For the first time in his life, Midhat wished he were more religious. Of course he prayed, but though that was a private mechanism it sometimes felt like a public act, and the lessons of the Quran were lessons by rote, one was steeped in them, hearing them so often. They were the texture of his world, and yet they did not occupy that central, vital part of his mind, the part that was vibrating at this moment, on this train, rattling forward while he struggled to hold all these pieces. As a child he had felt some of the same curiosity he held for the mysteries of other creeds—for Christianity with its holy fire, the Samaritans with their alphabets—but that feeling had dulled while he was still young, when traditional religion began to seem a worldly thing, a realm of morals and laws and the same old stories and holidays. They were acts, not thoughts. He faced the water now along the coast, steadying his gaze on the slow distance, beyond the blur of trees pushing past the tracks, on the desolate fishing boats hobbling over the waves. He sensed himself tracing the lip of something very large, something black and well-like, a vessel which was at the same time an emptiness, and he thought, without thinking precisely, only feeling with the tender edges of his mind, what the Revelation might have been for in its origin. Why it was so important that they could argue to the sword what it meant if God had hands, and whether He had made the universe. Underneath it all was a living urgency, that original issue of magnitude; the way several hundred miles on foot could be nothing to the mind, Nablus to Cairo, one thought of a day’s journey by train, but placed vertically that same distance in depth exposed the body’s smallness and suddenly one thought of dying. Did one need to face the earth, nose to soil, to feel that distance towering above? There was something of his own mortality in this. Oh then but why, in a moment of someone else’s death, must he think of his own disappearance?