It was Valentine’s Day and I, of course, was at UJ, going door to door in pursuit of happiness and, more immediately, a college email address.
As I climbed the millionth stair, I saw a girl there, on the floor up above. Our eyes met. We smiled. I doubt it was love.
I asked her a question. She didn’t know. Was I not from here? and I thought, does it show?
America, I said to unwonted applause. She gasped, clapped, laughed without pause.
My father studied his master’s there, in Iowa — yes, in Iowa somewhere!
With a 2-gallon purse on her shoulder, a snazzy phone in her hand, she flew down the stairs and bid me follow her down. Her Robin Hood boots treaded with an important gait. She had no class now; I wasn’t making her late.
We went from room to room on a scavenger hunt, but we made no progress, punt after punt.
Then, as my class drew near, she looked at her phone and said, Oh dear. I cannot spend any more time with you now. I cannot stay here. My boyfriend and I have a date, I fear.
Hijabis with boyfriends — well that’s something new.
You know, she replied to my silence, Muslims can have boyfriends, too.
I wondered, then, if there was a space within the word. For boy friends and boyfriends are different, I’ve heard.
What brought us together was fate. I love him and he loves me — she left no room for debate.
And how did you meet? I wanted to know. Was it on the beach or under the snow?
We were at a picnic — my family and his. He saw me and I saw him — that’s how love is. Oh, it was perfect from the start. He was my knight in shining armor; yes, he stole my heart. (I figured there must be a mishap. Humans, not trees, were now dripping sap.) And our families have been friends a long-time. We are so made for one another, we practically rhyme. I mean, my parents dote on him, and he tried to propose — but until we graduate my father’s opposed. See, I have a boyfriend, but I’m not like those girls on the street, those girls who fall for some guy they meet.
Now it was all clear. She was a rebel indeed, on the wrong side of family, society and creed.