Peace Be Unto You

There is a Muslim woman on the
walking trail this morning. 
I spot her in the distance,
coming my direction, her

black from head to toe. I
look forward to the chance
for kindness, anticipating a 
warm “good morning,” a smile.

And dare I be so bold as to offer 
“As-salamu alaykum”? Or would
I be appropriating culture to weave
my own humble-brag cloak

of magnanimity? Maybe just “hello.” 
As she gets closer, I begin to calculate
the odds of us meeting on this trail
today.  A trail in a small southern 

town. A town that only desegregated
its high schools in 1970. A town where
one can still see the old slave quarters, and
plantation houses are still occupied. A town 

Trumpier than Trump himself. And here, 
on this walking trail, comes this woman,
bravely hijabbed, shoulders back, not 
curved with the fear that I seem to feel

so often these days, striding with purpose
along a path in a town perhaps far, far
away from her homeland. When we get closer, 
I become sure of this. We smile and say hello.

She makes a comment about my dog,
a friendly comment. A friendly accented
comment.  Pakistani? Afghan? My ear
is not good enough to discern. But not

American. Not USian. Not Southern. 
Her warm rounded vowels, the soft r’s, 
the hard t’s like d’s. I hear almost 
Indian. Pakistani, I feel certain. I have

friends who are Pakistani, and I wonder
how lame it will sound to tell her so, so I
don’t.  I just smile as warmly as I know how.
I try to create a smile that says, “I’m really

glad you’re here. No, really. I’m not just 
saying that. I welcome you, and I honor you,
and I will stand up for your right to be here.”
But the smile is just a smile, and its

sincerity is enough, I suppose. I tell her to
have a nice day, and I hope that I’m not 
the only one who ever tells her that here in
this confederate backwater, but I fear

I could be. And after we pass, I realize that
she handled our encounter with so much
more grace than I. I walk about 50 yards
and turn around to see the woman in

black walking away, shoulders back,
with purpose. And then I think about how
I’m too afraid to even put a Biden sign
in my front yard, and I realize that her smile

was saying to me, “Darlin’, if I belong here,
so do you. You don’t have to hide.” And my
liberal, socialist-democrat, progressive,
lesbian self says out loud, right there on that

path, in the heart of Dixie,
“Wa-Alaykum Salaam.”   

© 2020 Deborah E. Moore, All Rights Reserved

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