I am not the only one who has worried about the kiblat. A Chinese Malaysian girl I know was paranoid about hidden cameras in her room. She lived in a dorm with girls from Mauritius, Somalia, Korea, and England. The non-Muslim girls who weren't familiar with the word Kiblat (or Qiblat) thought it might point to the direction of the hidden camera. Others thought it was the direction of the emergency exit. Another theory was that it was an advertisement for a local Malaysian band.
When I was in high school, my first date was with a girl from Iran. She was one of the sexiest girls in the school. Some of the things from those formative years come back to me now that I am in my thirties and doing my thing out here in Seoul, Korea.
"What is Kiblat?", a new short story at Yellow Mama, examines some of these things that have been with me over the years.
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What is Kiblat?
These girls, one with a long serpentine tongue and who let me see her naked, said these words to me. These girls from my high school. They weren't bad girls. Well, they were. But good bad. You know what I mean. The kind I wanted to drink with, get high with, have sex with. Good kind of bad. They were like that. That's what I heard. One was hot, too. I mean really hot. She gave me a piece of gum she was chewing one time, you know to throw it in a trash bin for her, but I saved it and tacked it on my wall like a trophy. Whenever I was near them or talked to them, they giggled. They said that word. Then giggled. One night I got them pretty drunk at my house. Then they disappeared. I walked in on them in our recreation room making out. I asked if they'd like to make a sandwich. They said no. Before I could get upset, the hot one left me with the other one. She let me do whatever I wanted with her. Her tongue was really long and pink—it came to a sharp angular tip. I have never seen another tongue again like that. Her eyes were enormous, like those statues of Shakti or Saraswati. Also she had a cleft on her chin that looked exactly like a miniature of her own ass. I had a great time with her, but my mind wandered to the hotter one. I was young.
Fourteen years have passed. Not much has happened in my life. Well, I got divorced once. Had about three different jobs. Maybe four. Lived in five or six different countries. Stubbed my toes hundreds of times, bit my lip in the thousands—goddamnit! Looked under "k" in many dictionaries in various languages. Had a few different girls. Ate many tacos, many kebabs, a lot of noodles; smoked many cigarettes, drank many different brands of beer; masturbated God only knows how many times.
Then, it's right there on the motel ceiling. A green and white sticker with black letters on the white center: Kiblat. Like “Keeble” or like I don't know what. Like nothing. Like those girls. Like that cleft chin that looked like her ass. I get that burning in my loins, now in that pleasure center deeper than the loins thinking of her cleft ass, no, thinking of “kiblat.” What is “kiblat”?
There it is, unique and indiscernible, like an ancient hieroglyph—a memory-emotion pictogram that I cannot decipher nor contemplate. Right there on the cracked motel ceiling. I can't take my eyes off of it even when Aisha, this new girl I'm thinking of getting serious with, is on top of me with all her goodness. She's bulbous in all the right, and a few wrong (but nobody's perfect), spots. Even when she pulls me up to suck on a very right part of her, I think, “kiblat.” I pull away from her and read it aloud: "Kiblat. What the fuck is ‘Kiblat?’"
"Forget it." Aisha pulls me on top of her. "Focus."
I roll off of her. "I can't until I find out what that means."
I move to India. I live in an Ashram, spending one week in total silence. In Tokyo, I do editing work and try to learn Japanese to no avail. Incidentally, Aisha and I no longer even email. I dream up an Internet marketing scheme while sunbathing on the beach in Thailand. I put all the money I saved in Japan into this foolproof scheme. I move to Korea broke and teach English. I meet a young Korean student who lures me with great legs and a wonderbra. I feel cheated by her wonderbra, but don't let that ruin everything. She opens her bag while laying on my couch naked, her little breasts perky. A Bahasa-English dictionary falls to the floor.I pick it up for her, it's open to "k". My eyes go straight to the word “Kiblat.”
It points you in the direction of Mecca.