If I Should Speak, page 19
“Just make du’aa,” Sarah advised, not knowing what else to say.
“I do,” Aminah told her, almost whining.
Sarah was silent, now rinsing the dishcloth in the sink. The sound of water running heavily and pounding against the metal sink replaced the awkward silence and relieved the women from having to speak, at least for the moment. When she turned off the water, she squeezed the cloth in her fists. The water slid through the spaces between her fingers, and she began wiping the counter again. Her mind was far from concentrating on the food that had fallen there. “Just keep on her.”
“That’s the thing,” Aminah sighed, complaining. “I do that all the time, but —”
“Does she listen?”
“Sometimes.” She sighed again. “But recently, she’s been real resistant and irritable.”
“Do you know why?” Sarah guided a small pile of food droppings into her palm, its side pressed gently against the edge of the counter to catch it.
“She doesn’t talk to me.” Aminah felt like she was spilling her heart out.
Sarah was silent.
“I don’t know what else to do.”
“Just keep trying.”
Aminah groaned. “I do.”
She sighed again. “But I’m tired. I don’t have time to think about it anymore.”
“You have time,” her mother corrected, secretly empathizing with Aminah. She herself was unsure what her daughter should do.
“She’s just not Durrah anymore.” Aminah was not certain if it was a necessary statement, wondering if it was considered backbiting. She hoped it was not.
Earlier that day, as she listened to Durrah’s sisters talk to Tamika about Islam, she was reminded of Durrah, who once had been energetic, lively and dedicated to the religion. Even Naimah’s concern about Tamika going to the Hell Fire reminded Aminah of Durrah when she was a child.
“You think they’re scared?” Durrah had asked once, her s sound a whistle through the large gap where her teeth had fallen out. There was a hint of a budding tooth barely visible on her top gums. Durrah and Aminah were sitting on the swing set in Durrah’s backyard, rocking slightly and gently kicking the soft dirt as they talked.
“The kuffaar?” Aminah asked. The non-Muslims was a subject that was mind-boggling to them both, the concept of them going to Hell Fire eternally being their most popular topic. At the age of six and seven, the girls were inquisitive and very imaginative. Everything they read was real, vivid, as if right before them. They read in the Qur’an about the lasting torment of Hell and how its flames burned the skin. The skin would be restored, only to be burnt again. The flaming fire would be fueled by people—the disbelievers. The girls were terrified, haunted. It was as if they were reading a horror story. At their tender age, they could not understand how anyone actually chose to go there by not being Muslim.
“I don’t know,” Aminah replied, contemplating. “Maybe.”
“You think they don’t know?” Durrah wanted an answer, needed an answer, much like her sister Naimah had.
“About the Fire?”
“I don’t know, but Ummee says most know,” Aminah said in her childish tone referring to her mother.
“Really?” Durrah asked slowly, stunned. It made no sense to her. How could they know and not be Muslim?
“Yeah,” Aminah said confidently, more because her mother had told her than her own certainty and knowledge, although she was making it appear like the latter.
“Maybe they forget?”
“Probably ‘cause they can’t see.”
“But they see.”
“No,” she had told Durrah, correcting, her desire to be knowledgeable ringing in her voice. “The thing over their eyes is invisible.”
“Invisible?” Durrah repeated in amazement. “So they can’t see it?”
“Yeah, and Ummee says it’s called a veil.”
“Like what my mom wears?”
“Yeah, but its not made out of the regular fabric stuff.”
“No,” Aminah told her, her childish voice becoming authoritative. “It’s made out of something else.”
She considered it. “I don’t know,” she admitted but quickly added, “but they can’t see anything with it.”
“No, not the good stuff.”
“So they see all bad stuff!”
“Yeah,” Aminah told her, convincing herself at the same time. Her explanation sounded logical.
“I don’t ever want to wear one,” Durrah stated emphatically.
“You never gonna wear it, ‘Minah?” her eyes asked, scared, as if she needed a promise from her best friend.
“No, I won’t,” Aminah promised.
“You think we can take it off if it comes on us?”
She considered Durrah’s question. “It’s a real strong fabric, I think, too strong to come off.”
Durrah shook her head. “Then I don’t ever want to wear it.”
Presently, Aminah shook her head, unable to get the striking similarities between Naimah and her older sister Durrah out of her head. Both were terrified of everything they read and could never understand anyone actually choosing a path other than that of Islam.
“But she’ll come around, inshaAllaah,” Sarah told her daughter, consoling.
“Yeah,” Aminah agreed slowly, wanting to believe her mother.
“A lot of Muslims who grew up in Muslim families go through many changes before coming back to Islam,” Sarah comforted. “It’s common.”
Aminah nodded slowly in agreement, her thoughts distant. “That’s true.”
“So don’t worry about it,” Sarah advised. “Just keep on her, and keep making du’aa. She’ll see one day.”
“But she already knows,” Aminah pointed out.
Sarah was silent momentarily. She sighed. “I think that’s the case with most Muslims who grew up in Islamic households but get caught up in the world,” she replied thoughtfully. “They know, but they just don’t act.”
“But that’s scary.”
“I know,” she agreed, sharing her daughter’s sentiments. She was suddenly worried about her own soul, realizing how easy it was to go astray.
“I just don’t know how long I can stand living with her.” Aminah knew it sounded cruel, but she wanted her mother to know that she was tired of babysitting. It was beginning to take a toll on her own faith and ability to practice Islam.
Sarah sighed. She was afraid Aminah would say it. It had concerned even her for quite some time, and she was afraid for her daughter. Sarah understood how association led to assimilation and how each person was on the path of her friend, and this frightened Sarah. But she was too shy, too ashamed, to share her gut feelings with Maryam. She was afraid to offend her, hurt her—afraid to bring to Maryam’s attention what she did not want to admit. But Sarah was worried about Aminah, aware that college life was fast paced, alluring, especially in the social arena. And Aminah was human, like anyone, and she was not immune to temptation. Although she firmly believed Durrah would come around, Sarah was afraid that, in the meantime, some of her bad habits and desires would rub off on Aminah.
“And,” Aminah continued, sighing, feeling comfort in talking to her mother, “I want to do da’wah to Tamika, but,” she shook her head, “I can’t even get a chance with Durrah around. She’s such a —”
“Be patient,” her mother cut in, implicitly warning her daughter to not go overboard in expressing her frustrations. Sarah did not want the conversation to be directed at tarnishing Durrah’s character. “Allah guides whom He wills. If Tamika’s meant to be Muslim, she’ll be Muslim, no matter what Durrah does. So just focus on them both, but try to be an example. That’s the most important thing
The rain’s pounding lessened until it became a drizzle, sprinkles that the wind blew into Dee’s and Tamika’s faces, tickling their noses and cheeks gently like a light shower. They stood outside the door to Dee’s recorder’s home. It was a small house, Tamika noticed, and not too far from the school, the drive having been no more than five minutes.
“He lives in Streamsdale?” Tamika inquired in surprise. She had no idea that any recorders lived close by.
“He’s a graduate student studying music.”
“At the university?”
The door opened and a tall, handsome young man dressed casually in a T-shirt and jeans stood in the doorway and invited the students inside. Tamika could not tell what race he was. He could have been American, Latino, or perhaps even partly Asian, but his dark hair was cut low, too short to derive any hints from its texture. He smiled. “Come in, please.”
He had no accent, Tamika noticed.
“You must be Tamika,” he greeted, extending his hand, and Tamika accepted it, shaking it, placing her small hand in his large one.
“My name is Kevin.”
The house was quiet except for the soft sound of music playing from a stereo. The house smelled of a pleasant, fresh scent that Tamika could not identify.
“I’ll take your coats,” he offered as they took them off, accepting them in his hands and hanging them on a coat rack behind the door.
“Is anyone hungry?”
Tamika shook her head. “No thank you.” She had not eaten in several hours, but she was so nervous that she doubted that she could stomach anything at the moment.
“I’m fine, thanks,” Dee declined politely.
“Okay, then I guess we can get started,” he smiled, clasping his hands together and leading the roommates past the living room and opening a door.
“I work out of my basement,” he explained to Tamika as they descended the carpeted steps.
“He’s got the whole place set up,” Dee told her, grinning.
As they entered the basement, Tamika glanced around her, admiring approvingly. The basement was carpeted, neatly arranged with tape and CD shelves along the walls. Along one wall was a recording studio, fully equipped, appearing professional. In a small, enclosed room that was likely meant to be an office were a few microphones, lined up and plainly visible through the glass. He was definitely a recorder, Tamika noted. He was fully equipped for the job.
“I’m ready whenever you are,” Kevin told them, taking a seat behind his electric piano and other equipment.
Dee cut a glance at Tamika, smirking teasingly and nudging her.
Tamika nudged Dee too, letting her know that she had better come to the microphones with her.
Dee shrugged, giving in, and Tamika followed her friend to the room. Dee shut the door, and a moment later, Tamika heard Kevin’s voice through an intercom.
“Now, you both can sing,” he told them, as if making a deal, “but I need to hear Tamika alone first.”
Tamika’s heart raced, and she tried to calm herself.
“Are your microphones on?”
Dee tapped hers and its sound echoed. Tamika did the same for hers then lowered it to suit her height, which was a few inches under Dee’s. As she did so, a piercing sound screeched from the movement, startling her.
“It’s okay,” Kevin told her, chuckling a bit, embarrassing Tamika.
Dee eyed her friend, grinning teasingly. Tamika rolled her eyes at her playfully.
“We’re gonna do a little ad-libbing,” he explained. “So just sing whatever comes to your mind, and I’ll add music later, and then you’ll keep singing.”
“Yes,” he replied, smiling and laughing lightly at Tamika’s nervousness, causing Dee to giggle.
Tamika cleared her throat, stalling, and cleared it again, chuckling nervously. “I guess I’ll just sing the same thing I sang for Dee.”
“That’s fine,” Kevin told her. “After I get a feel for it, I’ll add music to it.”
He must be really good then, Tamika admired internally. She cleared her throat again and forced a cough. She then shut her eyes and began singing, her voice shaking somewhat at first then becoming stronger, “I don’t know how, and Lord knows I don’t know why, but I can’t stop thinking if I’ll ever have a chance not to cry...”
In the middle of her singing, the music began, complementing her song. It seemed to belong with the words. Unsure what to do, she started the song again, singing as if she had written it in this manner. But she sang it slightly different to add to the appearance that it was longer than it actually was. As she sang, she relaxed, now comfortable, the music encouraging her, its melodic sound enveloping her, its beauty intoxicating, causing her to wish it would never end.
But it did, and she sang her last words, dragging them out, her voice powerful and captivating.
Dee clapped profusely, laughing and nodding at Kevin, who also clapped, their encore embarrassing Tamika. Her face became warm, unable to relax with the attention.
When Kevin asked her to sing again, the nervousness was no longer there. She wanted to keep singing, not wanting the night to ever end. Song after song, she sang, and finally she and Dee sang a song together—not the one she wrote though, because it was not quite finished.
“I think we have a budding artist on our hands,” Kevin commented late that night after they had finished. They were now sitting at his kitchen table nibbling on chips and drinking cans of grape soda.
“I think so,” Dee agreed emphatically, her smile large, spreading across her face. “You think she can go professional?” she asked Kevin, the inquiry more friendly teasing than one that needed an answer.
“Definitely,” Kevin nodded, laughing and playing along. “The T.D. Sisters,” he added jokingly, giving the two a stage name.
Dee burst into laughter. “That sounds like a disease!”
“What? T.D.?” Kevin repeated, considering it, then laughing himself. “I suppose it does.”
Tamika chuckled uncomfortably, sensing the two were close friends and that she did not belong, but she was enjoying the moment nonetheless.
“You should just stick to composing and recording,” Dee teased sarcastically. “And pay someone else to name the group.”
“Hey, hey,” he warned playfully. Chuckling, he pointed at her. “Watch it.”
“But it’s true,” she insisted, turning to Tamika. “Don’t you think so?”
Caught off guard, Tamika shrugged and forced laughter. “Don’t ask me. I’m not in it.”
“Hey, c’mon, I need support here!”
“She’s smart,” Kevin told Dee humorously.
“She’s on my side anyway,” Dee announced proudly, kidding with him. “We’re women.”
“Now that’s not fair,” Kevin complained playfully.
“Too bad,” Dee sang as she laughed and threw her hands up in the air to indicate finality.
“Fine, fine,” he gave in. “I’m outnumbered.”
Tamika smiled, unsure if she was supposed to participate in the exchange.
They went back and forth for a while more, Dee and Kevin, Tamika merely chuckling every now and again, until Kevin mentioned that Tamika might be tired.
“Oh yeah,” Dee replied apologetically but still smiling from her exchange with Kevin. “I’m sorry,” she told Tamika, standing. “Let’s go then.”
Tamika stood, relieved, having begun to feel uneasy. She felt as if she were intruding.
Kevin also stood, and the roommates followed him to the door. He handed them their coats and helped each one put hers on. Tamika felt awkward with the friendly gesture.
“Drive carefully,” he advised them with sincere concern, opening the door, the cold night air stunning Tamika’s body, which had grown accustomed to the warm house.
“We’ll be in touch,” he told Tamika, who nodded. “You got a good voice there.”
She smiled uncomfortably.
“Give me a call, okay?” he told Dee, who nodded and waved, making her way out the door.
“Have a good night,” he told them, his refined manners becoming apparent to Tamika, impressing her.
“You too,” she mumbled at the same time Dee replied.
The door shut, and they were suddenly outside in the cold. Tamika’s mind was filled with curiosity. There were questions she wanted to ask but would not. Dee was smiling and shaking her head, still enjoying the conversation of that night.
The drive was silent. Both women were engrossed in their thoughts, Dee’s pleasant, a smile frozen on her face, Tamika’s contemplative, reflective. She was trying to make sense of everything but was unable to because she could not justify her mental inquiries, suspicions. But she decided finally to put them out of her head, because they were not important. Curiosity often led a person to places that reality would not take her once she discovered the truth.
Tamika slept soundly for quite some time into the night, but something woke her, and at first she was uncertain what it was, and she lay still listening intently for what it had been. A moment later she heard the muffled murmurs, and in sleepy delusion she instinctively thought the sound was voices of intruders, her heart racing with fear at the thought. A second later, she came to her senses as she recognized the voice. It was Dee, her voice low and unintelligible from where she spoke in the living room. Instinctively, Tamika glanced to where Dee usually slept, the faint glow beneath the door barely lighting the room but enabling her to see her surroundings. The bed was empty and disheveled, as if Dee had been sleeping but awoke, for Tamika had never seen Dee’s bed unmade if she was not in it.
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