He woke up before she did. It was 5 AM, and the sun had not yet risen. It was strange, he thought, to be fully awake before the Fajr prayer this time of the year. He could be preparing Suhoor, his first meal of the day, if it was Ramadan, but it wasn’t. Why was he up so early, he wondered as he gazed at the ceiling. He took a deep breath in and exhaled silently. He remembered then. There was an aroma in the air that dragged him out of his sleep, the pleasant scent of bean pies. Black American Muslims invented bean pies, but putting aside his Faith and a calling to support Black-owned businesses, he loved them for having a superior creaminess to sweet potato pies. He looked around for an open window to make sense of the early morning spice in the air. He wondered if a neighbor started cooking early for an afternoon wedding or funeral. However, all the sound-proof windows were closed. He looked over at his wife as she faced his direction, sound asleep. Her exposed afro liberated itself from the satin bonnet she wore religiously to bed. The golden cloth that rarely remained in place all night found a home on the pillow to the left of her head. When her 6:15 AM alarm sounded, he realized he had been lost in thought for over an hour. Time escaped him.
She reached to the right and silenced the alarm on the nightstand. As she yawned, he asked, “Do you smell bean pies?”
Annoyed by being asked a question before receiving an affectionate greeting, she responded, “Good Morning to you too, My Love.”
“I’m sorry Baby,” he leaned over and kissed her plumped lips, “Good morning. Can you tell me if you smell bean pies? The smell was so strong that it woke me out of my sleep. At first, I thought I was dreaming, but I can still smell it.”
“No, I don’t smell anything except your cologne. Did you bathe in it?” She rose out of the bed and walked to the bathroom. She was wearing a red lace sleeper. He tilted his body slightly to get a better glimpse of her walking away because he immensely enjoyed the sight of fabric clinging to his wife as tightly as he did.
While he lay in bed confused, Khadijah sat on the toilet asking herself how Omar could smell the bean pie she ate on her way home from work last night. She passed by the hospital’s coffee shop when her shift ended. Ms. Retha, the cook, was closing and offered her the last slice of pie.
At first, Khadijah turned it down, but Ms. Retha said, “If you don’t take it, the trash will. I’m closing in 2 minutes.”
“Okay, gimme the pie; it’s Omar’s favorite anyway. I’ll let him know Auntie Retha thought about him.” Khadijah took the slice and proceeded toward the parking garage. She was exhausted from working a long 11AM -11PM shift at Mason’s Medical. On the 45-minute drive home, she decided to taste the pie to help keep her awake. It worked, but better than she thought because she finished the last bite as she pulled into the driveway.
Omar was sleeping when she entered the house, she did not need to confirm this. She stopped in the kitchen and drank a glass of water before brushing her teeth and showering. She did not want her morning kiss to taste like pie, so she was careful. He washed her face twice and held the Listerine in her mouth a few seconds longer. Before curling into bed next to him, she covered all bases. She believed there was no way he could know about the late-night treat; the container and napkins were left in the car. She would not confirm anything. She finished her bathroom morning routine and returned to bed. She turned on the night lamp, sat on the edge of the bed, and grabbed her glucose monitoring device to check her blood sugar.
“Are you going to try the new device?” Omar asked, eager to see it in action.
“Yes.” She pricked her finger with the lancing device, placed a test strip inside the glucometer, and waited. The machine beeped twice, and the number 413 flashed in bold magenta print onto the ceiling where Omar had been staring for hours.
“Whoa, that’s amazing! To see your numbers appear on the ceiling is pretty neat. But 413 is really high, baby. I am no medical doctor like you, but I was teacher’s pet at the Diabetes Caregiver’s training last month. Your numbers should be around 100 first thing in the morning. Check it again. Maybe the new device needs warming up.”
She was shocked by the high number, and as she moved through the motions to recheck her blood sugar, she replayed her night again in her mind. I clocked out. Removed my scrubs. Passed by the coffee shop on my way out the door. Ms. Retha said, “If you don’t take it, the trash will.” I ate the slice of pie in the car. Oh no! I didn’t bolus for the pie. I was so focused on staying awake and getting home safely that I forgot to give myself insulin. Damn it! “You’re right, baby. I mean teacher’s pet. It should be much lower, let me try it again. I will increase the dial to get a larger drop of blood too.” Khadijah changed the setting from 2 to 4, which would allow the needle to go deeper into her skin. When she pricked the side of her finger this time, she screamed, “Ouch.”
The small drop of blood grew and started to run down her finger. In an instant, Omar snatched her hand and put her index finger inside his mouth before she had time to grab a tissue to clean the blood. The flavor of bean pies rushed into his mouth. The taste was so intense that he began sucking her finger like a newborn latching on and discovering colostrum. He closed his eyes, rolled her finger around his tongue, and savored every bit. Time escaped him, again. The stronger his suction, the more engulfed his taste buds became. He swallowed ounces of spiced sugar, and it delighted him. He sucked her finger, extracting the surplus glucose for what felt like hours to him. However, only seconds had passed.
Khadijah wanted to snatch her hand away but could not bring herself to retract. The slight tingling sensation moved from her finger into the palm of her hand, where Omar’s jet-black beard grazed back and forth. The sensation spread up her arm, past her shoulders, and to her neck. When her husband’s suction intensified, the sensation multiplied until her entire body felt as free as her afro. She, too, closed her eyes as he pulled fatigue from every inch of her body. She was being energized from her pupils to her Achilles’ heel.
“Omar,” her voice called as she opened her eyes. “I need to check my blood sugar again.”
He released her finger from his grip and fell back onto the bed full. As Khadijah checked her blood sugar, he licked his lips, savoring the taste of his favorite dessert. Within seconds, vibrant green flashed on the ceiling, displaying the number 83. She gasped and quickly turned to face Omar. He smiled, but not on purpose; there was simply no way to contain the joy he felt. She turned away, ashamed for trying to lie. Together, they had discovered her cure for hyperglycemia; if only they could locate the words to describe what they each experienced at that moment. They could not. They did not even try.
Instead, she said, “Yep, the device needed warming up.”
“Good thing you checked again.”