Friday, May 23, 2014

A Prayer for Ishmael

A Prayer for Ishmael

An American woman named Melisande of 46 meets a young man of 22 online, in a chat room. At first he tells her he is from Australia. They argue about whether God exists (she says no, he says yes). He tells her she is arrogant; she tells him he is naive. Yet they are amused and interested enough in each other to talk again. She tells him a little about her life as an archivist who works for a Cultural Institute in New York. He tells her that he works for a furniture salesperson in Perth. However, the next time they meet -the third- he tells her that he is not from Australia, but from Karachi, Pakistan, and sends her a picture. Somehow she knows that this is indeed his picture, not the one he sent previously.  She tells him that he looks very serious. He agrees and laughs.

Soon they are talking every chance they get. She learns about his family; his father abuses his mom, who is a nurse. His father is addicted to drugs and alcohol, but is extremely intelligent, and lost a very high paying job in Saudi Arabia. He has a sister who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic and another sister who is very kind and responsible, but who has been discouraged from getting a job because she is supposed to take care of the house and work that needs to be done in it. The family is half Muslim, half Christian, which means that they are welcome nowhere in Pakistan. Ishmael escapes when he can to play games online and sometimes in internet cafes. Their house is very large, but is falling apart because they cannot afford to keep it up. Ishmael also takes karate classes and has worked his way up to brown belt status, soon to become black belt status, he tells Melisande.

Ishmael meets a young woman from Ireland online and falls in love with her. He tells Melisande that he will be emigrating to Ireland when he can get a visa. Over the next year, he keeps Melisande updated with his plans and the stages of his visa request.

Just before he is to emigrate to Ireland, he and his friends go by motorbike to an isolated area of Karachi to get a computer that is being sold very cheaply. When they arrive, they are told that if they don't pay 300 dollars US (about 21,000 Pakistan rupees), they will be killed. Ishmael tells his friends to leave and tells them that he will deal with the situation. One of the thugs shoots Ishmael. He dies.

Upon hearing this from a friend of Ishmael's with whom she is sometimes in contact, Melisande feels as if she wants to run to Karachi and not leave Ishmael's grave. But the friend convinces Melisande that the best thing for her to do is to try to help Fatimah, Ishmael's kind and responsible sister, With the friend translating, Melisande decides that the best thing to do is to help Fatimah get a visa for the USA.

She vows, however, that one day she will visit Ishmael's grave in Karachi and lay a wreath on his grave.

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