How many post-it notes does it take to make a paper aeroplane that actually flies? Ten, apparently.
“Nice scarf, Suraya,” Bree says as she passes me. “I love that colour on you.”
“Aw, thanks!” I say, a bit surprised. Would you believe I debated a full fifteen minutes of whether or not to wear a light pink hijab to work today? I’ve been sticking to neutral colours to look #profesh but half the office dresses like hipsters at uni. But the pink is going down well, albeit raising a few more questions.
“So, do you have to wear a particular colour?” Lily asks. “Does it have any significance?”
“Not at all,” I say. “People wear it in all colours and styles. Depends on the person.”
“That’s so interesting,” she says, smiling.
I smile back. What a babe.
My phone vibrates.
Layla: is dinner still happening tonight guys? Yasmin: YES I'M STARVING Daniyah: fam it's only 11am. don't u have breakfast? Yasmin: yh but that was 2 hrs ago Daniyah: good to know. anyway i'm down for dinner. where we meeting lads? You: Sadafs, that Persian place down Queensway? Layla: if anybody has any objections pls speak now or forever hold ur peace Layla: great, sadafs it is!! Daniyah: u gave us like 1 second to object wtf Layla: BE THERE AT 6
Mmm, food. The day always seems to go by much quicker when I have something to look forward to in the evening.
At lunch, I go down to pray as usual but say hello to Mike and Joe on my way.
“Oooh, bit of pink, that looks nice!” Joe says when he sees me.
I smile in return. “‘Sup?”
“Not much. How comes your wearing pink today?” Joe looks at me curiously.
“The colour black doesn’t exist anymore. They ran out.”
Joe looks confused.
Mike laughs. “You look lovely in the pink, Suraya.”
Mike is my bff. Whether he knows it or agrees is irrelevant. “Thanks, Mike. How are you?”
“Yeah, not bad. Yourself? Have a good weekend?”
“It was great. Went to Dover on Saturday. Got some fresh air.”
“Did you buy the scarf from Dover?” Joe asks.
“Nah, this is Whitechapel couture.” I flick the end of my hijab over my shoulder.
“Does look lovely,” he says but is still looking at me curiously. “So are you bald under there, then?”
I roll my eyes before I can help myself. “Yeah, I shaved it all off.”
“What, really?” he gasps.
Mike laughs. “This one loves pulling your legs, I swear. She’s not bald.”
“How do you know?” Joe demands.
“I had a friend back at school, she was Muslim an’ all. One day she decided to wear the hijab and it wasn’t because her hair was gone.”
“You know too much, Mike,” I sigh, kicking his chair.
“Oh, so you’re just having me on!”
Slow clap for Joe, please.
“Here, Suraya, watch this,” Mike says, turning to his computer. We spend the next ten minutes watching a mixture of people falling down ridiculously and animals dancing. Ah, adulthood.
After I pray, I go back up to my desk where mum’s biryani from yesterday awaits in my bag. As I’m walking past Amanda’s desk, I see her screen is filled with a gorgeous, romantic cover. “Oooh, that’s so beautiful!”
“You think?” Amanda replies. “I love it too. Not sure about the letttering here though.”
“Nah, it’s gorgeous. Feel like I’m on the Amalfi coast just looking at it.”
Amanda smiles. “Aw, I’m so glad to hear that! How are you?”
“Yeah, not bad. How about you? Good weekend?”
“Yeah, I’m good… Can I just say, I love that colour scarf on you!”
I smile. “Thank you! I don’t mean to brag but I bought it myself.”
She laughs. “It’s a gorgeous colour. How much was it?”
I snort. “Try two quid.”
“What?! That’s amazing.”
“I know, gotta love a good bargain.”
“Can I ask, so, do you shower with that on? Like how does it work for you, do you ever take it off?”
All fair questions but I just want to eat my biryani pls. “Uh, nah, I don’t shower with it on. I take it off at home.”
“So your family can see your hair?”
“Yeah, immediate family–”
“Suraya!” Kathryn is not yelling, exactly, but she basically is. “Can you come here a sec?”
Saved by the boss. “Coming!”
“I can’t print this bloody spreadsheet and I’ve got a meeting in ten minutes!” Kathryn is a bit tense.
“Send it to me, I’ll try and do it from my computer.”
“Ah, you’re a star!”
“Shine bright like a diamond, that’s me,” I mumble to myself as I sit down. My tub of biryani stares sadly back at me.
“BROWN PEOPLE!” I pretty much shriek when I see my friends outside the restaurant.
“You all right, there?” Daniyah laughs as she hugs me.
“Another hijabi,” I fake sob, patting her blue hijab. “How I’ve missed you.”
“Is Suraya OK?” Layla asks, hugging me back gingerly while I squeeze her like a mad woman.
“I don’t think she’s been around Muslims in a while,” Daniyah says.
“Where’s Yasmin?” I demand.
“She said she’s running late, she’ll be here soon,” Layla replies. “Let’s go and get a table.”
We head inside the restaurant and get seated by the window. I inhale the smell of Persian bread and grilled meat and feel even hungrier.
“Can we order or do we have to wait for Yasmin?” I ask.
“Wait for no man,” Daniyah says, opening up her menu. “It’s her fault she’s late, not ours.”
Layla rolls her brown eyes. “You guys are such good friends.”
“I love you all but I don’t love you enough to starve,” Daniyah says. “Soz.”
Layla shakes her head. “So, how was work, Suraya?”
“Not bad, how’s the Masters going?”
Layla groans. “Why did you have to bring it up?”
“Because you’re doing one?”
“Just shush,” she says, covering my mouth. “What’s the deal at work then, any fitties?”
I push her hand away. “Not really. How’s your boy Qassim?”
She shoves me. “Shut up!”
“Man like Qassim!” Daniyah cracks up laughing. “Has he written you any poems lately?”
“I will stab you with my fork if you don’t shut up about him.”
“I think someone misses Qassim,” Daniyah stage whispers.
Qassim, also known as Bechara, has been in love with Layla since we were at uni together and has proposed to her countless times despite her refusal. He’s long since backed off but that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten him. Or the poems he used to write for her. Or the sad tweets he still indirects at her.
“Let’s order,” Layla says loudly. “Excuse me!” She tries to catch a waiters attention while we quote Qassim’s poetry to her. We all have electronic copies on our phones.
“Your skin is like the moon, it makes me want to do sujood-” I stop as the waiter turns up. Sigh.
Just as we finish ordering our food, Yasmin turns up. There are more hugs and awkward body angles around the table.
“How could you guys order without me?” Yasmin huffs, sitting down.
“Every woman for herself,” Daniyah says.
“How comes you’re late anyway?” I ask.
“My boss made me stay behind–”
“Ooooh, did he now?” Daniyah says loudly, winking at Yasmin.
“Did he ask you to step into his office?” I ask.
“Were the lights off?”
“Did he have candles lit instead?”
“Rose petals on the floor?”
“His desk all cleared for you?”
“You guys are so ridiculous, he’s like fifty!” Yasmin growls.
“Older man, eh?” Layla nudges her playfully.
“No wonder your hair’s all messed up,” Daniyah says, flicking a strand of Yasmin’s brown hair over her shoulder.
“It’s windy outside!” Yasmin protests. “Why are you lot like this? I just had to finish up a report before I left.”
“Was he the report?” Daniyah asks sweetly.
“I’m telling your mum you work part-time at a strip club,” Yasmin says. “Excuse me, can I order?” she calls rather snappily in the direction of a waiter.
The waiter comes over and Yasmin makes her order, throwing dirty looks at us when she can.
“So, how was your day at work Suraya?” Yasmin asks.
I shrug. “Same old. Love me some books.”
“I like this colour hijab, really suits you,” Layla says.
“Thanks, everyone at work kept commenting on how much they liked the colour too.”
“Aw, that’s cute of them,” she says. “Do you get a lot of people asking questions about why you wear it?”
“Yeah. One of them asked me if I wear it in the shower and someone else asked if I was bald under it.”
Daniyah snorts. “I love how clueless they are. One guy asked me if I was born with it on.”
“Are you serious?” I gape at her. “When you were in school, right?”
“Fam, this was some guy when we were at uni. To be fair, I only used to wear black hijabs then so I guess I can see his logic.”
“Mad,” Layla says. “Some guy said he liked the contraption on my head one time when I was walking down the road.”
“Contraption?” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“My sister wears the hijab and she’s always got creeps hitting on her with the worst lines,” Yasmin adds. “This guy at work actually asked her if he could stroke her hijab?”
I gag. “That’s so gross. On another level.”
“Nah man, the fetishising- is that a word? It is now – of the hijab is such a common thing,” Daniyah says. “Some guy told me it makes me so mysterious and sexy.”
Pass me the bucket, please.
“Don’t forget the ‘I’d love to see what’s under all that’ comments,” Layla laughs.
“And the racist flirting!” Yasmin groans. “I don’t date brown girls but I’d give you a chance. No, Barry, please keep your unwashed self away from me.”
“Always astounded by people who think insulting you counts as flattery just because they find you attractive,” I say.
“Also, what’s with the creepy Muslim guys who come and whisper Masha’Allah in your ear as well?” Daniyah shudders.
“Or when they say Astaghfirullah while looking you up and down?” I am haunted. “How are you going to ask Allah for forgiveness while you’re perving on me?”
“Dying alone looks better every day,” Daniyah says.
“Ameen.” We all raise our glasses. Of water.