NakedGirl: The Story of Dareen
by donnylaja

Part 4

The administrative offices of the Georgia State Regional Library, Atlanta: four doors, usually open, on the edge of a large room not open to the general public lined with low bookstacks strewn with seldom-used reference materials, on top of which were a series of out-of-date computers, not quite ready for disposal, but not connected or in use either.  A large room that no one has ever figured out what to do with.

On the first door ("Dareen Alkaras" in small letters) is a finely-wrought color drawing of a hilly desert area with a tiny stone structure in the hill on the far right.  The title, "Waiting in Damascus", is in little letters at the bottom.  Though depicting daytime, there is a crescent moon above with a small star between its horns.  In front of the tiny stone house is a yet tinier figure, looks like a woman in a long burka waiting for someone.

Underneath the drawing, a rectangular rug swatch, with a complicated pattern.  If you look at it long enough, you will see that if you turn each little red-and-black pinwheel one fifth of the way, it becomes a mirror image of the pinwheel next to it.  Above the drawing, a recent addition, a small American flag.

Inside the open door, a sparely decorated office with a computer and filing cabinet behind it, pictures of family members, including an old woman with twinkly eyes looking out from under a black veil, a poster on the wall of a big bouquet of flowers, then two college diplomas, a picture of an adorable little white dog lying on its back on the grass looking at the camera with a satisfied look, being that it is chewing on a huge bone, and right next to the desk a framed message, "One Day at a Time".  Next to that, a little hand-shaped sign, "Lefties Rule!"

The next door, "Jamal Nathan Jackson" in somewhat bigger and more permanent-looking letters, a picture of a crowd of people in a public square, a small American flag, and inside, another desk and file cabinet, a large orange and black rug tacked to one wall, at the front of the desk is a miniature ceramic football mounted on a tee, and then there were diplomas (not in Library Science, but Computer Technology), and over them the picture of Malcolm X shaking hands with Martin Luther King, a chance meeting and the only photo of them together.  The desk itself was a paper-strewn mess and on the edge is a little squeegee which said, "Desk Cleaning Machine".

Between Ms. Alkaras's and Mr. Jackon's doors was a large photo of James Earl Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President and someone we Georgians are very proud of, thank you very much.

The third door, "Billy Stonewall Gibbs", a photo of the "General Lee" from the old "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show, half-turned as it flies through mid-air, the Confederate flag visible on its roof.  Above the photo, a much larger American flag than the others.  Mr. Gibbs being on vacation, the door was closed.

The fourth door, set a little further apart from the rest, "Katharine G. Hom, Administrative Director", nothing else on it but a small American flag.  Inside, a very neatly kept office with black and white photos of a distinguished looking Asian man and his wife standing on a stage.  To their right was a flag on a pole, the Union Jack.  There were four diplomas on this wall, the first dated 1972.

By 9:30 Mr. Jackson and Ms. Hom were in their offices.  Ms. Hom liked classical music and her radio was on.  Mr. Jackson didn't mind.

Dareen was late this day.  She darted in around 9:45, quickly saying hi and then going into her office.  She thought about closing the door but that would draw attention.

"Hi Dar..."  Jamal got up and his lanky frame ambled over to her doorway.  "Are you O.K.?"  She had called in sick yesterday.  His glasses glinted in the overhead fluorescent lights and he was concerned.  "I like you new hair," he said after some hesitation.

Dareen looked up and smiled.  "Thanks."  Jamal was so nice to her.  He had noticed the new violet luster of her hair.  She had tried to make the best of it by wearing it as plain as possible, combing it straight and long so that it went halfway down her back, not realizing that this style tended to turn men on more than any other.  She knew Jamal was trying not to look at her chest, and hoped her blazer was doing as good a job as possible of concealing it.  Yet it really was hopeless.  As she looked down at her current project -- some pages she had printed off the internet the other day -- she had to push them a little away from her so that her breasts didn't block the view.  She suspected (correctly) that Jamal, like most men, had spent a lot of mental energy trying to guess what her bra size was and what her breasts looked like.  And now -- well, this was going to be difficult.

The trip here was difficult too.  She couldn't help noticing people trying not to stare on the subway, the occasional glance of disapproval (usually from an older woman) as if to say, "Those breasts are fake, you must be a topless dancer or a whore."  The guard at the front desk was nice as always but his usual "Good morning, Dareen" seemed to catch in his throat.

Dareen closed her eyes and took a breath, feeling her chest heave up and down.  I've just got to get used to this as long as it lasts.  She said a short prayer, ‘Allah, help me through this. . .’

Jamal and Dareen and Ms. Hom worked through the morning.  Dareen closed the door twice like she always did, for her morning and afternoon prays on the little sajjada she kept rolled up under her desk.  Ms. Hom came in once and pretended like everything was normal, but her boss was always something of a sphinx.  Not a bad boss, but she never laughed, rarely smiled, she was all business.

The day ended.  Another trying ride on the subway.  Dareen was relieved to get home and close the apartment door behind her, only to find Elly in an uncharacteristically glum mood.  She was listlessly eating cereal in the steamy apartment, flapping her flip-flop against the floor, and reading the Democrat-Argus.  Dareen had read it this morning.  There was a big editorial about clearing out the topless clubs over in Buckhead, and as usual they implied that anyone who disagreed was morally corrupt or a child molester.  On page 2, meanwhile, was a big story about a girl who was making her way through college while stripping.  It had pictures.

Elly looked glumly up at her roommate.  "I see you're still the same."

Dareem went into her bedroom and stripped to her bra and panties.  Yup, still the same.  She turned on the air conditioner and got into shorts and her biggest T-shirt.  When she got out to the kitchen Elly got more expansive.  "I feel like there's something wrong with me, like I'm in a dream."  She looked up at Dareen and ventured a direct stare at her roommate's breasts.  "You got hit by lightning and changed and, like, flew.  I say to myself, Please tell me this isn't happening.  I couldn't think at work today, I didn't have any energy.  Dar, tell me this is all a dream."

Dareen felt Elly's gaze and thought of trying to cross her arms in front.  But in dejection she looked down and then, as if in surrender, pushed her firm mounds out so that they seemed to protrude halfway over the table.  "No, it's not a dream."

"You must have gone through hell today."

"I felt people staring.  But work was O.K."

Elly smiled a bit.  "How did Jamal react?"

"You know how he is, he's always nice."

"He's probably jerking off now thinking about you."

"Oh Elly!"  Elly could be so crude sometimes.  She had visited Dareen's office several times and had met Jamal.  "He WANTS you!" she had said to Dareen after that first time.  This time, though, she was not in her usual playful mood.

Dareen sat down and brushed back her long straight violet hair.  "Can you go with me to mosque?"  That was in two nights.

Elly was brought up Muslim too but didn't really observe; she didn't pray and hadn't been to mosque in maybe a couple of years.  Dareen always went, as Elly would put it, "go mosquing".  There was one nearby.  Sometimes when she saw her parents she went to the old one in Dunwoody, an hour away.  But her car, which Elly had gotten towed back after that night of lightning, was still in the shop.  Not that Dareen was into seeing her parents in her current condition.  But at mosque so many of the women went heavily clothed, she could really bulk up so that no one saw her new endowments.

Elly cleared her throat.  "I hate to say it but maybe you and I can both use some mosquing right now."

The next day the air conditioning was broken in the library and it was a hothouse.  Jamal took off his tie, Ms. Hom took off her sweater.  But for Dareen there was nothing she could do.  She certainly couldn't take her blazer off.  She was sweating bullets and in misery.  She even had to use a tissue to wipe the sweat from her forehead.  Underneath, her wide bra straps dug into her back, into her shoulders, the cups squeezed and encased her.  Clothes were just so uncomfortable with her new body.  Maybe she just needed things that fit better.  But it was hot, hot, hot . . .  At least since she didn't sag any more she didn't have that terrible heat rash problem on the undersides.  Still it was hot, hot, hot . . .

Jamal asked if she would join him for lunch.  They limped along the sweaty, sunny Atlanta streets to the little diner on the corner.  Dareen had her sunglasses on, which allowed her to ignore people's reactions.

Jamal was the perfect gentleman as always and didn't look at her body even when they sat down in the booth.  "Can I get you a drink?" the teenage waitress said, glancing casually you-know-where.  Jamal actually felt in the mood for a gin and tonic (his favorite summer drink) but was mindful of that "One Day At a Time" sign in Dareen's office.  He had always decided it wouldn't be right to drink in front of her.  So they both ordered sodas.

"Hot. . . as. . . blazes," Jamal said, using a napkin to wipe his glasses.

Dareen nodded.  "It might be cooler if you shaved your head."  Black men with shaved heads look so elegant, she mused.

Jamal smiled and ran his hand over his medium-cropped hair.  "I tried it once, it didn't help a lot.  Also my head is shaped funny.  There's like a little dent right here."

The sweating girl smiled.  "You must be really suffering in those clothes," he said. 

"Well I'm really modest."

It's easy to eat light when it's so hot.  They were halfway through their salads when Jamal finally said something.  "Dar, are you O.K.?  You seem different the last couple of days."

Dareen felt the urge to tell him something to explain her new appearance.  He deserved to know something.  She hadn't even told him (or anyone else except Elly) about her upcoming breast reduction -- bit was that still going to happen?  Could she still get medical clearance for surgery?  Too much to process.  She decided to fudge it.  "I haven't been feeling too good.  Some kind of bug."  And felt miserable about saying such a lie.  Though maybe it was a little bit true.  No, it was a lie.

"Hope you get better."

"Thank you."

A little later they got to talking about work.  Particularly that meeting with the higher-ups at the State Education Department last week.  The Homeland Security department was going to install filters and monitoring equipment in all the internet surfing computers in state libraries.  Well, one could see how that might be a good idea to track terrorists.  Everyone could see the inevitability of it.  A few months ago, Dareen and everyone else had been fingerprinted.  That's just how it is these days.  Yet. . .