"Little Pink Box" Part One

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Spring 2005

Taqwa re-wrapped her colorful dupatta around her hair after her family gathered for the 'isha prayer.  She couldn't believe what she and her mother were about to do.  She smiled until her face hurt; she was so excited.  She carefully applied mascara and a bit of concealer to her golden skin.  She put on her green contacts and then went to see her younger brother, beaming at the front door.  She gave him one last hug and reminded him that whatever God wants will ultimately happen.  Then, she and her parents walked outside their home, laughing and talking as they settled in their modest family car.  Her humble, happy father sat in the front seat.  And away they went.

She remembered exactly how to direct her parents to Judi's house.  As they wound around the lit metropolitan streets, they praised Him audibly.  The mood was ambient, and sweet memories of Judi filled their discussion.  She could not wait to see Judi's face when they arrived with the surprise.

Judi was the cheeriest, most dynamic friend she had.  Both girls were pre-dental students and, since they met on campus during their first year at school, had become inseparable.  

"I love Judi," her mother exclaimed, "Because whenever she is around, everybody is always happy, masha Allah!"

"And she is so knowledgeable about Islam, Ammi jaan!" Taqwa contributed to the discussion.

 " Masha Allah," her father smiled from behind the wheel.

Judi was always busy organizing halaqas, encouraging people to come to Islam, feeding the hungry, and memorizing the Quran herself.  Somehow, she also managed to keep a 4.0 GPA in school.  She was the kind of girl who never spoke ill of anyone or anything.  The world was a beautiful place when Judi was around.  

"I always made duah that Judi would become part of our family," Taqwa said.  She never wanted to pressure her brother to consider any of her friends for marriage--but, truth be told, Taqwa and her mother had discussed Judi on more than one occasion.  They both loved Judi.  Taqwa wished for the opportunity to introduce Judi to her brother, but she never actually mentioned it to him.  

Finally, one day, her brother approached his mother and sister for advice about a Muslim girl he saw around on campus.  He was interested in her, but did not know her name.  He described her features and peppy demeanor and mentioned that he had seen his sister with this girl many times before.  

Taqwa could not believe her ears--she immediately scrounged up a photograph of Judi to show her brother.  "Is this the girl you are referring to?  Is Judi the one you would like to meet for marriage?" She waited anxiously for her brother to take up the photograph.  His face lit up the moment he saw the picture and he nodded that yes, this was the girl he had been silently considering for the past year.  

Taqwa and her mother were so delighted by this news that they chose not to waste another moment in time, and they head off.   It was around eight thirty by the time their car pulled up into Judi's driveway.   

Recently, Judi had returned from an extended trip to Jordan.  Taqwa had not seen her in months, and she played with the bangles lining her wrist in joyous anticipation of her surprise for her friend.

Taqwa's father chose to remain in the car just in case someone in Judi's family answered the door uncovered.  He would wait, he said, to enter the house, until they were ready. Judi and her mother held hands as they walked up the tiled front patio.  

"I hope they're home!"  Taqwa said, noting that the patio lights were off--which was unusual for Judi's family.  They could hear loud noises, though, so they continued up the steps in hopes of finding the family awake.

They rang the doorbell once and twice, giggling and hugging each other closely.  Finally, Judi answered the door.  

"We came to propose to you on behalf of--!" Taqwa's mother couldn't finish her sentence.  They stood there in shock.

Judi was crying hysterically.  She fully dressed, but her clothes were soaking wet.  She reached out to give her salams to Taqwa and her mother, and her hands, legs, and entire body was shaking.  Her hair was tousled and she didn't seem to realize that she had stepped outside with her head uncovered.  She kissed Taqwa's mother and then stepped back into the house, speaking to them through a crack in the door.  She looked utterly terrified.  "Please don't tell anyone you saw me like this," she whispered hoarsely.  

"What do you want us to do?" Taqwa cried.

 "Please leave," her speech was barely audible through her heavy tears.  "Please leave."  

Then she shut the door.   

And the two girls never spoke of this incident again.

Spring 2013

Jabira sat in two feet of scolding hot water with her knees sticking up and analyzed the grime lining the bathtub.  Her toothpaste cap had fallen behind the toilet.  Her shampoo was almost finished.  Her shower caddy was disorganized, and her loofah needed to be replaced.  Dirty clothes were piled on the floor and she ran out of Q-tips.  

She didn't want to live.

She slowly opened a chic, black, eco-friendly container and looked at the creamy, natural face wash made of beeswax and vanilla.  She watched her un-manicured finger dip into the expensive little container and subsequently approach her face.  She felt the waxy oils absorbing like an unwanted hug into her right cheek.  Then, she dipped again.

I should be grateful that my face has finally cleared up after all these years, she thought to herself.  I should be grateful that I can afford such expensive hygiene products.  She remembered one of Judi's favorite verses in the Quran:

 "And if you thank Me, I will increase you[r blessings]." {14:7}

The water she sat in was soiled with various lengths of shaved body hair mixed with droplets of oil from a salted scrub--Jabira ruthlessly used against a bleeding cut in her skin.  She was disgusted with herself.  Why didn't I listen to Judi, she thought, and use an epilator.  She signed and forced herself out of the tub.  It had been a long time since she saw Judi.  Her skin was red from the burn of the water, and she didn't care.  Sweet pain.

Stepping out of the shower in a towel, she noticed dust balls on the floor.  She didn't use her slippers, but wandered barefoot and drippy instead to a dusty couch.  She sank down into it and felt the grainy dirt from the couch stick to her clean skin.  Sweet pain.

Her phone rang, and for a slight second, her mood improved.  But only for a moment.  Who could be calling me?  She thought, trying not to get her hopes up.  Jabira had no friends.  As she picked up her phone, she noticed that the call was from an unknown number.  She answered meekly: "Hello?"

A voice on the other line identified herself as one of Jabira's coworkers, calling on behalf of another coworker who wanted to borrow some supplies.  As soon as Jabira began to say that it would be alright, the voice on the other end of the line cut her off with, "It's ok with you?  Thanks so much habibti; bye now."  Click.  

Pain. 

Jabira curled up into a tiny, towel-y ball on the dirty couch and cried. 

 

Dena AtassiComment