I knew what the naked entity on top of me was asking. Had I followed the rules? he wanted to know. Was I clean? Did I fuck anyone while he was away? If not, then he could proceed to consummate our marriage, which had just been sealed in the dream.
He waited for my reply. I was in a difficult position, pinned under a spirit and confronted with a choice. Furthermore I had woken up only seconds before; fear hadn’t yet seized me because I was still in the thrall of the dream. He was my beautiful beloved; I had accepted him at the altar, allowed his kiss willingly, in spite of his mauling my ribs. It seemed natural to give him what he wanted. This is what I usually did when in love with a man: I let him in.
In a word, I was enchanted.
And yet, some indestructible part of myself broke through the glamour. You see, I was always a bit of a contrarian. My sheer cussedness, which had always gotten me in trouble with authority figures, may have saved me with this one. So I talked back to my jinn, and gave him that defiant piece of my mind.
“You don’t understand,” I said. Strangely, my lips didn’t move as I spoke. I soon learned that when talking to a spirit, you are communicating essence to essence, with no need for the earthly apparatus of lungs, breath, diaphragm, vocal cords, mouth, lips or ears. The words that form in your mind manifest simultaneously – you might say wirelessly – in the consciousness of the other.
I forged on. “I need comfort and inspiration, not sex. You may hold me in your arms, but not replace men.”
There was a pause. Then I felt him fade slowly, evaporating into a light haze of disappointment…And then he was altogether gone.
I was left stunned, every cell aquiver; the delayed fear now took hold. The impression of his weight remained like a stone on my body. At length it too disappeared. I sat up on the banquette and glanced at the clock.
It was 5:45 a.m., the same transitional hour from darkness to light when my grandfather used to contact me, twining himself into the plot of a dream and then coaxing me into a semi-conscious state where we could work together. But with Grandpa, from the beginning I refused to cede control. Almost by force of habit, I treated my jinn the same way – standing up to him, firmly setting boundaries.
Everyone was still asleep, so I had nothing to do but lie there thinking. It wasn’t long before remorse set in. The feeling of his arms around me had not been unpleasant. He seemed respectful enough. Obedient, too. He didn’t press his suit when I objected. And – can I say it? – he was hot. But I’d turned him away, maybe for good.
Would it have been so bad to go all the way? It might’ve been fantastic, literally out of this world. I imagined us rolling around in the ether, me laughing, him tickling my ribs. By now, my imagination was running rampant, with my sense of humor close at its heels. An invisible boyfriend! Wouldn’t that be the last laugh! I’d never have to traffic with men if I had a secret, not to mention larger than life, lover.
But before our next encounter I’d have to work on my attitude. No more backtalk. I got up to see if there were any more herbs left in the witch’s pouch. There were. I waited for the maid to arrive and got her to light the coal brazier.
The burning smell got Khadija out of bed. Her jaw fell off its hinge when I told her what had happened. “I know this is crazy, but I want him to come back,” I said calmly, though I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. “At least take it to the next step. I’m ready for whatever happens.”
But would he come back after being rejected?
Khadija called Khouribga, dialing a neighbor’s number to bring the sehúra to the phone. Fatima was triumphant. She guaranteed the jinn would come back; just to be sure, she’d do another spell. And there was an incantation I should do myself, before going to bed. Khadija wrote it down for me so I could recite it phonetically, because it was in Arabic. I wasn’t sure why, when my jinn spoke English, but okay. What else did I have to do? Fatima replied: just go to sleep in a relaxed, normal way. Don’t be impatient because he is coming from a long, long way. Once you two are joined, then he will never be far from you.
Before she left for work, Khadija joked, “Tell him to give me 10,000 durhams so I can buy a BMW. No, I’ll buy a sheep! Then I’ll get a jinn bigger than yours!” She laughed at the idea of our two “husbands” getting into a quarrel, fencing with swords: “All right, children, take it outside.”
I practised reading the words of the incantation. “Ya m’lkee sheert aleek tasheera n’deer fee galbek taheera. Djinni farhan ay walhan. Ts’baya liya mabayghoo al weezara lee sooltan.”
I beckon you, my spirit, so that I may live in your heart. Approach me, genie, full of joy and goodness. Salute me as do the ministers and slaves their sultan.
I had the whole day ahead of me, but all I could think of was getting through it fast. Day was dull. Bring on the night.
(To be continued.)