Love makes me lazy, as if I always have a full stomach. Our foreplayor bos-o-kanar, as Omar lovingly calls it, shedding his manly Punjabi pride to ladylike Urduis lavish and fat. Pretending to be at our own private court, we massage each other like Mughals. (The Kings Hammam, now in ruins, is just around the corner.) The oil has a rich, woody scent. I take my time around his neck, watching those clitoral nipples stiffen. Even stroking the soles of his feet wont get such joyous results. He giggles and protests and feeds me falsa berries, strawberries, lychees. I learn to taste. Item by item, the way I watched Mehwishs baby spit flower under a lens. (If the wonder of our childhood has helped make me a more attentive lover, Mehwish will love well. I learn to taste and so will she.) [ ]
My religious vocabularys UrduArabic, social vocabulary UrduEnglish, but sexual vocabulary only English, while yours
Ouch. Do it again. I stop. In a flash, he rolls me onto my back. Stop thinking.
Between laughing and hurting, I struggle to remember what I was thinking, Youve only looked at yourself
I prefer to only look at you, he mumbles.
I mean, youve only looked at both of us, sexually, in Urdu or Punjabi. Isnt it?
He sighs. Maybe English is like your endless questions. It helps you hide your jinsi bhook. Do you even know what that is? [ ]
I cant. My mother tongue is as chaste as my mother.
He nods. Urdu isnt as proper as you Urdu wallahs think. You leave out all the good words, forgetting the language comes from those who loved to love. Theres a specific word for female sexual desire. Did you know that?
What is it?
Find out. [ ]
He opens my mouth and starts naming me.
The words are hotter than the oil down my back, sweeter than the saliva on his tongue. They belong to me. They loosen me. Geography first exists in the mind. My names give me shape. (Whats this? This? Do you finally understand jinsi bhook?)
My father stands up, takes off his shoes, steps into the gateway of the Badshahi Masjid. Ive already prayed. Now I have homework to do. Algebra. I remember my teacher saying, Did you know your Al Gorithms are named after the man who made them up, Al Khwarizmi? Or that civilization depends on the sifr, what you English-speakers call the cipher, what you should call the magic zero?
No, I didnt know.
I sit in the park, watching Aba disappear inside the mosque. Hes changed. We havent gone out together for months, not to feed the pigeons in the courtyard of Wazir Khan Masjid, or lick our fingers at the fish shops in Mozang Chungi, or welcome the Sikh pilgrims who come from India every year to visit the gurdwara next to these gardens. We used to do these things.
In my copy book, I save the vision of someone long ago: 10, 100, 1000.
My heart isnt in it. I sip ice cream soda with a straw.
An odd thing happens.
The three pearly domes of the mosque start floating toward me. Three giant sifrs with the smaller sifrs of my sums swirling inside each like flies in a stomach. The giant ones burst, releasing the small. Tiny zeroes dance between the pages of my book, dive down the straw in the green soda bottle, one after another, till finally, they all burst.
A number is made up. It doesnt exist.
I look at the marble domes inside which Aba prays. Designed with numbers that burst, with made-up lines and made-up sifrs.
Excerpted from The Geometry of God by Uzma Khan. Copyright © 2009 by Uzma Khan. Excerpted by permission of Interlink Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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