I’ve had to think about my hijab a lot, recently.
Which is besides the point, if you truly think about it. When I put on my clothes at the start of the day, I’m not meant to think about it constantly for the rest of the day, because why the heck would I. The aim of my daily donning of accoutrements has always been comfort, ample legroom (for when I’m overtaking pedestrian slowpokes on my way to work), and aurah (the Islamic rule on what parts of my body most of the world – is allowed to see). My thinking of fashion is so rudimentary that one of my earlier criterion for dressing was, ‘What can I wear that will let me kick people when the need arises?’
And then I realised that I can kick people no matter how I dress. So, you know.
You were singing a song while playing guitar. It was a perfect teenage moment — complete with the world slowing down, everything else falling into a haze of blurred purple, your nasally strained voice the only thing I could hear. I had always known you because you were always popular, and that was my fault as well — always going for the obvious choice. Until that one perfect moment, you had been in my periphery. After that one perfect moment, you were all I could see.
It took years of focused affection and the silent pining young girls do so well before I could get over you. And even that came in a dream. I dreamed that you had a girlfriend, and I was fine with it. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I realised that I really was.
Dearest Amina (dearer to me than most of the Aminas combined),
This is your Dhaz Teyze Syazwina. We have never met, but I love you very much. You won’t understand for a couple of decades, perhaps, but when you love someone the way I love your mother, you will inevitably love whoever little person they bring forth into the world. You’re all the way in summery Istanbul, hopefully sleeping and cooing through most of your first Ramazan, and I am here in warm and humid Malaysia, but I think of you plenty and hope you’re having a swell time.
I could write about the moons I’ve missed – all the nights I’ve spent in four walls, the view outside my window just shy of a dazzling night sky. It faces a field where young boys march and kick footballs and tackle each other to the ground with gangly enthusiasm.
I could write about sunrises I don’t wake up for. When I peel myself from bed, on fewer mornings than I wish were so, I’m always chasing the sun, willing dawn to wait five more minutes, while I wash my face, rinse my arms, run water over my feet. Give me three — no, four more minutes. Let me face God before I go back to sleep. When I land myself in bed again, I shut my eyes tight against the morning light. I’m not done yet.
When I was somewhere between child and teenager, back before we had the word ‘tween’, she stared at me for a very long time and said,
“It’s a pity about your nose. You would be fine otherwise.”
For nearly 20 years, I subsisted by looking at myself in only bits and pieces in the mirror. I could never look at myself whole. There was always something to avoid.
It occurs to me that I have been walking through each day, waiting for God to prove me wrong.
For God to say, ‘No, not yet.’