On their first day as Yale students, David and Aisha happened to stand next to each other in front of the Nathan Hale statue. She wore a hijab. He wore Bermuda shorts. They both read Nathan Hale’s reaction to the British army’s death sentence: “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” David stared at Aisha and wisecracked, “My only regret is that I’ll have but one wife to gain for my comfort.” Aisha stalked away.
A year later they happened to sit next to each other in a Chinese 1 class. This time they both wore jeans. Aisha wore a scarf. When the professor said they’d need to spend two hours every day copying Chinese ideograms, David didn’t come back.
After graduation he joined J. Putterman, the company that sells golf clubs and clothing through a catalog with fanciful stories. David excelled at writing lines like, “After a hole-in-one, Absalom put on his authentic cowboy shirt. His hands looked bigger. Was that damsel over there giving him a come-hither look? Yes, and he knew what to do.”
Meanwhile, Aisha went to China and taught English in Chengdu. She enjoyed the spicy smell of mouth-numbing Sichuan pepper in restaurants selling wontons and pork. She no longer thought much about Allah. Once, prodded by her best student, she visited a house church and heard a sermon comparing Jesus to Isa, the name for Jesus the Quran uses 187 times. The big difference: The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God.
Aisha found this “Son of God” concept weird but fascinating. She walked out with a Bible and read it. She was amazed that it made perfect sense to her. One year later Aisha flew home, expelled as part of a government crackdown on “American missionary-agitators.” Unemployed in New York, she grabbed on to the first job offered her -- writing catalog copy for J. Putterman, reporting to David.
We need not list the cute incidents that happened on their way to falling in love and, as is now sadly customary, sleeping together while unmarried. Aisha periodically dragged David to a monthly Bible study and mused about covenant marriage versus consumerist cohabiting, but he told her, “I’m happy just as I am.” So let us cut to a May Day one year later when David saw an email from Sheila, a cute intern. She attached her draft of a catalog tale starring a golfer whose shot slices over a privacy fence into a nearby backyard. Predictable result: The golfer climbs the fence wearing his Putterman Power Slacks and impresses a sunbathing damsel.
The story’s premise was slushy and the writing sloppy, but Aisha, now associate editor, tried to rescue Sheila’s effort. She gave up. David saw a way he could make it work and sent it forward to publication. As he brushed his teeth that night, David cheerily told Aisha what he had done. She exploded: “I spent an hour on it. She has no talent. When I’ve decided a story won’t work, why are you second-guessing me?”
David said he merely wanted to help a struggling young writer who happened to be female. The mattress he and Aisha shared had a featherbed top. Over the next three nights they created body-sized depressions on the left and right sides, with a ridge in the middle. On the fourth evening they went to Aisha’s Bible study, during which participants could bring up passages they had found particularly meaningful.
David read from Luke, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” David said, “When editing I always try to give young writers second chances.”
At the food break Aisha told him, “Way to go, champ. How to weaponize the gospel? Congratulations.”
When they reassembled, Aisha pointed the group to Judges, Chapter 19, where a Levite pushes his concubine toward vicious men who rape her: She dies. “Bet he wouldn’t have done that if they were married,” Aisha said.
The next morning David went to 47th Street in Manhattan, the Diamond District, and bought Aisha an engagement ring.