After the great towers fell and a Mad King declared war upon fear, which was, in fact a thinly veiled bloodfeud against an enemy of his father with the side benefits of oil and the expansion of Empire. The day it happened, I too, watched in shock and awe, quoting the opening lines to Sunday, Bloody Sunday, wishing, hoping the attackers were home-grown. Another Timmy McViegh. See, recently, I'd seen a film called The Siege, in which followers of the Prophet unleashed terror campaigns in New York City-New York City! Git a rope!-and it showed the xenophobic reaction of 'Mericans to those oh, so alien. When I found out the group claiming responsibility for dropping the Two Towers were not home-grown fanatics, but in cahoots with those who blew up the idolatrous Buddhas in Afghanistan, my heart sank; I knew that film I'd recently watched was not mere entertainment, but prophecy made manifest.
I was on the bus one night, off to get coffee. There was a man in a turban with a long beard. Another man, dressed in old mil-tech drag, and rather intoxicated, came up to him, spitting hate. See, he'd been in 'Nam, fighting for god and country-but not western, queerly enough-and he'd dealt with the treacherous ways of the brown and the yellow men. If he had his way all the fucking ragheads would be exterminated, starting with this turbaned man with a long beard. A hate crime waiting to happen.
Then came the aberration, who is too tall, too skinny, with eyes too big for the rest of his face, bedecked in his graveyard jacket from the back of the bus...
"Pardon me, Sir, but are you a Sikh?" I inquired.
"Why yes," the turbaned man replied.
"Cool!" I said, clapping my hands together like a delighted child on Christmas day. "I happen to be Buddhist myself. Tibetan, in fact, but I'm just fascinated by religion, what with being a former philosophy and theology student."
And so we started talking. The cat dressed in old mil-tech drag was not amused at all. Even and especially given we completely ignored him from that point until he pulled the cord for the bus. As he exited, oh, but he had some...colorful...words for me. As far as he was concerned, I was traitor to god and country-but not western, queerly enough-all consorting with the enemy.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize; for the mentality of some here in this nation-state, for my ethnic background, and, whilst I'm at it, for the whole species of half-bald apes in general," I said after he exited the bus.
"It is okay," the Sikh said, touching my arm kindly. "He is still but learning."
I'd noticed the man in the taqiyah wandering about before disappearing for a bit. There were other things to do, but I was aware of his presence, although I was unsure of his location. Eventually, he sought me out. See, he had inquires; he wanted to know about places to go skiing and scenic views, and I am, after all, paid to tell people where to go and make suggestions of what they do when they get there.
"You're in the mountains of Colorado," I said, a well-worn response to inquiries of scenic places. "You ain't going to get a bad view."
He smiled and thanked me for my assistance. I made note of his cap, so similar to any one of my African kufis, and his Pakistani accent. Back a few lifetimes, when I danced with the dead for money, I knew a neat, neat, girl from Pakistan who was possessed of cutting wit and grand compassion.
Much later, I was getting ready to get back up the hill to home when I saw him again. I smiled and bowed and asked him how his day was. He told me he did a bit of driving, looking for good views.
"I do not mean to hold you up, but where can I pray?"
"Come with me," I said, unlocking a door. "I know this is important and private."
"Thank you," he said. "I will ask god to reward you for helping me."
Before you ask, yes, I know I took a serious tactical risk; here was a stranger asking me for a favor and I let him into a darkened room. Sure, he was shorter than me, but he was stockier, and I did not know whether or not he carried any sort of weaponry. From a paranoids' point of view, what I did was tantamount with suicide.
And yet, the whisper in my ghost, my spider sense, intuition, whatever Voodoo mask you put on it, did not warn me of being in a bad situation. In the moment, it hardly mattered that I did not share his deity or his philosophy; here was someone who just wanted-needed-to groove, to commune, with the Divine. I do not believe in good or evil, and right and wrong are social constructs humans invented to maintain the pack order. Be that as it may, I felt it was the correct thing to do.
I was thanked, and he was sent on his way, along with directions to a local coffeeshoppe. As a matter of respect, I offered a Salaam, although, perhaps I should have just done a Namaste. But, perhaps, it doesn't matter. I helped someone on a cosmic level and got blessing because of it.
Not bad for someone who was once called a traitor by some intoxicated cat in mil-tech drag or even a jinn by a Moroccan cabie...