COFFEE TALK: Unveiling lives

Jumana Shehata
6 Min Read

Besides helping me escape my world, eavesdropping allows me to glimpse into other peoples lives for a few minutes. Today, I have discovered an additional benefit to this activity: it unleashes your creativity.

In the very rare moments when there is a shortage of stories, I gaze into my coffee cup and finish off old stories in my head, creating endings and alternative scenarios as I go along. Before I know it, I m directing an imaginary movie.

“Have you watched the video I gave you, because if you have, I will send you the second one, said Leila, a woman speaking with a perfect English accent. I was surprised, when I turned around, to find a woman wearing a niqab. Unfortunately, I still have a preconceived notion based on today’s media culture that women wearing the niqab cannot speak English well.

“Yes, I have seen it, thank you, answered Marwa, “You know there is this phenomenon that I have been contemplating lately.

Sighing, she added, “It bothers me that every restaurant you set foot into these days, an open bottle of water is suddenly placed on your table regardless of whether you ask for it or not. Mohamed, who was making himself comfortable in the company of 5 women, suddenly got up and started laughing, “That is nothing. Go to any club, you will find an open bottle of whisky on each table, like it’s a minimum charge to keep the table.

Laughing again he whispered, “Leila, look, look, so who is that?

Pointing to a woman wearing the niqab, he explained to the crowd, “You see they can smell each other under that cover.

Leila ignored the comment and said, “Did you hear what happened between Tarek and Fatma? I think they may get a divorce.

“What do you expect? Mohamed said standing up again. “He does not go to weddings, and she knows a lot of people that she needs to congratulate and pay respects to. You see, there you have a recipe for failure of marriage.

“By the way, Leila, that girl Noha is agnostic. Marwa stated.

Waving his hands in a telling off motion, Mohamed shrieked, “Don’t ever tekafary, by calling someone agnostic. It s haram. Just stop talking to her, but don’t make that judgement.

Trying to appear uninterested, I perked up my ears, and looked hard at my coffee cup.

Then, “I was so right. Like I expected, OTV showed a porn movie, Mohamed stated in confidence.

“It was expected, I mean they had to compete with melody who were already showing half naked people, so they had to go one step further to stand apart, he continued to explain.

I stare so hard and long into my coffee cup that the blur makes the coffee look like a human eye, another creative thought.

A high pitch laugh guided my ears to two young women.

“So how is your job hunting, Yasmine? asked Sarah. With a frown she answered, “I don’t know, I mean I am getting interviews, but I am just not sure.

“I got a funny call yesterday actually. This woman with a strong American accent calls me and asks me in for an interview to teach at a school, after a phone interrogation. Anyway, as I was about to hang up, she asks if I am veiled.

“So I said No, and she said, Don’t worry we can talk about that when you come.

I don’t think so, I am Christian, I replied, And that is as far as I will go about any veil conversation. So perhaps you would like to review the application and get back to me, continued Yasmine.

Sarah gasped, “Oh, so she wants veiled girls. I would have thought the opposite. How odd.

“Yeah, the woman was shocked, it showed. So, I don’t think I will be hearing from them again, Yasmine responded.

The veil seems to be the theme of conversations today, and I listened on.

“And so she suddenly stopped blow drying my hair, and stood there in silence, said Amina to her older colleague.


Bearing an ‘MSN teeth smile icon look’ she answered, “Well, she said it was because of the call to prayer, and, surely enough, she stood there in silence till it came to an end.

Shaking her head she continued, “You know if it were music, or even if she left me to go pray, I would understand, but that was just irritating.

As a common face walked through the door, I quickly started getting my gear together, ready to leave. I knew this person was curious, and I would not like to share my favourite pastime with them.

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