A Rare Short Event
Version for “Tales of the Veils” website.
Not for reproduction on other websites or in any other publishing format without author’s permission.
Aysha has been waiting in her work room for the knocking at the door for some five minutes. The computer has been turned off, she has flipped the eye layers of her niqab down and pulled open the catch that locks the door on her side. Now she can hardly see again, and as always she is a little sweaty and her breathing warm and restricted because every inch of her body is covered by at least one layer of opaque fabric. She happily accepts the discomforts of being completely veiled to appear as her faith requires. Aysha immediately gets up and goes to the door, as the knocking means that the door has been unlocked on the other side as well, and today it probably means Yasmin and Aziz are about ready for the trip. Out in the corridor, a few steps towards the entrance, a figure looking exactly like herself except for the colour of the dress, with large arm movements gestures she should go dressing for going out. Aysha knows Yasmin only see her as a dark contour against the white walls as well, which makes her nod bowing her entire upper body sideways to Yasmin, but at the same time with an outstretched arm points at the bathroom door. Not only are they both completely veiled not to let their looks tempt, but they also refrain from tempting with their voice by staying silent as well.
When Aysha a few minutes later approaches the front door it is opened from the outside and Aziz enters. He says “Hi Aysha, I’ll help you dressing. You know parking isn’t allowed outside our house.” Both Aziz and Yasmin dressing her, in less than two minutes Aysha on top of her home veiling is wearing a black floor long overhead-abaya with attached mittens, a knee long rust red khimar and finally a second black niqab with eye covers. The extra eye layers makes her completely blind in the indoor lighting, but not for long because then Aziz opens the front door and the strong afternoon sunlight outside allows her to see enough to orientate. With Aziz wearing a Pakistani style knee long shirt in white, and familiar with the path out to the curb, getting into the back seat of the car with his guiding hand is no problem.
For Aysha and Yasmin, like always no matter if it’s day or night, the back windows of the car being curtained definitively ensures they ride blindly. But Aziz plays Roadsinger, an album by Yusuf Islam so new that they have only heard a few songs from it yet. Aysha looks forward to hearing it clearly with only a single scarf covering her ears. On this drive they only hear four new songs before the car stops, the music is turned off and Aziz says “Here we are, just a quarter of an hour away from home. I’ll carry the bag to let you two concentrate on walking, because with the speed you can manage I guess reaching our final destination might take nearly as long as the drive.”
They start walking a paved footpath. Modestly facing down that is all Aysha choose to see. But her vision blurry and dark looking around wouldn’t told her that much more. All she knows about their whereabouts is what Aziz has told; that this is the neighbourhood where he grew up. Aysha keep facing down just trying to see if there are any obstacles on the ground right ahead and follow the hem of Yasmin’s abaya right in front of her. They walk uphill, and after a few minutes the path changes to gravel. Then it becomes steeper for some minutes, and just as it levels again they start walking in grass along a narrow track. It is late September and the grass and the track is completely dry not making the clothes wet, but climbing in the sun completely covered in many layers Aysha has become wet by sweat innermost. They still walk slightly uphill, but the slope is small. Then suddenly Yasmin stops, of course because Aziz has stopped in front of her, and his voice sounds “Welcome to Poppy Hill my darlings. We have met no one coming here, there is no one in sight, and the view is far and beautiful. Please unveil.”
Aysha and Yasmin immediately unbuckle, unlace and untie the outdoor clothing of each other, like they use to do when returning home, because the long khimar and restrictive abaya make reaching another person bending easier than reaching their own head. They both directly continue with their home head covering, undressing without a break piling clothes. Soon Aysha blinks her uncovered eyes to adjust to the sharp afternoon sun, and takes some deep unobstructed breaths of the fresh Autumn air. It occurs to her she haven’t had her face uncovered in direct contact with the outdoor air since before her marriage; probably since she embraced Islam. And showing to Yasmin and Aziz is a short and rare event only taking place a few special days a year, which they until today have done at home. Showing to others is unthinkable.
Today is the wedding anniversary of Yasmin and Aziz. Aysha turns her head to see Yasmin blinking and breathing deeply like herself. Yasmin also shakes her head to let her shoulder long black hair unfold. Brushing it would be even better as it is flat and moist after being tightly confined since the morning bath. But they won’t spend the time here on beautifying. They are not here to display their looks – on the contrary – they believe in the inner beauty of people; and besides Aysha finds Yasmin extremely beautiful as she is. Actually more beautiful than last she saw her unveiled about seven weeks ago. Perhaps it is because it’s the first time they do this outdoors, and direct bright sunlight just shows people better than any indoor lighting.
As married people being with each other every day they can’t live without seeing each other from time to time, although they all believe that women should as much as practically possible hide anything that may tempt a male; and most of the time that goes for the husband as well. By choosing anniversaries, birthdays and Muslim holidays for showing to each other they combine the special event of unveiling with another special occasion making the day memorable by both. But they have from the beginning agreed that half an hour is enough to be sure that they look healthy and through their face expressions and words have no mental problems.
Aziz, although he sincerely support them covering, has with great joy watched his wives transform from clothes objects to smiling attractive females. It is of course quite stimulating to see two such beautiful faces; if they were not tempting there were no reason for them to cover. And that is another reason for unveiling on a special day; then whatever there is to be celebrated can end up with a special session in the bedroom, which the unveiling has set the stage for.
While the women have undressed he has unpacked the bag. Now they are all sitting on the grass, and he offers a cup of thermos coffee to each of them. In a large open box within the reach of all of them is a selection of biscuits, and while the women reach for the box he takes his own cup and says, repeating himself from previous occasions like this “Comparing women with precious pearls, which should only very rarely be shown, certainly match the two of you, my lovely and wonderful wives. You both look unusually fresh, undoubtedly because you are never exposed to the erosion of the elements.”
Aysha says starting teasingly “We look fresh because we have been washed in sweat by climbing this mountain. You should have chosen a place with a cabin lift when knowing any form of exercise is too much like we are wrapped up. It’s a fantastic view though. Thank you for letting us enjoy your anniversary out in the open. Congratulations to both of you. But are you sure no one comes here Aziz?”
Aziz says “Thank you, and happy anniversary dear Yasmin. Since I played here as a child the part of town down there have changed from a residential area to an office park as you can see. And to the other side is the Wandle river, surrounded by wet meadows, and totally inaccessible. You know I got the idea of coming here because I met my old school buddy Brian some weeks ago, and when I reminded him of our playing on Poppy Hill he said no one did that anymore because the houses were gone. And then I’ve been here twice after work for a little walk to be sure no one walk their dog, jog or ride mountain bike. We won’t be disturbed I’m sure.”
After some seconds of silence Yasmin says “Happy anniversary dear Aziz. And thank you to you Aysha for convincing me that Aziz was the man for me. It’s nice that you make a little fun with Aziz now that we are on equal terms with him in using the oral capability to express something; but I have difficulty connecting a voice with you, and hearing myself right now is strange as well.”
Aysha says “You are right Yasmin, I too find my own voice unfamiliar. But as I think this shows none of us have a need to speak, even if we now are able too, let us just enjoy breathing fresh air, having a wonderful view in bright colours and listening to the sounds of nature down to the breeze in the grass and the singing of the grasshoppers.”
Yasmin and Aziz nod, and they all three sit looking around at both the surroundings and at each other. A road far away on the other side of the river is the only sign of humans beside themselves, as many of the factories seem to be shut down and for the remaining it is after closing time. Aysha enjoys having a cool face and entire head, while everything else is still covered like at home including gloves. Her body is hot, not having recovered from the walk up here, and kept hot by the sun. While her mind subconsciously enjoys the view, the sounds and the breeze, the words of Yasmin about her own role in the wedding makes her mind go back in time.
She had just left school when wanting a meaning with her life, and soon found that Islam had what she was looking for. Modesty appealed to her, and veiling was the right way to show that. She found a small apartment near a mosque and started coming there most days, from the beginning in long dresses, scarf and half-niqab. The rent and food was paid by a job in the Islamic book store, where her dress-code was accepted. Yasmin was one of the women that became her friends by them meeting at the mosque. Yasmin was dressed traditional Pakistani style then, showing hands and face. It was Yasmin’s brother, Sayed, who knew Peter, another white Englishman of Christian upbringing, who had converted to Islam. She had some talks with Peter with Yasmin and Sayed present. He was the man for her, and when he actually agreed with her that women should be completely veiled including the eyes, and only unveil to even the husband for lovemaking, she strongly suggested that she would accept a proposal. Anne became Aysha, Peter Aziz, they married, and she started learning website building to be able to work at home with him getting her work tasks and handling all customer contact. After some months she found out that were they differed most was in sexual appetite. Islam had a solution for that, and it being religiously legal was all they wanted. Aysha wanted Yasmin to live with them. Aziz knew her as the sister of one of his best friends, and after Aysha’s marriage, where she had started frequenting the mosque in long khimar and full niqab, Yasmin had expressed her admiration for Aysha’s dedication. One day, exactly two years and three weeks from today, Aysha had asked Yasmin if she would like to live a life completely veiled with Aziz and her. At that time Yasmin knew it meant staying mute as well, because Aysha had for some months worn a gag except when eating at home; something which most women at the mosque including Yasmin found right but too extreme for themselves. The next day Yasmin said yes, and they arranged a week in Pakistan where they were married in the hometown of her parents. Since then they had lived together covered and silent except for half an hour on days that call for celebration. Aysha hopes that her expression right now shows Yasmin and Aziz just how much she enjoys living with them.
After more than fifteen minutes without a word Yasmin starts pointing at a second rather large plastic bag containing something. After a little while she has got the attention of Aziz and Aysha, them nodding to permit her to break the silence. Then Yasmin says “I only prepared one bag for this trip. Who brought that one, and what is it?”
Aziz stays silent and Aysha shakes her head to deny her knowledge of the bag. Then Aziz puts up a smile and says “It contains an anniversary present of course. But as a husband must always treat his wives equally there are two identical presents.” Aziz then looks out over the river.
After a little while, both women staring at Aziz, Yasmin says “May I open the bag, or would you like to present it to us?”
Aziz then says “We have about five minutes more before it’s time for the two of you to veil again. We’ll of course bring the presents with us home, so the question is whether you like to spend these last minutes examining something you can come back to over and over at home and put the scenery here in the background, or you want to enjoy fully nature and being unveiled to the last moment and then receive your present fully dressed having to wait until home to see and touch it properly?”
Yasmin immediately says “I like to have it now please, just to be able to let you see the expression on my face and hear the joy in my voice by receiving this token of our love.”
Aysha says “It’s Yasmin’s anniversary and I agree with her. Take the bag right now.”
Aziz in one movement takes the bag and empties it in his lap, and then takes each of the large clothes items showing in each hand to place one each in the lap of Yasmin and Aysha. Both grab the folded fabric and get up standing to unfold it without it touching the grass.
Yasmin’s face changes from eager to overjoyed and she nearly shouts “A Pakistani burqa, but…”
Aysha has the expression of a four year old having just got what she had begged for, her expression partly hidden by her letting the cloth caress her cheeks, and when sounding muffled starting to speak she holds it out in straight arms to say clearly “White silk! It looks wonderful, it feels wonderful, and filled with exquisite embroidery. They must have cost a fortune, have you won in the lottery?”
Aziz, looking like he might have won in the lottery by seeing the joy of his wives, says “Actually I get the money from the work of you two as well, so you might say that you have paid it yourself to some extent. Further I contacted the family of Yasmin in Pakistan, who actually bought it and assured the price was favourable. But it also means it can’t be traded back.”
Aysha says “It’s wonderful Aziz. I’ve wanted a burqa since converting to Islam; but first I couldn’t afford it, and then we can’t wear it here in London.”
Yasmin adds sounding a little worried “It’s wonderful craftsmanship Aziz, exquisite materials, I love it and it will always remind me of my roots. But Aysha is right, we have concluded that in a long coloured khimar and niqab we are taken as Somalis, and totally dressed in black we look like visitors from the Middle east, but burqas are never seen in London and associated with Taliban and terrorism. We can’t go out wearing these.”
Aziz says “Unfortunately nothing has changed since we reached that conclusion. But first I think a burqa is the only piece of Muslim clothing not found in your wardrobe, and it should be, as it perhaps is the garment that best fulfils the dress requirements of a Muslim woman. Second I personally think it’s a wonderful shape or sculpture, and when it moves even more beautiful lines show. Finally, now you are both properly equipped for visiting the family of Yasmin, which I think we can afford soon. But half an hour has passed. Cover up!”
Aysha were just about to ask if Aziz had more to say about visiting Pakistan, but although the half an hour is not measured in seconds, and Aziz would not have stopped her from asking or refused to answer, the husband is the head of the family and when he has made a decision it should be final. She folds the burqa and places it on top of the bag. Then she turns to the pile of her clothes.
First she puts on a large black completely opaque cotton scarf, wounding it to cover all of her head and neck, except the face between the eye brows and the chin, careful to get it under the neckline of the dark red dress that covers nearly her entire body.
Second she opens her mouth wide to enter the black hard plastic ball gag, that ensures she doesn’t sound her voice accidentally, and buckles the wide leather straps that holds it at the back of her head.
Third the last part of skin showing, her face, is covered completely by buckling a black georgette niqab with nose string. It is extra long reaching the belly button, and its two eye layers stay down, like always when not alone.
While bowing again to get the next item Aysha mentally notes that the sunshine makes her sight much clearer than she is used to dressed like this, which is her normal appearance at home when with Yasmin and Aziz only.
Fourth she covers the dress, not always sufficiently subdued and modest for others to see, and hides the arms as individual limbs by putting on the ground sweeping diamond shaped thick black cotton overhead-abaya. When her hands have found into the attached mittens made of thick black cotton as well, she looks towards Yasmin for dressing each other the rest of the way. While Yasmin enters her own mittens the abaya reminds Aysha of the evening prayer, which they will probably do right after coming home, as this is how she is dressed most of Fridays and never dressed less when visiting the mosque. Sometimes, if Aziz needs to have them completely out of his mind, they wear the overhead-abaya at home as well. Yasmin now starts tying the drawstrings of Aysha’s wrist. Then Aysha ties Yasmin’s. And their abayas are finally laced at the neck, which they can do on each other at the same time.
Fifth Aysha takes the knee long khimar of Yasmin, which today is slate gray, fits it on her and zips it at the neck. Then Yasmin fits an identical khimar, but of rust red colour, on Aysha. This layer is necessary to hide the hands when not needed, and gives the more common Somali look instead of the black overhead-abaya, which looks more scary with a uniformly covered face opening, black as well. Besides the different colours of the khimars let Aziz identify each of them.
Sixth and last Aysha takes the second niqab, an only chest long version of the first, puts it to Yasmin’s face, who has turned her back to her, and ties it at the back of Yasmin’s head. Moments later Aysha’s unusually clear sight due to the sunlight is reduced to something like her normal indoor view, being dark with blurring and not much colour, as Yasmin puts the second niqab to her face adding two more eye layers. The primary reason for the second niqab is to look ‘normal’ like others veiling their face in connection with a khimar. But having little sight in public is good for the women as well, because they shouldn’t be tempted either; by handsome scantily clothed men, display windows with depraved items on sale and other moral dangers of a non-Muslim society.
Now again fully dressed for walking outdoors in public the sun has turned into something only making Aysha sweat, and their surroundings have been reduced from a splendid view to a gray field, which makes her turn towards Aziz and lift her right hand free of the khimar to point down along the path they came, signalling she is ready to go home. But from behind her wrist is grabbed by Yasmin and she pulls until both their arms are directed towards the burqas, still folded on top of the bag instead of inside it, instead of being bagged like the thermos, cups and biscuits. Yasmin gestures she would like to put on a burqa and emphasises her request with some more gesturing that Aziz correctly interprets by saying “You would like to wear a burqa on top of your other veiling for the trip home, and it is okay to do it because I have said no one comes here?”
Yasmin nods several times making Aziz continue “It is very unlikely we meet anybody, especially now that we are approaching mealtime. And if we do, out here it will just be taken as we are doing some kind of role play or similar. Would you like me to put it on Yasmin?” Perhaps it’s because Aziz has followed their veiling just as close as he did their unveiling, that he is certain it is Yasmin wearing the gray khimar and requesting the burqa. And for the same reason has been so distracted he has only packed the coffee bag and not the burqas.
Yasmin nods but at the same time takes a burqa and holds it towards Aysha, with some pointing telling she likes to dress Aysha in a burqa first, and then Aziz is to dress her. Yasmin and Aziz both face Aysha to learn her opinion. Aysha immediately nods and bows to let Yasmin easily reach her head.
After Yasmin has been unfolding, turning and folding the burqa in her arms, she steps forward enclosing Aysha’s head, and soon most of her upper body, in another layer; this time of thick white silk. Aysha have sensed the thick soft fabric on her own face, but all she senses now is being completely blinded, a substantial reduction of her already attenuated hearing and her breathing becoming even more warm and stuffy. Then a pressure is felt all over the top of the head as Yasmin uses force to fit the cap of the burqa. It feels very tight, perhaps because it is not designed to be worn on top of several layers of fabric. But with the cap fitted Aysha is no longer blind. She can’t really see either. Her field of view has been limited to a straight forward oval by the two small separate eye meshes of the burqa, and within that area she only sees blurry dark contours with a milky tint. She realises Yasmin has anticipated something like this and wanted to dress her first to be able get a reasonable view herself of the burqa, covering and being moved by a woman. As it is her anniversary it is fair enough she gets a show, and Aysha takes some small careful steps, but swaying and turning like a mannequin, to let Yasmin and Aziz admire the garment. Just a few steps convinces her tripping in the ground sweeping outfit is a real possibility, and she holds her arms forward to get the cloth further away from her feet. When she returns her attention to the two others, Yasmin has been transformed into a, in the view of Aysha, featureless large white object as well.
The white object, being her co-wife Yasmin, slowly starts moving away from the top of the hill, and Aysha carefully follows a little behind. Aziz isn’t within sight, even if she turns her head a little. He is most likely enjoying a few more minutes of the wonderful view in the mild afternoon sun, knowing he can catch up on them in no time. Aysha is unable to see if they are following the track in the grass, which they took in the opposite direction. They just walk down with small steps and can’t loose their way. Aysha feels great wearing an exquisite silk burqa, although she can’t sense the silk due to her other covering, and she can’t observe even the crudest details of the beautiful ornamentation of Yasmin’s burqa in front of her due to her heavy eye veiling. But she breathes steadily and the burqa has not made her more hot, perhaps because its white colour compensates the added layer.
Without knowing how they got this far, Aysha subconsciously notices they are walking on gravel again. Her mind, having moved away from reality for some time, is fuelled by this. Aysha imagines she is walking in the narrow street of some small Pakistani town on their way to visit some relatives of Yasmin. She has been told they will be well received for being properly dressed. Although she can see close to nothing and others can see nothing but the burqa of her, of course she all the time walks head bowed and hands not lifting at the burqa to show proper manners as well. They pass a gate and after a short walk on tiles they enter a house where dark burqas make them lift their heads and they are embraced by hands touching separated by multiple layers. The family observes extremely strict purdah and no burqas are lifted, even if they seem to be within the female section of the house. They are seated on cushions up against a wall, their four female hosts sitting only six feet away against an opposite wall. It is completely quiet, the subtle rustling of their clothing and outside sounds can’t be perceived through their heavy covering. With the welcome greeting all communication possible have been exhausted, when neither lifting the burqa nor sounding the voice is within what purdah means to the women here. Absolutely nothing happens for something like half an hour. Then a girl in a beige floor long coat, white gloves and white niqab with eye cover brings a tray. For each she lifts the hem of her burqa sufficiently to place a glass of water with a straw inside, while carefully using her body to screen off as much as possible, not to let anyone get a glimpse inside the burqa, although they all have very limited sight. What wonderful people close to perfecting the concepts of women neither tempting nor offending men or other women in any way, and at the same time able to provide for their basic needs as good hosts, Aysha thinks, while skilled moving the glass placed inside her burqa to the tube in her gag without making movements that show the contours of hand or arms on the outside.
Then suddenly the voice of Aziz is strangely sounding very loud in this silent women-only sphere, taking Aysha away from the perfect Pakistani purdah family and back to reality “The pizzas will get cold! Although it seems the two of you are happy to stay daydreaming forever when wearing burqas, you have to get up from the sofa and remove the burqa and your normal outdoor covering if you want something to eat.”
Copyright © 2009, Bo_Emp