Dave took a seat in the aisle by the check-in gates, watching the mid-morning rush pick up. There wasn’t much of a crowd – winter was slowing travel across the country.
An Egyptian man in his 50s walked past, turned, walked back and sat down.
“You’re a writer?” he said.
Dave set down his pen and nodded.
“So am I,” the man said. “Malak.”
They shook hands.
Sat silently as four flight attendants walked abreast pushing four empty wheelchairs.
“Where are you off to?” Dave asked.
A daytrip to Mississauga. Five years ago, Malak had put a down payment on a house on Mississauga, expecting to move their from Newfoundland with his two teenagers.
The world didn’t function properly for him and it took five years to get the place built. In the meantime, he moved his family to Halifax so his children could attend the universities when they graduated. His daughter graduated and caught a plane to the UK to study medicine. His son was in Grade 11 and heading in the same direction.
“If he decides to go to the UK as well, then I would have nothing to do here, so I can go anywhere.”
Then he got a call: the house is ready! Living in Mississauga no longer seemed necessary, but he was flying out to have a look at it and see how it felt.
“I don’t need the house anymore,” he mused. “That’s a difficult decision.”
Malak’s life had been a series of positionings, trying to get the best angle on the world. He was born in Egypt, but life as a minority Christian was not pleasant. He figured his kids would leave eventually, so he pre-empted an empty nest by moving the family nest to Canada.
Now that that was happening anyway, he found himself unconnected to any land. If he was able to live anywhere in the world, why not Mississauga?
In the meantime, he was writing short stories about a Jewish prostitute. Everyone knew her, and knew how she made her living, and so when a reputed holy man stopped by, her neighbours made sure she was well hidden.
The local religious leader had doubts about the alleged holy man and planned to meet him to settle the question of his sanctity. But the prostitute had heard about the visit, and knew about the man – rumour was, he’d saved a friend of hers when a mob attacked her.
She wanted to thank him. So, as the local leader probed the visiting allegedly holy man, she burst in, ran to him and fell at his feet crying. She had planned to speak, but emotions got the better of her.
The local leader was scandalized and ordered her ejected. The visitor embraced the woman and defended her.
They both got rejected and ejected, the prostitute and the allegedly holy man bundled out the door together.
The visitor: Jesus Christ.
It’s an old biblical story, but Malak changed the camera’s point of view so that we see the story from the woman’s eyes.
“I like it,” he told Dave. “I usually like to see it from another point of view. From the prostitute’s point of view. How did she feel after that? What changed in her life after that?”
Maybe she gave up her life and got herself to a nunnery. Maybe she went back to work.
Malak wanted to find out.