A few weeks ago, I was in Boston to work on ideas for a text book I may be writing for a publisher I really respect. After the day-long battery of meetings, I returned to my hotel, and seeing that I'd have another hour or so of daylight, I headed out to Newbury street to scare up a meal and see if there was some book store I could skulk around in for a while.
I walked a few blocks, maybe a quarter of a mile, and I found Newbury Comics. For a while, I looked at comics and graphic novels and some really awesome kitch that would never fit in my suitcase. Over the store sound system was playing some very new, very early-eighties-sounding band, something I'm sure that cool people everywhere will soon be dumping on their iPods.
After I lost interest in the rest of the store's obscure Manga robots and badly done anti-McCain bumper stickers, I walked along the street, checking the menus of the street side bistros. While I was stopped and reading the menu of an Indian restaurant called Kashmir, I noticed two Middle Eastern dudes in their early twenties. They were dressed like they were part of a hip-hop entourage: pants sagging, ball caps perched high on their heads.
The one closest to me went up to the short iron fence and leaned across it. "Khalid," he said. "Yo, man. Khalid." I looked to where he was throwing his voice, and I saw another young middle eastern kid, dressed up in a white shirt buttoned to the collar and dark jeans. His shoes looked remarkably expensive.
He was with the kind of girl who I, when I was in college, would have thought was twenty-six but who I now understand, having taught in universities now for twelve years, just appears to be sophisticated. She was remarkably pretty, like someone going into broadcasting. Her hair was blonde and cut expensively, piled up for her date with calculated abandon. She appeared to wear no makeup at all, though that was certainly an illusion. Her fair skin was even and unblemished. She wore a light grey dress that lifted her breasts into view. Around her thin shoulders was a cream knit shawl. In college you could guarantee that I would have gone for the girl in the shawl.
Then there was a hand on the iron fence, rapping against the metal. "Khalid, don't pretend you don't see us."
The blonde asked Khalid if he knew these guys. He nodded. "They're my roommates," he said, and he took some of the flat bread and dipped it into a bowl and ate it.
The two dudes next to me on the street, groaned. The guy next to me pointed to the west above the roofs of the shops on Newbury Street. "The sun does not go down for another ten minutes, dude. You should not be eating."
Khalid looked at his date and shrugged. She checked her phone and then set it down. Khalid jerked his head to one side, to get the guys to move along.
"Aw, shit," the guy next to me said, then looked at his buddy who straightened his cap and repeated the oath back to him.
"I'm gonna call his moms," the other guy said. "He should be fasting. This is bullshit and he knows it."
"Ten minutes, Khalid. Ten minutes," the guy next to me shouted at his friend in the restaurant. Then the two of them made a show of dismissing him with a broad wave like two old men on a stoop. The waiter setting down more food at Khalid's table looked like he thought was doing to die in a hail of gunfire.
As they walked away, the guy who was yelling from the street shook his head and said, "But she's hot for a white girl."
"I know," the other guy said. "Damn hot." Then they walked off, joining the flow of foot traffic on the sidewalk.
I live in a deeply religious community in Utah, where the thought is that by living together and sharing the faith, we can support and sustain our shared beliefs. Though I have lived in this community longer than I have lived at any one address in my life, I have never seen the young people of my own faith reaching out (however ineptly) to preserve the integrity of a friend. Not to this extent.
I can see now, the fear, that religious leaders have about mingling of faiths. Until this moment on Newbury Street I hadn't seen that scenario, (as old as the Old Testament) at play in reality, and I was strangely impressed.
I also felt as ambivalent as those young men must have felt. Khalid's date was hot. I can only wonder what was the rest of that date like? Did Khalid get lucky? If he did, how much would Ramadan observance have actually mattered in the face of that other indiscretion?
It's strange to say it, but really hope that one day, in my own home town, on the first Sunday of the month I might see two cowboys hauling a buddy of theirs out of some house, a fork in their buddy's left hand and a plate full of pie in the other. I hope they throw him in the bed of their truck and drive off, with a beautiful dark haired girl from Vegas in a tank top and jersey shorts watching on, screaming after him, "I'll text you."
I hope one of them says, "You can come back for dinner, bro, and you can kick my ass if you want to, but you're riding out your fast with us."
I know that doesn't say much for agency, but it would make a great story for General Conference.