I caught the tip of my head scarf as it threatened to slide off, my eyes downcast. I could feel my heart rate increased on hearing a whisper from the seat just opposite me in the overcrowded reception room waiting to be interviewed for a data analyst position.
Could they be talking about me?
I froze and didn’t know what else to do, I was too uptight as I removed my right hand and laid it on the cream folder on my laps, too conscious to even adjust my hijab (head cover) appropriately. I felt like a fish out of water.
What was I thinking? That I could breeze in with my multi-coloured hijab and fit into the waiting crowd?
“Who is Amira Abdul?,” a feminine voice piped over the buzzing conversations and I was jerked back into alertness as I suddenly stood up without a second thought. I realised my error the second my folder came tumbling down to the rug and all my document scattered about, one piece lay at the edge of the reception table, another positioned in front of a shining patent leather shoe and my side vision could sight of a few further out of reach.
I could feel all the eyes in the room turned towards me and stayed on my back as I scrambled for my papers on bended knees. As if the humiliation wasn’t enough, my silk hijab finally gave up the fight to stay put on my head. I felt like sliding into a hole from all the accusing eyes now drilling holes deeper into my uncovered mass of tangled hair.
What to do?
“Is that you Amira Abdul?”continued the receptionist that called out my name some seconds earlier, her voice sounded above my head.
“Ye..s.” I could hear my own self esteem dipped low in the tone I responded in, still scrambling for my papers.
How am I going to get up from down here with my dignity intact?
Murmurs met my thoughts as I heared chuckles close to my right and a laughter that sounded muffled by a palm.
I looked at the last paper through clouded eyes, almost brimming with tears that were on the eyelashes ready to pour down my cheeks from any more slight snide remarks.
Chin up, Amira! You can’t be beaten by a mere mishap. Get up and get the interview on with!
I stretched my right hand a few centimetres towards the last paper whose edge was still on the patent left shoe of the wearer.
“Ouch!” I drew in a breath as the pain in my fingers connected with my brain and made me withdraw them to be cradled in my left hand. My silky hijab and rest of my document discarded on the rug in the process.
A slow fury boiled over inside me. The heat started from my hurt finger, and quickly moved to my chest and ended up in my eyes which I narrowed almost into a slit as I slowly raised them up. The unshed tears temporarily forgotten. I looked up the skinny looking legs, up to a maroon corduroy skirt hem and climbed further up to a white top with tiny stripes of pink which looked as though it has seen more than its own share of washing.
My eyes finally clashed with the owner of the patent shoes and I felt sorry for her as I looked into her sunken-in dark eyes on her pimples dotted face. I could barely make out a clear spot on her skin.
I laughed inwardly- if there’s anything like that. I felt as if her face justified the reining in of my anger. I stood to my full height as my heart soared and I looked down at her from my few inches above.
Let it go, Amira, I heard a voice muttered, you know why she did what she did.
A huge smile slashed across my face and I felt the full smile lighten up my inside as everybody and everything disappeared from view.
The widening of my assailant’s eyes and a furrow to her brow gave me the final satisfaction that I did the right thing by not flaring up.
With a deep sense of accomplishment, I squatted to pick up my document and hijab and sauntered majestically across the aisle and into the interviewing room.
I was never proud of my smooth chocolate brown spotless skin as I was on that day!