Apr 4, 2006


I have kept my 'office' in the library, on the 3rd floor, among the stacks. I was given a regular office to share but I have never seen it. I understand there's a desk and a chair, a shelf for books and a computer. I don't even know the name of the secret sharer. So I am on the third floor of the library, seated along a darkly varnished table built into the steep sloping roof. At my end of this crucifix-shaped room is a view of three tennis courts and a soccer field beyond. At the other end of the cross, where say His left hand is nailed, there's a dramatic view of the university's mosque, perhaps 30 yards away. Close enough to see the paint peeling around the high windows. After just ten years the university is showing signs of wear and tear.

Students visit me, we whisper or not, depending upon whether others are studying nearly. Usually, there are not many other students on the 3rd floor, if any. The library is solitude and refuge, and as I wrote once before those who spend time here regularly are singled out and singed in various social circles. There is a derogatory word for both those that often work in the library and those who expose.

This afternoon a student from my public speaking class came to talk about her 'informative' speech. She wears a veil. She is an odd mixture of conservative and liberal. She confided in me that her family is connected to the palace, through her mother, but her family has fallen on hard times. Her father was in the military for many years, he was stationed in the Sahara, but he receives almost no pension. He is now 68 and ill. About a year ago she started wearing the veil, against her family's wishes. Her family, particularly an uncle, were not treated well during les annees noires, and this progressive spirit continues. But at 21 she was tired of being regarded for her looks. "I am quite beautiful under this, and everyone was telling me how I looked but I wanted to see if anyone would see me just for my mind."

Her hypothesis was verified. Not as many people talk to her now as before.

"Also," she went on, smiling with braces gleaming, "I want to marry a man who will want me for my mind and I want only him to see the shape of my body."

Then she asked me to listen to Islamic rock, particlarly the songs of a young man from Azerbaijan. The music sounds remarkably like Christian rock. The songs are in both English and Arabic. She particularly wanted me to hear a song about Ummah, because I had asked her why that concept doesn't exist, although it is so central to Islam.

"Yes, but you can't have a community if you can't apologize," she said, "and we can't do that, we can't apologize, it's too hard. I don't know. Pride. But this is also why we can't love. We don't really have that capacity."

She went on to say that it's best not to have deep feelings, to show vulernability. There is too much risk and then if you don't practice what ability there is, disappears.

I've heard all this before, but I am forever trying to confirm it, becuase if true it would explain so much.

"But I want to play you another song," she said, If you hear these really good Islamic singers you will understand how we can find a way around what we don't feel...." And then she played a folky plaintive song whose sentimentality, I suppose, is what she meant.

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