A little before 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon, I was suddenly urged to call my husband at work. I had been thinking of him for nearly an hour. This is not unusual. My thoughts jump around frequently during the course of my errands and household chores. If I fold his shirt, I think of him. When I’m driving to the bank, I’ll think of a joke that he made about how I married him for all those numbered accounts in Switzerland. Or when I’m doing laundry and notice that he is the ONLY male in the household to remember to empty the pockets of his pants because I announced that any money I find will be considered a tip for laundry services. Or when I look at any one of these beautiful five children of ours and I see his DNA peeking out from the almond-shaped eyes he gave them ,or the strong jawbone, or their olive-toned skin that is just a few shades lighter than his, after being mixed with my “mayonnaise on Wonder bread” skin color. But he wasn’t just “on my mind,” as we say in English. He was “on my heart,” as we say in Arabic.
I called and left an “I love you” message on his voicemail when the call didn’t pick up. The reception in the kitchen where he works is lousy. I didn’t think anything about it, but little images of his beard, his pastry-making hands, his deep voice, kept entering my head. To be honest, I just figured it’s about time for a date night.
The rest of the day continued as usual. I finished my errands. I dried the tears of a distraught 16-year old who’d been embarrassed in class. I refused to hand the wireless mouse over to the 14-year old who’d not done his obligatory hour of study whether he had homework or not. I took the 17-year old to drop off an application at a fast-food restaurant. I made dinner. I gave the 19-year old her antibiotics for her respiratory infection. Nothing extraordinary happened. At 7 o’clock, my husband came home. When I asked about his day, he looked tired but excited at the same time. He told us that the store had been robbed at gunpoint today.
The store where he works is mainly a grocery store. He is the pastry chef there and works in the bakery. There are four or five smaller stores within the main store that are rented out to vendors. One of these is a gold store. Three young men came in dressed in full Niqab to hide their identities. They were very tall and two of them had large frames and the third was rather thin. The owner’s wife, who had been at the travel agent booth, noticed that they were men wearing niqab and mentioned it to the travel agent. Then one them pulled a handgun and stuck it in the owner’s face. His wife dialed 9-1-1 from her cell phone. The robbers filled several trash bags with gold and fled. Apparently, their casing mission earlier was not as thorough as they’d thought. The employee break room did not have an exit. So they ran into the bakery area where my husband was making kunafa. My husband said that he couldn’t fully understand why these huge niqab-clad women were trying to exit the emergency door with trash bags thrown over their shoulders. He told them, “It’s locked.” They never said a word, but climbed over the counter and found another exit.
By this time, others in the store realized what had happened and began to yell, “Harami” which means “thief.” The owner of the gold store did not run after them. But others gave chase, as is typically done in Middle Eastern countries. Two of the men escaped through a hole in the fence leading to the housing development behind the shopping center. The crowd caught the thin young man when his trash bag caught on the fence and tore, spilling gold all over the ground. The one with the gun turned and fired, hitting the store manager in the shoulder. That’s when reality hit the chasers and they retreated to the store. My husband had come out by then and was standing by the gold on the ground to guard from further theft until the police showed up. It was after he’d given his statement that his nerves kicked in and he had to sit down.
I said a quick prayer of thanks that my husband is not a moron who would chase an armed robber and put himself in harm’s way for replaceable, material things. I asked him what time this happened. When he told me around 2 o’clock or shortly thereafter. I checked my phone. It was just about the time that he was giving his statement that I had called him. Later, I told him how freaked out I was about the whole incident and how I’d not know what to do without him. He just held me a little tighter and said, “God is present and He’ll protect us.” And he’s right. God IS present and He WILL protect us. But I still had to run through my mental check list of blessings, with my husband’s safety at the top of it. I had to lie in bed for over an hour before the pins and needles in my body subsided and I could fall asleep. And while I don’t particularly care much for the manager of the store or his wife, I said a prayer for both and a second prayer for just her. I can’t imagine the fear and worry that she must be experiencing, but I wouldn’t wish that on any woman.