"It is no sin for them thy wives to converse
freely with their fathers, or their sons, or their
brothers, or their brother's sons, or the sons of their
sisters or their own women, or their slaves."
Well, look what the cat dragged in!
Despite the posture Zahra typically strikes (exuding a standoff air), Amy rushes to embrace her like a long-lost
You score, or what?
What means "you score"?
The roommates part.
Get laid, you silly goose.
They sit. A pair of kitchen chairs is
Zahra, still confused by how an egg and goose
are apt, falters. Amy,
fidgety, lights up
A cloud of noxious smoke escapes. Another,
put on hold, procrastinates...waits to be expelled with Amy's consternation.
Come on; tell. We've all been
frantic; you skipped out without so much as a sayonara.
At the very least, you could leak a few juicy details.
What's his name?
Amy's gray exhaust enshrouds her identically
tinted hair, a sort of cobweb halo hovering almost prettily—were
the sight of a woman smoking less objectionable to her roommate
who refrains from passing judgment (being taken to task herself,
in fact accused and sentenced to death by one of Allah's Servants).
He calls himself "Franchone"
and he is full of pride and arrogance.
Must be Black,
with a name like "Franchone." Good in bed?
Bemused by Amy's idiom,
Zahra stares without retort... until the meaning, by inflection,
Is sex you mean! Do
you presume that I would stoop to such unscrupulous behavior, give my
virtue, out of wedlock, to an infidel, doom my soul to exchange Eternity for some passing peacock fancy?
To each her own.
The haughty tone of Zahra's outburst serves
to wall her off from sympathy; there is something disingenuous,
Amy feels, though lets it drop.
Okay, where did you spend the
Aware of sounding too defensive, Zahra
condescends to offer an explanation.
In a park. Is called the Golden Gate,
I think, beside the ocean. Very beautiful. Very cold.
I'll bet. In that?
Zahra follows Amy's glance to Etta's light-weight jacket.
It sufficed; I am no weakling. We
were trained to suffer more.
Averse to answering questions that encroach
upon her history, Zahra nonetheless is tempted to elaborate.
Amy, sensing reticence, does not pressure for
particulars; Zahra, put at ease, seems ready to confide.
Our trials were many. Can you hold
your breath for a hundred seconds then release it and
make no sound? Or let a scorpion crawl the length of
your arm without flinching? Have you thirsted? Not some
insignificant yearning for a soda; I mean craving,
from tissues dry and shriveled as a sun-baked cow patty?
What of sleep? Have you been wakeful two, three days
with only hunger for distraction, fought the devil's own
temptation to trade-in duty for a catnap's leave? Have you lain
buried in the sand and sucked each breath through a
hollow reed until the heat and crushing weight became so
painful to your chest that even heartbeats hurt for want
of ample space? I do not boast. These tests and
others I have met to strengthen body, mind, and spirit,
and to conquer irreligion in all its evil modes. Lo! The path of Allah's Righteousness
guides not disbelievers.
What a speech! And what a crock! I'm not disputing that
you've done all that. Here's to you. What I doubt is,
that commercial for your sexist Muslim God. I mean,
Islam is worse than backward when it comes to rights for
women. Wearing black from head to foot when it's a
hundred in the shade? Getting stoned—to death!—for
offenses mostly trivial? Donning veils? I mean, the list goes
on and on; Islam is fucked if you're a female.
Your opinion rests on ignorance.
Hey! I got my GED! And I have
sense enough to keep myself from starving, if I don't
have to, or from letting someone plant me like a turnip;
what's the use? So you've gone thirsty; so you don't
freak out when bugs are on your body. You can hold your
breath for minutes, hours; so what? Who cares! Big deal!
Though unacquainted with the parlance used in
Amy's shrill rebuttal, its translation is implicit; Zahra gets
her roommate's gist. The role of women in Islam, if misconstrued
by those outside it, has, for one who lives within its
strictures, spurred misgivings.
True; Islam requires...
And what about owning slaves—that "right hand possesseth"
Amy mentally bites her tongue; this uttered
phrase incriminates. Zahra, taken aback, is once more on her
Where did... Have you read...?
"The Glorious Koran"? Those lines
you highlighted. Yeah; I skimmed it. That book
Also true. But in a context wherein owning slaves was
still sucks! If God is Good and Wise and Knows All
Things you'd think he'd badmouth slavery. You'd also
think he'd know that the Earth revolves around the sun.
You've got that marked in half a dozen places. How could
Allah get it wrong? Or was Muhammad the one who goofed
Is unfair. Long years of study raise
such queries. You
are rash to judge so harshly.
You were rash to call me ignorant.
What I meant was misinformed. To know Islam is
to engrave ones heart with Truth.
No way, Jose! It's bad enough that men control things
here on earth. Why give them Heaven? I object to all
religions that insist on God being male.
The fact of gender is implicit; God is
God but also masculine. It was Zahra's diplomat father who,
ironically, raised this issue, adamant that his only child
should reach her full potential irrespective Muslim mores, with
their emphases placed on men.
"The gift of knowledge comes from Allah as
the sun bestows its light. Does light discriminate man from
woman whenever it illuminates?"
Was this sage?
"Are creativity, logic, reason to be
sacrificed, or suspended, so that dogma can prevail untested and
They would argue.
"It is better to acknowledge disbelievers as
our brethren—be their ways ever-so misguided—than to clamor for
their blood. Who is to say, when one beholds a truth that
another sees as false, which view is right, when Allah only
is the Knower, the Wise?"
They disagreed. The Word was written.
Unequivocal was each dictum of the Prophet, peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him; perfect was the Law. And though the
Hadith or exegesis of Muhammad's transcribed verses,
sometimes varied, who were mortals to construe Immortal Quotes?
And who dare doubt the Angel Gabriel's strict dictation?
Zahra does her best to counter Amy's
I balked, too. Most men are hateful
in their domineering. Women must resist them. Were the
world a peaceful place, male stewardship might be
credited; it is not. But we have let our men mislead us
much like sheep.
Speak for yourself. The only man
who ever misled me was Greer. You two ever talk? Guy's got a
butt-burr when it comes to the ERA—that's the Equal
Rights Amendment. Thinks a woman's place, if not exactly
'in' the home, is 'near' it. Doesn't gripe so much about
equal pay for equal work in theory, but he does
think men are better-suited for better-paying jobs, and
that careers should be reserved for housewives once
up, or what? I swear, his la-de-da vocabulary gets me
more pissed off than yours—Sorry. 'Snooty' is what I
mean. He's smart, so we must all be dunces. Men will do
that; they're so bottled-up when it comes to their
they strut around like Quarterback Einsteins—brawn and
brains combined—without a clue they're
self-defeating, like offsetting penalties.
Amy crushes out her cigarette by way of
We were talking about your
mystery-man, Franchone. He really didn't hit on you?
Oh, no; there was no striking. All he
did was lay on hands.
I'll bet. You didn't have to nine-one-one 'im. You know, call the
Of course not. He was froward, I admit. But in the end,
I fell asleep.
You mean to tell me this man, what? Gave you a back rub,
a massage? And all he got from you in return were blasé
don't put out, I gather, either. When do Muslim's get it
on? Have 'sexual intercourse.' Gee, you're dense,
after marriage only.
Holy smokes, you're not a virgin, are you?
Twice, now, I am asked this!
Are Americans so outspoken with regard to private
matters that they cannot understand how impolite they
We're blunt. No "dirty-little-secrets"
go uncovered here. We flaunt our cheesy vices.
Sex and violence, our obsessions...
What has sex to do with
Just a phrase. You know, like what,
like toast and jam, like horse and carriage?
Are not those related?
Amy searches for a better simile.
Night and day, then. Total
opposites. Love and hate. Whatever. See?
I guess it is a little twisted
that we always link the two.
Arrested by a memory, Amy shares her
Ever been date-raped? 'Course
not. I have. Happened August 4th, last year. I told him
"absolutely no" and really meant it. But we were
drunk. And he was big as a fucking Mack truck. I gave
in. He humped and humped. I sort of drifted out of
myself and watched it in disgust.
You did not fight?
I guess I could have. He'd have
hurt me worse. As it is, I still get nightmares.
This was done to you, and still
you speak of sex without despair?
I "speak" of sex, I just don't do it. Haven't. Not since
August 4th. Not with a man, that is. You'll keep this
Zahra nods in a way she hopes conveys
Don't tell Greer; I may have mentioned
we were tight, once. It was off and on, but passionate.
Well, I thought of it as passionate. Then, last
night, I 'reassessed.' You swear you'll keep a lid on
what I'm about to tell you?
Zahra, spellbound, does a slo-mo instant
replay of her nod.
I'm bi. Capiche? You know,
bisexual? Getting off with both?
I know the term 'bisexual.'
"If it's wet, it's right," is how Cassandra phrased it.
She's my lover. We had drinks then went to her place. It
got late. She made a pass. It felt like sisters, almost.
Nothing much was said. We shared her futon. Next thing I
remember we were kissing. Things got hot. I mean, you
come, you come; it doesn't really matter who incites
it. She was good at oral sex but so was Greer; a
tongue's a tongue. What freaked me out was doing her
while she was doing me. Narcissus. The myth from ancient
Greece—you know, the youth who loved himself? I kept
that story in my head the whole time Cass and I went at
it. Seemed like I was licking me was licking mine was
licking hers except that hers and mine were virtually
indistinguishable. Weird, huh? Rad! And now I'm
wondering; am I gay or bi or straight or who-knows-what?
I know for certain I'm confused.
Amy lights a second cigarette, her first toke
deep, drawing in the smoke like a genie to its bottle.
The smoke explodes in a sort of dragon's
snort through Amy's studded nostrils as she cocks a
semi-skeptical brow at Zahra.
Is true. I am uncertain, much as
you are, my experience also limited, but I do believe we
have this trait in common.
Back so soon?
Having entered through the side-street door
(which subsequently SLAMS) Duke descends to the kitchen, crab-walking down the stairs.
An unvoiced 'later' (read on Amy's lips)
suspends the tête à tête. Duke pulls up a chair and
straddles it in reverse. Looking one to the other, he eyes the
I interrupt somethin'?
I was just about to tell her.
Arms crossed, Duke tilts his seat.
Don't mind me; go right ahead.
Anything you leave out, I'll help fill in.
The mood has changed. Before specifics are
imparted, Zahra guesses why.