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  • I'm sitting in this Nigerian mosque in Brooklyn. I don't remember the last time I prayed but the Isha prayer is in about 30 minutes. There's a tornado watch out in the city. Got soaked on the way here from my car.

    There's only one person in the mosque. He has been doing ablutions over and over again. He goes to the bathroom, splashes water on his face, rinses his mouth, washes his hands and feet and behind the ears - comes to pray - mutters something - and then goes back to do it all over again. I had a friend with this problem. It's some sort of an OCD type thing some devout Muslims have. You're supposed to do it only once before each prayer, but if you fart or pee or poop, you will have to go do ablutions all over again. Some people get paranoid and keep doing it again and again.

    It's 8:30 p.m., prayer should start in a few minutes, but no one is here besides me and the farting guy.

    He's about 60, I would say. He's wearing a yellow shirt, black pants and a white rounded cap on his head. The room has Arabic calligraphy hanging on the walls. The carpet has flowery patterns and columns designating prayer spaces. On one corner there's a small library with several copies of the Quran and Hadith books. There's also a sound system for Friday prayers; and a LED clock listing prayer times.

    People always kneel towards the corner of the room in New York unless the building was built to be a mosque. This is because devotees kneel towards the Kab'ah in Mecca. You don't have this problem in the muslim world where they plan this out beforehand.

    The guy gets up and gives the Athan. He tells me that he will join me in prayer right after he goes and does the ablution; this must have been the fifth time since I walked in half an hour ago.

    I came here hoping to find a Nigerian person to talk to. I'm supposed to write about them for my cross-cultural journalism class this semester. But all I got was an empty room and this guy who sort of shakes all the time as if he has a mild form of Parkinson's.

    He comes back in and stands up front waiting for me to join him. I go and stand on his right. He walks behind me and goes to my right. I try to go to his right again, but then I realize that he can't lead the prayer because he gave the Athan. Which means that I have to be the Imam and stand on his left, and not in front because there's only two of us.

    Shit, I think to myself. I look at his face and try to say something but before I get the chance, his face cringes and he mutters something which probably means 'shit' in his language. He makes his way to go do the ablution again.

    I quickly bring out my phone and call my mom to ask how many rak'ahs there are in the Isha prayer. She says that it's first four rak'ah sunnah, then four rak'ah fard and then three rak'ah witr and some other things in between or after.

    I recite the smallest two sur'ahs of the Quran out of the three that I remember and he follows me as I go up and down. After we turn our heads side to side, he lectures me and tells me what I should've done differently. He's very polite about it.

    I ask him where I can find Nigerians and he says that there are probably only two Nigerians in this neighborhood and they built the mosque for muslims of all nationalities and not just Nigerians. Nigerians, he says, don't really stick together. "Maybe you can find them in Queens."

    He hurries off to finish the rest of the prayers before he loses his purity again.

    I pick up some flyers advertising Nigerian independence day programs and walk out hoping to find some Nigerians at some Nigerian church.
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