IN THE BEGINNING, I had to avert my eyes – not that he’d asked me to or anything. Sometimes I’d try to make myself look, but I could never quite bring myself to. My not-looking reminded me of times as a kid at the local swimming pool, standing near someone changing into their cossies. I might inadvertently see them naked, but would feel weird looking in their direction too squarely or for any decent length of time.
Watching him felt too intimate. But more than that, if I’m honest about it, I was somewhat uncomfortable with the whole thing. The careful positioning of the prayer mat; his giant hands with their ridged karate-knuckles raised gently to the sky; the shifting of his voice into something low and rhythmic. I had an Australian mistrust of religion in any form and, well, this was all so unmistakably religious. My boyfriend’s three-times-a-day prayer was something to which I turned a blind eye. It expressed a part of him that was unknowable to me, and embodied the fear that I usually managed to suppress: that the two of us were, in some fundamental way, incompatible.
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