Darkness on the Edge of Town
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
They’re still racing out at the Trestles
But that blood it never burned in her veins
Now I hear she’s got a house up in Fairview
And a style she’s trying to maintain
Well if she wants to see me
You can tell her that I’m easily found
Tell her there’s a spot out `neath Abram’s Bridge
And tell her there’s a darkness on the edge of town
Everybody’s got a secret Sonny
Something that they just can’t face
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
They carry it with them every step that they take
Till some day they just cut it loose
Cut it loose or let it drag `em down
Where no one asks any questions
Or looks too long in your face
In the darkness on the edge of town
Some folks are born into a good life
Other folks get it anyway anyhow
I lost my money and I lost my wife
Them things don’t seem to matter much to me now
Tonight I’ll be on that hill `cause I can’t stop
I’ll be on that hill with everything I got
Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I’ll be there on time and I’ll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town
© 1978 Bruce Springsteen
Layla shuts the door behind her. She’s home again in her small apartment, where she can fully live out the life she dreams about living 24/7. She immediately changes from her business dress of a conservatively styled shirt and jacket with long sleeves, and a dark skirt covering her knees over opaque black stockings, to a pair of loose dark green trousers which she nearly completely covers by a long flower printed dress dominated by green shades. Now without shoes the dress touches the floor and is closed tight at the neck and wrists with buttons. She leaves on the small scarf just covering her hair as an underscarf, when covering the entire head and neck in a large white scarf. Although she is only covered a little more than before her dress now clearly signals she is Muslim. She hasn’t dared walking dressed like this in the streets of New York. Apart from harassment she has been afraid of losing her job, where the strictness of the dress code can match that of any Muslim fundamentalists. Next she puts on her prayer gown. For the next half an hour she is in deep prayer, making up for all the prayer time she has missed because of working. Then it is time for dinner. Layla isn’t much of a cook, but she always makes sure that everything she eats is halal. After clearing the kitchen she will as usual visit some niqabi groups on the internet. After studying the Quran and the hadith intensively, and reading both pros and cons of complete veiling on the internet, Layla has decided that covering completely, wearing niqab, is the best way to dress, increasing the chances of entering Paradise when time comes. But she hasn’t dared taking the full consequences of her own conclusions. For now she is only a niqabi on the internet. And alone in her apartment. Before going to the computer she goes to the bedroom opening the closet. She has a small collection of clothes appropriate for a niqabi. With Pakistani roots, she of course has a Pashtun burqa, but as she is going to use the computer, it has to be something more practical. She selects to dress Egyptian style consisting of a modest plain but pretty dark burgundy dress with long loose sleeves just touching the keyboard when typing. A matching khimar is then put on her head nearly covering her hands as well. Then her face is covered by a black niqab with eye veil, which keeps the khimar in place as well. Her dress is completed by a pair of black gloves. She is now completely covered as a Muslim women should be dressed in public. She admires her appearance in the full length mirror. Her image is dark and a little blurred seen through the eye cover of the niqab. When she has got the impression fully into her mind, she flips back the eye cover to be able to read the computer screen.
She starts as usual checking the arrangements of her local mosque. They frequently have women only introduction evenings. They are aimed at all the people converting to Islam after 9/11 made them aware of an alternative to what they were brought up with but to many felt like nothing more than a habit. What they found had nothing to do with terrorism, but gave sensible answers to spiritual questions and put meaning to their life. The homepage of the local mosque gives the impression of a lively community discussing just the subjects that interests Layla, but she hasn’t visited the mosque physically fearing showing too much religious interest will mark her as a fundamentalist. Layla was born in a Muslim family, but her parents didn’t practise, and it was first when she got her own life after high school, she started to look into her own religion. She had married one of her classmates just after graduation, but he was immature and went out a lot with other men, where they drank way too much. But when she found out he was seeing other women as well from time to time, she divorced him. What happened then doesn’t matter much to her now, but she remembers that she started looking in the scriptures, because she would have confronted her husband with the reasons that alcohol is haram, forbidden. The local mosque has an introduction again tomorrow. Of course she is not a convert, but as she has not dared frequenting the mosque until now, she is new in another sense. While going on to scanning the niqabi groups, she keeps thinking if she should become a public niqabi. Apart from her job she hasn’t much to loose. Her old school friend Sally has moved to Fairview, because she with her good looks found a rich boy. Now she’s living the high style life. Layla contacted her once after her divorce, telling Sally she had moved out near Abram’s Bridge, but she only got some thin excuses for staying away. Layla now taking Islam more seriously, a renewed friendship with Sally of Catholic upbringing isn’t what she needs. Layla didn’t really get any money from the divorce, so she has to work or marry someone, who can support them both. When there are enough Muslims to support a mosque, there must be someone who needs a secretary and accepts or even prefers Muslim dress code. With that in mind Layla takes her decision. She can’t keep on living a secret life as part time niqabi. She has to cut it loose or it will drag her down. To keep her secret she will have to stay unmarried living by boring non-committing office jobs forever. The mosque enables her to let her secret life become public. Tomorrow she will be on that hill on the edge of town. She will visit the mosque as the niqabi she feels like. The dress she is wearing now has just enough color to avoid looking like a black ghost to non-Muslims. Layla performs her evening prayer. She goes to bed getting a good nights sleep after having decided to stop her life being two persons.
The next morning after her morning prayer she dresses as usual for work. She doesn’t want to be the subject of all gossip at the office and in the surrounding companies. Shortly after arriving at work she writes her resignation and hands it to her boss. He is of course a little annoyed because he has to find a replacement, but apart from that she is only told to clear her desk. She is home early and has plenty of time for a long bath before putting on the same green trousers and dress and the white scarf as yesterday. Then she again puts on her prayer gown and prays a little longer than usual after work. Taking off her gown she realizes she from now on will be able to pray at the right hours all day. That makes her happy. She eats early around six o’clock and immediately after dresses in the outdoor clothes, she was wearing yesterday evening. She walks around her apartment fully covered with eye veil down in an attempt to adjust to walking the streets. Her sight is a little reduced, but she can see everything in her apartment. What she is most afraid of is tripping. She isn’t used to walk for longer distances in clothing nearly sweeping the ground. She just has to walk carefully and slowly, not trying to speed up when crossing streets where the direction changes before she reaches the opposite side. She expects to cover the distance in a quarter of an hour.
Twenty to seven she walks out her door. She has chosen to show her faith openly and will pay the cost. She gets quite a lot of stares from bypassers, but she sees no unfriendly gestures, and she hears no rude remarks. But only physical harassment is to be feared anyway. No one can recognize her. At this time of day only people passing close by will notice her complete covering. It is dark as she walks up the hill towards the mosque. Inside the courtyard of the mosque there is light above an open door. Just inside the door a woman with a thin white veil covering the lower part of her face is receiving her “Hi, I’m Amina. You’re not Jenny, are you?” Layla answers still veiled “No, my name is Layla. I’m new here.” “Welcome dear sister. What a lovely dress you’re wearing. You’re the first new tonight, but please go and meet all the regular sisters. Please leave your shoes at your right. Why don’t you start in the corner over there. Sister Khadijah wearing black burqa even in here would like to meet someone veiled as nice as you. But ask simple questions in a clear voice. She’s so much covered she can hardly speak or hear.”
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