1. "Beautified is the life of the world for those who disbelieve; they make a jest of the believers."
2. So true; America the Beautiful. All here is lovely; yet we who credit its Creator are rashly mocked.
3. I am Z.
4. Z is my pen name, not my given name. I must speak my heart disguised. A refugee, I am, from country and conscience both.
5. This is Arabic.
6. I compose my thoughts in stanzas, echoing the Qur'an, each idea numbered. You are reading a translation like the one that I have here. Much is lost, however. English serves the truths of Al-Islam not well.
7. Please excuse my clumsiness, then, in trying to bridge the gulf between our two cultures.
8. I do speak English, having studied many years in school and with my tutors. Yours is a language frank, expressing anything and everything, though grounded in the literal.
9. Oh! A woman passes outside this bus, her motor scooter racing, her hair unfurled from her helm like a liberated flag.
10. "Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will..." So quoteth Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, in our Glorious Qur'an.
11. Is cause to ponder.
12. Unlike Christians, who are apt to bend the Word to suit themselves, we Muslims cast our faith in the perfect mold of Allah; Allah's slaves. This is a title of distinction; slaves of Allah are divine, albeit solemn in our dutiful humility.
13. Yet I have doubts.
14. Mine, therefore, will be a painful doom. A fate I must accept, although I feel it needs be documented. Sharing it with others may foster understanding. Or serve, at least, as an antidote for my wanton-woman lies.
15. A woman lies in self-defense.
16. A woman lies to wage aggression.
17. Lies, I believe, are poisonous. To you, I will not tell them.
Holy cow! I just caught Glorianne's attention with my patented Pinkney wink; her black-lace lashes lowered like vestal-virgin veils. Add chastity to her attributes—unless my groin projects. Modest to a fault. Pure as the driven snow. Strike that. Pure as what? Damned if I'll resort to tired clichés. Prose by Franchone Pinkney shall be nothing but original!
18. He is staring.
19. Three seats forward sits a young man who regards me impolitely. Conceited, is his posture and the gesture he has made, his one eye twitching shut above a thick-lipped smile.
20. Dark is his complexion. A face that loves the mirror.
21. Comeliness is a bane. We who are not pretty are blessed in soulful ways. Twice blessed if our forms but little show.
"Please Exit Through The Rear Doors."
Oh, oh! She's getting off. I'll miss my chance—or be late for work. Fucking time-clock! Fucking slack-ass job! She's slipping through my fingers. Strike that. Dodging Franchone's query. I'd better make my mind up quickly; give chase or conform, pursue my Muse or goose-step off drudgery.
Z turns but does not break her stride as Franchone exits the bus. In a bound or two he easily overtakes her.
Franchone, using his index fingers, lifts his upper lip. Z, despite herself, looks at his gummy grin.
Z's ingenuous question would appear to confirm Franchone's deduction.
Z recoils. She has received this recitation with a growing apprehension, disconcerted by its indiscreet clairvoyance.
He steps aside, his palms upturned in a deferential gesture.
Warily Z restrains the urge to flee.
She tries to pass, as Franchone, walking backward, keeps apace.
22. This man is much insistent upon making my acquaintance. With his mouth he fosters confidence; with his eyes he earns distrust. He tries to see what clothes are meant to hide, disclaiming crude intentions.
23. I will find a means of leaving when he least expects my flight, for it is better to escape such rakish company.
The "Golden Calf Cafe" is not your typical greasy-spoon, nor does it offer haut cuisine at upscale prices. I'd place it somewhere in the middle: ample portions, decent value, basic burgers, mud-thick milkshakes, fries from Idaho spuds—un-skinned, and Coca-Cola served in bottles not rip-your-lip cans. Decor? Formica; namely countertops, tabletops, floors, walls, and ceilings of brown-and-white Formica—gilded—in a rawhide pattern like a Guernsey cow stampede. Now there's a metaphor! Girl's inspiring! We're having dinner. I've renewed my 'seer' routine, though "Z" (unlikely name) evades my crystal-ball conjectures.
Z neither disavows nor affirms—her expression deadpan.
Inscrutable, Z fails to flinch.
Franchone interrupts himself to attack his burger lustily. Z maintains composure while picking at her salad.
He shifts his plate between them.
Z extends her fork and skewers a proffered fry.
She dips the crinkled tip in a pool on Franchone's plate.
Z resumes her noncommittal, poker-faced facade.
Outraged instantaneously, Z protests.
Z is on her feet, now, ransacking her purse. She finds a twenty dollar bill and drops it beside her napkin. As patrons watch obliquely, she takes her leave.
Franchone's parting shot does little to save his face. Affecting nonchalance, he resumes his paid-for meal—the money left behind like a retroactive slap.
I once met a coed from Turkey