Dr. Bashir had 217 wives. The youngest was six years old, the oldest 83. And although Dr. Bashir lived in a country where the laws and customs made the practice of polygamy natural, even here, 217 was excessive. And more unusual was the fact that Dr. Bashir only had three children. Two boys and one girl, all three grown now and happy with their own families and careers. But most unusual of all was that the little, unassuming physicist did not believe in polygamy, even a little.
It was early in the morning. A few stars still twinkled in the blackest part of the sky as the slight man carried his tiny cup of sweetened espresso out onto the back verandah and sank gratefully into the faded brown chair, the indent of the cushion exactly formed to his body.
The spicy aroma of desert cactus floated over the high concrete fence as he took his first cautious sip of the hot, rich brew. He watched the sky slowly change from black to grey, and then a pale blue. It was still quiet enough at this time of the morning where he could hear his own thoughts, and in his mind’s eye, see the movements of quantum particles and spinning quarks. By the time he finished his coffee the sun had risen over the eastern wall and his gaze rested on the large black rock leaning against the far garden hedge. A cricket emerged from the dark crack at its base.
They looked at each other for a brief moment before it scurried out of sight.
The sound of female voices lilting and laughing resonated through the house behind him and then washed around and over him. He sighed.
“Good morning papa.”
“Did you sleep well father?”
“God is good my husband.”
“Has anyone seen my shoes?”
“Shhh…leave papa alone.”
The voices called out cheerfully, sleepily, merrily, gladly, and willingly, breaking the quiet and solitude of the early morning hour. Suddenly a light scent of morning blossoms infused the air and he knew that Alia stood behind him. She brought him a new cup of coffee and kissed him lightly on the forehead. “Here you are, my love,” she said.
Dr. Bashir reached up and took the coffee in one hand and pulled her arm forward. His lips brushed her wrist and his hand slid up to her shoulder where his fingers twirled the long loose braid draped over her housecoat. “Happy day,” he said. “I was just remembering when you and I bought this house. Remember how big it seemed then. The atrium echoed the children’s voices as they scampered across the cool tiles in their frenzied races. It seems so long ago, yet it only feels like yesterday.”
Alia sat on the step close to his feet and wrapped a protective arm around his thin legs. “I remember it well, my love,” she said. “Our family had six months alone, then little Jahlida entered our lives.”
They both sat quietly thinking about the day that had started them on this path to an extended family. Jahlida, only seven years old, was about to be sold into slavery by her parents. Alia, quiet but firm, announced that they had no other choice; it was either take the child in as a new wife or know that because of their inaction a beautiful little girl would face the most horrific life.
“She has made us proud,” he said. “A PhD in Mathematics.” Pride shone from his eyes painting his words bright with pleasure.
Alia rested her head against his leg and patted his knee; they both sat silently looking over their back yard which long ago had been converted into a garden. Suddenly from somewhere on the warming stones a cricket began to sing. The song was one of happiness and contentment.
“Thirtythreehundredsixtyfive” by Morning Theft. Creative Commons Flickr. Some rights reserved.