• Talia Basma

In the Divine Light, She Spoke

Noor looks up at the sky. Her body lax against the green grass. To her right, Sophia sits cross-legged and to her left Rolla lays down with her eyes closed. Noor was used to being with them on a regular basis. Rolla was practically her sister, having known her for more than ten years. Sophia was a new friend but Noor always preferred quality over quantity.

"I don't know if I should start wearing the hijab or not." Rolla says softly, "I want to, but also don't want to."

Noor watches a cumulus cloud move across the darkening blue sky, "You have to figure it out for yourself. No one can tell you yes or no." She shrugs, "And I might be bias."

Sophia yanks at the dandelion beside her, "Maybe make a list of pros and cons?"

Rolla sighs, "I just don't know where to start. I really don't want to add another thing for people to use against me."

Sophia blows at the dandelion, "I mean, people will always complain. I was called a slut for a majority of high school for sleeping with my boyfriend of three years. There were girls who did more than that and no one said a thing." She pauses, "Of course that was rare; if you had a vagina and looked at a boy, or a girl too long, you were only trouble."

Noor groans, "People are absolute hypocrites I tell ya. They look at me in pity and say that I can dress how I want. That I should be allowed to explore my sexual desires as I see fit. They lecture me about how my religion is oppressing me. I’ve had so many men tell me I can take off my scarf, women too. They just don’t understand." She continues, "How could a grown woman do this to herself? How could I want to be a virgin and cover up my skin? But I said it, they are fucking hypocrites. They are dying for me to take it all off, to show my cleavage for their pleasure, for their viewing. They want me to go home with them, lay in bed with them. They are dying for it in this confused way. It’s almost hilarious if it weren’t volatile."

“Bold of you to assume they want you.” Rolla laughs humorlessly.

"Not bold at all. I don’t think every man is in love with me." Noor explains thoughtfully, "I don’t even think more than 100 men in the world would find me all that gorgeous. But that’s the crazy part of it. They think they are deserving of an opportunity to look at me like a slab of meat at the market and decide I’m worth their time. I've cut that out of the equation, I decided for them."

Sophia uncrosses her legs, only to cross them again, "Women are just as bad. From a heteronormative standpoint, they need to measure themselves against you. They don’t even know it half the time but we have been hypnotized to look at each other as a competition. Her butt is better than mine, my lips are better than hers. It’s a competition for these barely adequate guys we’re left to partner up with."

“What about outside the heteronormativity?" Rolla points out, "Gender and sexuality is a spectrum.”

Sophia nods, "It may be but the masses don’t care."

Noor adds, "My story doesn’t get any easier just because people are gay or transgender. The LGBTQ+ community is fighting a similar fight, as are other people of color, and feminists. We are all a team really. Especially when you consider someone Muslim and all of the above. But somehow the ignorant straight white man is still safe. And, as long as he’s safe, the rest of us aren’t."

Rolla lets out a long sigh, "So, I'm not safe either way."

Noor pats Rolla's arms, "If it's any comfort, I find that wearing the scarf gives me back a sense of control." She shrugs, "But like I said, I'm bias."

Sophia points to a child playing on the park's slide, "That kid is going to have it rough no matter their path. Their dark skin will only make it that much harder. And if they aren’t cisgender and straight, life is only gonna be more of a maze."

Noor slaps Sophia's hand down, "Oh my gosh, don't point at random children."

Sophia bites her lip, "Right. Well, you get what I mean."

Rolla chuckles, "Ya'll both totally didn't help."

Noor and Sophia glace at each other and laugh. Sophia says, "We did disclaim that we'd be unhelpful."

Rolla rolled over and stood up, "I'm going to wear it and see how I feel." She swipes her hair back, "Maybe if I just do it, the answers will fall in place."

"Maybe." The other two say simultaneously.

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