birds zipping across the night sky, their wingbeats a prayer to the wind for Ahmed's survival.
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…"
"I ask almighty Allah, Lord of the Magnificent Throne, to make me well."
Why is her spirit praying one way and her mouth another? I do not understand this, and I wish I could say that I did not understand why she chose to pray for Ahmed instead of me and why the wind is bending down to fill his lungs with air. There is a fox hiding in the bushes across the road now. I think it came because she called it, like the birds. It is warm and alive, like the core of the Earth. How is it that I can see this fox?
"…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in Heaven, as it is on Earth…"
"Oh Allah! Our Lord and Sustainer! Grant us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and save me from the Fire of Jahannam."
My name is Dameer, and my little sister Amal is waiting for me to buy her the latest Ms. Marvel comic book on Wednesday, the one with the Muslim girl in it. I am paid on Tuesday. Today is Sunday. I cannot afford to miss work. There is a fox beside Ahmed now, curled against his body to give him warmth. It is bigger than the Saab. How is that possible?
"Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Allah, I hate him. I am your imperfect servant, and I hate his clothes, his golf clubs, his cars, his women and even his generous father. Most of all, I hate the air in his lungs, and the fire in him that will not go out, and the woman beside him praying words that are not her own to bring him blessings. Forgive me, Lord and Sustainer, but I am cold, and tired, and I do not love him right now.
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
She is calling the rain, and it is coming. I can smell it. A great shower that washes away, a water that heals. I will not be here when it arrives. I know this now. My mother will pick up my paycheck, and Amal will have to stand up to her and tell her it is all right to read Ms. Marvel. Keep reading Ms. Marvel, little sister. And then go read something else, and something else, until your mind is full.
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever…"
"I ask Allah, the Mighty, the Lord of the Mighty Throne, to cure you, Ahmed. I ask Allah, the Mighty, the Lord of the Mighty Throne, to cure you. I ask Allah…"
My name is Dameer.