“Dude, where’s my hijab?!!”
Dude rolled over, the sweaty paisley sheets wrapped around his legs in a limp embrace.
"My hijab, Dude. Where is it? I gotta go home...it's after nine. I gotta get dressed, Dude!"
Najii pivoted her butt around on the bed, gingerly planting her feet on the cold planks of Dude's floor. She retrieved her sandals from underneath, shoving her feet through the straps, the glittery chartreuse nailpolish of her toes shocking against the stained leather. "Dude, I gotta go home and get ready ... I gotta be over on Atlantic Avenue at ten to open my father's shop."
Dude sat up in his bed, scratching his prickly chin. With a gaping yawn, he reached over to the nightstand where a half-empty pack of Gauloises awaited. "So go already, Najii. I'm not stopping you, am I?" He fished out a cigarette and lit up, filling the darkness of the tiny apartment with its unbearable pungent smoke. "Go. You know how to let yoursef out. Fuck, you've had enough practice..."
Najii glared at him, thinking yet again how he resembled a corndog, with his crusty mustard colored hair dripping over his shoulders. "Don't give me no grief, Dude, you know I can't go out uncovered. You know that, Dude." She wiggled herself into her grey tunic. "Where's that damn hijab!"
Dude sighed, exhaling contrails of putrid smoke. "Well, the friggin' rag was wrapped around your head when you came in last night. So unless the rag fairy did something to it during the night, it's here, somewhere." He looked around, scanning the piles of dirty clothes and canned food piled eveywhere. "Jesus...How did this dump get so messy?"
Najii snorted. "Your Jesus had nothing to do with this. You're just a pig, Dude." She reached for the nearest pile and began sorting through the sticky mound of towels and garments. "Shit, Dude, it's not here, either...my abu will kill me. I mean seriously, Dude, he will fuckin' kill me if he sees me uncovered. And I'm gonna be late opening...I am gonna be dead, so fuckin' dead. You gotta help me, man."
She turned to him, imploring with her liquid eyes, those eyes he thought of as molten charcoal, smoky and perilous; eyes that had drawn him past the head cover and straight into the tar pits, on that muggy June night in the park months ago, and refused to release him, despite his many deficits. What was the lure, Dude asked himself, daily...Sex? Love? Danger? The allure of the unknown? Or an innate masochism that ruled his every desire... He stood to help her, the sheet dropping to the floor. Still, something was stuck to him, plastered on by the sweat of the previous night's passion and the lack of air-conditioning...
"Dude, there it is, my hijab! It's stuck in your butt, Dude!"
Dude reached behind himself and with a yank freed the somber gray headcover from its place of entrapment. "Yeah, sure is. Oh, well, at least we found it. Problem solved, right, Najii? Now I need some coffee..."
Najii snatched the hajib from his grasp. "Fuck your coffee, Dude! My hijab smells like your butt now! I gotta wear this on my head, and it smells like your butt!"
Dude took the hajib from her and sniffed. "Nah, that's not butt, that's Old Spice."
Najii looked at him in disbelief. "You put Old Spice on your butt? Oh man, you Americans are strange...My abu, he'll smell this, he'll know I was with a man...You gotta do something, Dude." She looked at her watch, and the smoky eyes filled with tears..."I can't be late."
Dude sat back down on the saggy mattress, patting the spot next to him. "Come sit," he said, pushing his mustard locks back with a flourish. Dabbing at her eyes with the back of her hand, she complied. "Listen," Dude said, placing his arm around her shoulders, "I'll take the damn rag to the corner laundromat and wash it and I swear, I swear, it'll be better than new. And for now, just watch me." He stood up and went to the miniscule kitchenette, producing a pair of scissors, and then grabbed the paisley sheet.
Snip Snip Snip. "Here it is," he announced, "Your new designer hijab from the south Gowanus boutique. With my compliments."
Najii held up what remained of the sheet she had slept on last night, ribbons of red and yellow paisely. "Dude, I can't wear this...Are you fuckin' crazy?"
"Put it on."
Najii draped the cloth over her head and around her lower face, covering the midnight hair, only the light from her eyes beaming out at him. "I can't..."
Dude raised his hand to her, brushing back a stray strand of hair from her face. "You look beautiful. You are beautiful."
"Go. Get out of here, Nadii, before you're late. It's twenty minutes on the bus to Atlantic Avenue."
Najii grabbed her tote bag and fled, slamming the door behind her. Dude could hear the flipflop of her sandals as she scurried down the four flights to the street. He went to the window and raised the shade, just in time to see the colors of her headgear disappearing onto the downtown bus. Alone now, with the lingering stink of drugstore cologne and Gauloises, Dude began the morning ritual of grinding his coffee beans. Najii would be just fine, he knew, and her father bewildered by her new American hijab. As he waited for the French Press to finish its slow drip, he remembered Najii's hajib, balled up on the bed. Pressing it to his face, he inhaled, then inhaled again. There would be time for the laundromat later, Dude decided. For now, the hijab, and its hint of Najii, was enough to kick start his day. That, and his coffee.
Photo Courtesy scpr.org