NAIMA

If she were a Christian, she would have qualified for the post of chair lady in the Christian Union. But she was a Muslim- and she would have been chair lady there too! I think the only reason she didn’t take the post was because she was simply higher than us- human beings- erroneous mortals!

She was Little Miss Saint, with an ever calm face and gentle eyes that were always downcast, as she walked to and from the mosque, dorm or class all covered up like a Taliban. For some reason, she made me think of the Virgin Mary statues in my church! I had the feeling that if ever her eyes fell upon you- a sinner, it would be Mary Magdalene and Jesus all over again!

I know I felt that way once when we met along the school highway. I almost greeted her in the name of Jesus before catching myself, swallowing my words, looking away and walked past her fast as I could.

Replaying this scene later on, it really ticked me off because for one, I am a talker. I never miss anything to say. Never! And I also felt like it was a wasted opportunity! I mean, I could have provoked her to answer so that I’d know if she spoke the common lingua!

After beating myself up, I decided to stalk her and feed my curiosity.

I had never seen a strand of her hair. That day, for some reason, I just wanted to make sure she had no halo floating above her head and so I pretended to visit a pal who stayed in the same dorm.

So there she was, changing to go to the mosque. And soon as she took off her white hijab to wrap a lesso around her head, I frowned in disappointment. Nothing special! Forget the halo; she didn’t even have the silky Arabic hair that Arabs have! And she was Arab! My curiosity sagged like a sack of wet salt and I dropped the investigation.  I dubbed her Virgin Mary and let her be.

Then one ordinary evening as I sat on my desk reading a novel before preps, my pal Jess brought a book in which she asked me to write her the lyrics of a song by Westlife. Curious me perused the book first in search of love notes or diary secrets or just anything else to perk me up! The kind of drama I live for! And I found it. Not in many words but only two- NAIMA AHMED.

The one and only- Naima Ahmed a.k.a. Virgin Mary.

This was not good.

I know Jess and I stole books, tore the front pages, wrote our own names and made them ours but she had definitely gone overboard! I quickly called Jess back.

When she hopped to my desk and leaned over to me, I glared at her, “You stole this book.” I declared.

Jess frowned “No didn’t. “ She reached over and flipped the book to show the cover .“Why would I steal a book and not change the name?”

“That’s what I’d like to find out.”

Jess shook her head, “It’s Naima’s. She wants lyrics to a sing I don’t know and you do so….” She shrugged. When I still stared at her she asked irritably “What?” after sometime, a naughty glimmer crept into her eyes. She had that wild look of the addicted gossip she was.

Smiling like the devil she asked conspiratorially, “Have you found something interesting?” She pushed me to make space for herself and begun perusing through the book.

She giggled, “A love letter?”Casting a quick look behind us and she whispered even lower “Lesbian letters?”

I laughed!

“Don’t be dramatic Jess.” I said taking the book from her,” I am just shocked that she wants lyrics to a secular song. I thought the only thing she wrote were class notes and surahs!”

Jess threw her head back in laughter. I didn’t find it amusing. It’s not like it wasn’t possible!

“Are you kidding me? She has like three song books! And trust me; none of them contain Muslims gospel songs…” she frowned, “Muslim gospels songs? Is that correct?” she wondered aloud and started getting up. Just then, I spotted Virgin Mary walk into the class.

“Naima!” Jess called to her. Why was she calling her?!

She smiled and came over as I waited, curious. If by any chance she spoke in tongues, Jess would be my translator.

“Diana here is shocked that you have a song book…”

Very tactical Jess!

“… She thought you write Koran verses only!” then she burst out laughing again. What was so funny?

Naima laughed a little and shook her head. I gave a toothy smile vowing not to feel embarrassed!

“I do write surahs too,” she said smoothly, “but they are at the back.”

Sure enough, I noticed the Arabic writings when I opened the book from the back. I shrugged feeling a little defensive, “Well, I never knew you were one for secular songs- let alone love songs!”

“I love blues! They are my favorite!” Naima said, her eyes lighting up in excitement.  I decided to pinch and see if she’d jump

“Really?” I asked unconvinced. “Fave musicians?”

“Ummm Backstreet, Celine Dion, Brandy…”

Jess rolled her eyes, ” Westlife.”

Naima snapped her finger “Aha! Westlife are awesome!”

“Hey! I love Westlife too!” I conceded.

“At last, someone who agrees with me!” she raised a brow at Jess who rolled her eyes again

“They are lame and they are gay!” Jess declared.

“They are not!” I exclaimed hotly! I had a crush on Nicky! He could not be gay!

“Of course they are.”

“Nope!” Naima defended and held one hand akimbo, “And I can prove it!”

Jess folded her arms about her scanty bosom ,“Really.”

“Ah-huh! I have a Cosmo magazine that has an article on them!” Naima said proudly.

Whoa! Time out! Cosmo? As in Cosmopolitan?! Cosmo with celebrity gossip and sex and all forbidden things a high school chic should not be caught reading?! I had definitely misjudged her!

Jess shook her head vehemently “They are gay! All of them!” She all but shouted and there was suddenly a sharp rap on the door.

We all turned to see the teacher on duty staring daggers at the noisy class and especially at us. Naima smiled and mouthed “later” as Jess took her seat to my left. The teacher, made a brief, threatening speech then left, after which I noticed Jess making a face at someone across me. To my furthest right, Naima argued wordlessly and waved a Cosmo magazine at Jess. She then looked at me and signaled that I should hit Jessica’s head.

Jess gave me a warning look which I had to smile at.

Opening Naima’s song book, I began writing the lyrics.

Funny how we can be so wrong about people we label at first sight because we have preconceived notions about how they should acted huh? I thought inwardly and looked at her. She had biology book on her desk, and on the tiny space between her and the book, I caught a glimpse of something that could only be a magazine, I was sure, had nothing to do with biology!

I smiled to myself. We are going to be great friends!

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