My latest piece at Altmuslimah.
A deep magenta shalwar chemise lay draped on the bed. I had not worn such things in years, but today, while visiting a Washington, D.C. suburb, a Pakistani aunty told me to come over to her house and pick one out. I selected the one with the richest hue possible and quickly pulled the long tunic over my head. The pants, already suited with elastic, gathered around my waist. I stood in front of the mirror and contemplated the effect.
A few years ago, right after the divorce, most of my Muslim-type clothes ended up at Goodwill. I ferried towards an uncertain future donned in blue jeans, graphic t-shirts, and new tattoos. I had the continent of myself to conquer.
Now, with my body again covered in modest attire, my curves became more apparent. Down my right hip slid Pakistan. The Arab world clung to the left, and America rested on the delicate slope of my breasts.
My friend, Sadida, nodded her head with aunty-like approval, “This fits your shape quite well.” I agreed, for I am shaped like a motherland. Now my stories had nowhere to hide.
This trip did more than gift me a South Asian dress. It also brought me back inside a mosque, a place I had warily avoided since the divorce. Sadida had invited me to conduct a writing workshop with the women in the mosque. In this particular community, the women had a whole house as their own – the women’s prayer hall resided in another building than the men’s. In this type of space, the hijabs loosened, our voices widened, and stories stretched large.
I sat between a first-generation American high-schooler and an older woman who had been in America ten years and rarely interacted with people outside of the community. We told our stories. We laughed. Some of us cried. After this time away – years colored by experimental solitude in a White world and days defined by sorrow and contemplation – I had returned to the belly of community. Even with my jagged edges, I fit right back in.