My mind goes blank. I see a Muslim brother and ask him if the masjid has any other kind of payment machine, like a debit card machine, or something. He says that’s all they have. A voice from inside calls to see what the problem is. Another voice answers that the woman needs money for an embassy and she has kids. They tsk away, saying that the nearest one is on 24th and California. No, another corrects, 21st and California. I neither know where 21st nor where 24th is, so it doesn’t make much of a difference to me. I thank them and tell the kids we’re going.
My mind needs clearing. My papers are at the embassy, and I’m out in the cold, strange world, a city that is totally unfamiliar to me, and I need cash, but have no way to access my bank. I sit on the steps and explain the situation to the girls, hoping that will help me, somehow.
It does. I ask them if we should go back to the car, and home – and come the next day, or walk and look for money. They both want to walk and look for money. So we walk all the way back to the car and hop in, with the kids eating a turkey sandwich I had made, and I drive down the street, looking for 21st. I come across S street, and think right away that 21st is not going to come after a letter, so I must be going in the wrong direction, but I continue anyway, because I have no idea where to go otherwise. After a little, we pass 24th. Yay! Then 22nd, then 21st, but I somehow miss it, and what with the one way streets and crazy driving of D.C., I’m taken with the flow around a turnabout, down some street, down another, until I pass by a CVS and think, I can get money there! But of course, there’s no place to park, so I go with the traffic, turning right, right, right, so I don’t get too far from the embassy, and find myself on streets that have construction and are closed, or one-way streets, until I’m so turned around I have no idea where I am.
To confound the problem, the girls get thirsty and demand their water bottles. One of them has this new thing of saying, when she’s really thirsty, not just plain old “ma'” (water), but “ma’ – UH!”, and she was saying that over and over and over and over and over, until I got the bottle and handed it to her, just to get a few minutes of peace to figure out my next move, instead of just going with the traffic. A few minutes later, I hear the bottle drop to the floor, and she starts up, “Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!” until I can so not think, that I’m going to burst. I tell her gently that Mama needs a little quiet, please, and right then I see a gas station. Oh, I can “park” there, right?
Which way do I turn?
I had NO idea where I was. The last sign I had read was P Street. So I turned left, then again just followed the flow, then turned left again, and lo and behold, I was at the roundabout again, that leads straight to the embassy. I couldn’t hold my happiness in, and I burst out to the girls saying that Allah is indeed Kind, Gentle, Guiding! I had prayed I wouldn’t get lost, not knowing just how lost I’d get, and Allah guided me!
We parked near the same old spot, walked the two blocks again, this time with the diaper bag, not the toy/book bag, and entered the embassy. When I got to the window to hand my hard-gotten money to the lady, she told me the system was down, so she couldn’t process anything right now, but if I like I can wait ’til one (it was 11:44) and maybe something will get fixed. I told her I’d wait. As if I was going to give up now.
The minute the girls and I sat down in some empty chairs, they signed to me that they wanted to eat. Uh-oh. We had finished up all the snacks on the way to D.C., and the turkey sandwich while looking for an ATM machine. How do you tell a little toddler that even though she’s hungry you have nothing to feed her?