Right Under Your Nose

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Zaynab was not nervous. For breakfast she ate her usual maple, brown sugar oatmeal. Yes, it was instant despite her oldest sister’s warnings about processed food. All Zaynab knew was that it took less than two minutes to zap in the microwave and mix with fresh slices of banana.

She sat alone at the family table. Abu and umm had already left to start their day at work, at the family business-Munir Travel. A traveler’s agency that was already beginning to book trips for the hajj season. Her older sister Fatimah was dropping her eleven year old brother at his elementary school. So Zaynab sat with the house to herself. She was quiet and full from her quick breakfast.

It was Thursday. This past semester her Thursdays had been packed with classes. All morning classes then a quick bite, Dhur prayer and more classes. Alhamdulilah she had finished. She was graduating at 5 o’clock this very day with a BA in Accounting. The thought of it made her want to press her forehead against the cold tile of the kitchen out of gratitude to Allah subhana wa ta ala.

There was nothing to do this morning but wait for the hours until graduation. She closed her eyes to picture her name being called. A smile crossed her lips at the thought.

****
Hours later she stood in the hallway of her college. She wore a black gown with a matching cap. A purple and gold tassle dangled from the cap. She wore a deep purple scarf with gold thread to match. She looked at the other graduates around her and stifled a smile. Now she wasn’t the only one walking the halls in abaya!

“Okay line up!!! I need to check in who’s here!” a red haired lady bellowed over the excited chatter of the graduating class.

Zaynab recognized her from the afternoon before where they had rehearsed for the graduation. This lady was about business. At the rehearsal the day before she had go on and on about not taping silly greetings to the top of your cap or tossing beach balls over your heads. A group of rowdy frat boys had groaned when they were informed that all beach balls would be confiscated.
Now the woman stood in front of Zaynab checking off her name.

“Hmm…still no sign of Zaid Muhammed.”
Zaynab recognized the name. He had been in Accounting I and II with her. He always sat in the front row with two other guys while Zaynab preferred the middle of the room. It was easier to blend in if you were in the middle -even with hijab.

Moments later Zaid was being put in front of her by the obviously stressed out attendant.
“Excuse me…Ms. Munir …could you please help uh..uh Mr. Muhammed, yes, Mr. Muhammed with what’s going to happen?”

Before Zaynab could answer the woman was gone and Zaid had turned to her. She instantly felt a shyness creep up her neck and heat her face. She looked down and then up again.
“Um..basically we walk out to the auditorium and sit in our seats. Then the attendant will signal to us to stand. When your name is called walk across the stage shake Dean Winters hand. Turn and smile for the picture.”

Zaynab found herself giving out the information rather quickly. So fast that when she was done she paused to catch her breath and she looked up at him again. He smiled.
“Thanks…” he glanced at her scarf.
“Assalaamualaikum!” he said.
“Walaikumasalaam wa rahmatullahi.” she said softly.
They were quiet and she peered down the line to see if it was moving. No chance. Zaid was looking at her now but not rudely.
“I’m sorry…sister but you seem to be so familiar to me.”
“I’m Accounting…I mean we were in class together. In fact, quite a few.”
“Hmmm. I never saw you. Strange.”

Now he looked shy and they both stared ahead. The line was moving now. He smiled at her one last time and they made their way into the auditorium.

***
After waving to her mother and father, Fatimah, her little brother Anwar and best friend Samira, Zaynab settled back in her chair to watch the graduation. Twenty minutes into the graduation she felt Zaid’s leg accidentally graze hers. They both sat up more erect and he shyly apologized.

After another twenty minutes Zaynab was bored out of her mind and another student was singing. The graduation had turned into a musical. Suddenly Zaid was handing her a piece of paper-the program-with a note.

ASA-So what are you’re plans after graduation?
Not sure yet! What about you??
I most likely will be working with my older brother for now, Insha’Allah.
Cool. What does he do?
Over the next half an hour she learned that Zaid had missed rehearsal the previous day because his grandparents were flying in from overseas. He lived with his family in the town next to her family and his father was an imam and his mother was a writer. The two became so consumed by their notes that someone had to tap Zaid when the line started to move. After the graduation Zaynab stood with her family and friend Samira. They had bought her a brilliant bouquet of lilies. She smiled as Fatima took pictures hoping that no one noticed her searching glances around the auditorium.
copyright S.A.  for Muslim American Fiction 2008-9

 

 

The family was just preparing to leave when someone called her name. She turned to see Zaid standing with a man and woman. He approached with a small smile.
“Assalaamualaikum. I was hoping that I could introduce you to my parents.”
“This is Zaynab Munir-accountant”

****
A year later, after three tries Zaynab finally managed to parallel park her car between a van and a super sized SUV downtown. She stepped out the car and looked across the street. He was standing there with a huge grin. Zaynab managed to jog across the street the end of her blue shayla flapping behind her.

“You made it Alhamdulilah! I just finished putting up the sign. What do you think?” Zaid said.
Zaynab turned to look at the tiny glass store front behind her husband.
In bold red and gold lettering she read outloud: Z&Z Accounting.
“It’s beautiful Masha’Allah. I love it and I love you!”

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