A black vertical cloud, that's how they see me. A talking walking dark black cloud, black all year round.
I contemplate June's clear sky, hoping for salvation. I descend the usual three yellow steps of the bus, take exactly 11 heavy steps to reach John's grocery shop.
"Why doesn't he get someone to help him with the bagging?" I often wonder. Someone who would not insist on putting my groceries in black bags claiming that he ran out of the other bags today, someone who tells me that I can't have my fabric environment-friendly bag with me inside his shop, someone who would talk to me and make some eye contact.
Why don't I find another place to shop? I don't know! I guess I'm too tired and lazy to take extra steps, or too self-sorry to face a worse version of John somewhere else.
I'm now used to it, that sob that tethers my throat is not there anymore, I don't want to cry. What happens is a common place now. Well, he even almost smiled when I told him happy birthday.
* * * * *
You know what, a white or a green or even a pink abya is as Islamic as me. I don't know why you keep holding on? I make you look like a nun, except that you don't get the respect they get. Try another colour.
* * * * *
I pick a pink abaya, with a pink and magenta headscarf. My bag and shoes have some fade shade of pink too. I like school-girlish a little bit, a Strawberry Cheesecake girl, I feel silly but really joyous. Something about me makes everything smiles. My insignificance is about to be undermined.
It is Sunday, I'll got to John's shop to buy anything just to see his face. And to my disappointment, when he glimpsed my shoes, he had a quick look at my new abaya, he looked a bit shocked. Still, he gave me the usual black bag for the box of white chocolates I bought.
* * * * *
It has been three months now, and I have almost exhausted the available shades of rainbow, and my repertoire of black bags grows.
I need a clean slate, a fresh start, an "extreme makeover". I take a blue jeans skirt, a white long-sleeved shirt, and embark on my journey. I hide my hair with a beautiful hat, my neck with a lovely scarf.
I walk by John's shop, I intentionally walk slowly next to the glass window, and I never look, I just keep walking away to some next block.
A yummy pastry shop meets me. I enter and choose a brownie, with white cream and a very red cherry. No one can guess I'm a Muslim in here. Emancipation at last!
She hands me my brownie in a transparent container. It had chocolate cream on it, and the cherry is lost! I decided to be OK with the chocolate cream. White cream does not go with a brownie anyway.
"Excuse me, where is my cherry?" I inquire.
She says, looking at my face "Sorry, it fell down and it was our last cherry. You know, it's Sunday and we ran out of them. I can sprinkle some dark chocolate powder for you instead", she says.
"Thank you, it looks fine this way", I say with big joy to her lovely face that is looking at me.
"It's a long walk back home, can I have a bag".
She skips the paper bags next to her, and gives me a black bag!
A black bag, to a black woman; a black vertical cloud.