Public Transport

A girl in a neon green jacket sits by herself on a bench, waiting to catch the next train home. It’s late, but not that late. She has her headphones in and they stand out against her black hijab. She is looking down at her phone, tapping random apps. She’s not really doing anything of importance but she doesn’t want to make eye contact with anyone, lest they try to speak to her. The weirdos who use public transport are not worth her time. She could live without the stares she gets everyday. 

A man in a black coat comes to sit one seat down from her. He passes uncomfortably close to her and the girl pulls her body inward, away from him. She can feel him looking at her from her right side, but she continues to tap away at her phone, trying her best to look busy and focused.

“Salam walayka.”

The girl recognizes that the man is trying to greet her with the Islamic greeting, even though he doesn’t pronounce it quite right. But she doesn’t want to talk to him. So she ignores him and continues to tap away at her phone. 30 seconds pass in silence and the girl can feel his eyes on her. 

*cough* “Salam walaikum.”

This time he pronounces it properly. The girl considers replying but decides against it. Then she feels bad for not replying as she is representing her religion in this train station and she wouldn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or give them reason to hate her religion. But she decides that he is a stranger and it would do him nor her any good by replying. But then she thinks she ought at least to inform him of the meaning of what he is saying, as perhaps he is considering to convert but he doesn’t know many Muslims. But then, she realizes that she really doesn’t want to chat or have small talk with a stranger, as that is what he probably–.

“Can you hear me?”

He says it so softly, she almost misses it. She’s taken too long. She didn’t want to talk to him anyway. She continues to tap away at her phone, glancing up every few seconds to check train arrivals.