By: S. B. Julian
Two women, burka-covered, meet in the street. They chat. Observers can see nothing but their eyes – when they’re’ close enough. Otherwise they see only two shrouded post-like figures, with voices.
Hello Lolo! You’ve put on weight.
How do you know?
I can tell by your eyes.
It’s that Turkish Delight. Gotta give it up. You, Lala, seem thinner. Are you ill?
I had a bug.
Not that viral thing? I hope you’re not contagious.
No. It’s gone now. Anyway, I always cover my mouth when I cough.
(Lolo points.) Look over there – those two guys are checking us out.
One winked! He’s giving you a thumbs-up Lolo. You’re such a tease.
He likes my sexy outfit.
It looks like all your outfits.
It’s what’s underneath that counts.
What does he see underneath, Lolo?
Whatever he wants. That’s how he likes it. Like, my shapely legs, for instance.
What else? Higher up.
My warm heart.
What else? Lower down.
Um … my gall bladder? Very erotic, the gall bladder. (They giggle.)
What are you wearing underneath?
Today – nothing! Except my tattoos. I wouldn’t want them dis-covered. Except in the right
circumstances, of course.
The hidden is always more interesting than the obvious.
And a disguise more revealing than a guise.
But confusing …
… especially to guys. (They giggle.)
Do you ever think we sound like Betty and Wilma?
You mean in The Flintstones? No! I drape myself in fine cotton and silk, not animal skins.
Well yes … but are we like them in other ways?
In other ways, yes, totally.
How jolly! I’m glad.
On another day soon after, Lolo and Lala meet again on the street.
I saw you on the street yesterday, I waved and you ignored me!
You’re not mad at me are you?
I thought you were hiding something.
I’m always hiding something: myself.
As long as you’re hiding no resentment toward me. You do hide yourself, yet you body forth more
powerfully than anyone I know … but covertly. How do you do that, Lolo?
(shrugs) You do it too, Lala. Covering something up draws attention to it.
Yes. Makes it cryptic: hidden. Like Africa, the “dark continent”. Explorers used to wonder what’s at the
centre of it. What’s at the centre of your dark continent, Lolo?
Um … my gall bladder? (They giggle.)
Tell me something, Lolo. Why do we always meet in the street, covered up, when we could meet in our
own homes, uncovered?
Hmm (consideringly) … Because we like playing hide-and-seek?
And hide-and-not-seek, too. What are we really, underneath? Are we even both women?
Hmm … let’s continue seeking and not finding, okay?
Oh. Okay. (Lala suddenly points at something.) But look over there, Lolo! What’s that?
Some people like us – covered. And they’re walking in a line. Is it a parade?
A Pride Parade?
Maybe a parading “proud shroud crowd”? (She giggles.) Is there such a thing?
Or is it a protest?
People not covered? Or is it a march for something? The right to be covered? Come on, let’s get closer
and dis-cover which. This is jolly, Lolo – we too can march for … something ..
Yes, we too can join the look-at-me, I’m-in-a-parade folk.
Or rather, the don’t-look-at-me folk.
Let’s make a hash-tag: #invisiblemetoo.
(laughs) But Lolo, look: I don’t think it’s like that. It’s four women following a man.
What man? I can’t see. Let’s us follow too.
Oh yeah, there he is – strutting domineeringly ahead. So it is a pride parade, a pride-that-goeth-before-
Lolo look! Behind us. Other women, non-covered women are joining the line. And people are stopping
to watch. Look! Even more are joining, they’re laughing, they’re all strutting along behind him,
mimicking him …
He’s turning round.
The look on his face! Pure fear.
The look on the wives’ faces!
How can we see their look? They’re covered.
I don’t know, but we can, can’t we? An inscrutably subversively amused look. Piercing.
Just as well they’re covered, eh?!
Look – he’s running away! The crowd’s following him. Come on – stay with the pack.
They hurry forward.
He’s terrified. (They stop, panting.) He’s gone.
The four girls have stopped. Look, they’re twittering like bluebirds on a branch, they’re laughing. I bet
there’ll be some great Tweets sent out tonight – makes me wish I’d learned Arabic so I could
I know Arabic.
Well la-di-da, LaLa! Do check Twitter and tell me.
The crowd’s leaving now.
Averting their eyes from us too. Funny that: averting your eyes from what you can’t see.
In disapproval? Embarrassment?
In aversion to our privacy.
They see our coverings as imprisonment not privacy.
Imprisonment in cloth?
In tradition. In anonymity.
I see anonymity as freedom.
Hiding suggests shame, most people would say.
Yet some religions consider exposure shameful.
These other women here won’t meet our eyes. Are they insulting us?
(Lolo shrugs) Doesn’t matter.
What would the Flintstones say?
They’d say we “rock” (they giggle)
Lolo and Lala meet on the street again another day. Lolo is looking upward as Lala approaches.
(Lala too looks upwards, and points) Flirting with that surveillance camera on the wall again, Lolo?
I can’t help it. My eyes have a life of their own.
The life of a tease.
Look up and down this street: we’re the only ones here who aren’t being spied on by that camera. Only
we can see and not be seen. We’re the freest, and also the real spies.
Yes, we see everything while people think we’re not even here.
Because we’re hidden.
Speak for yourself! Isn’t that illegal …?
Silly! Read your dictionary, Lala. It’s amazing what’s hidden in a dictionary– in plain sight.
What would I see?
That recondite comes from the Latin word “condere”: to hide.
Well la-di-da-Lolo. And also because they can’t see us, they think we can’t hear them. That we’re just a
couple of posts.
Or is it the opposite? Maybe they think we’re a couple of listening posts that do hear them, so they
clam up. We might have recording devices under these burkas.
Knowing you, you probably do. We’re like flies on a wall.
More like larvae in cocoons.
And people can’t tell us apart.
Un-nerving for them. Which is Betty and which is Wilma?
It’s because we both have the same laugh.
Yeah, that must be why. (They giggle the same laugh.)
But listen Lala, I bet we’ll be at the head of a new trend when these cameras get too thick on the ground
… in the air … on the rooftops … these Janus eyes in doorways, looking ahead and behind,
fascinated and repelled, watching life, intrigued and disgusted at the same time …
“At the same time …” So are we ahead of the times or behind, Lolo?
Ahead. Soon whoever wants privacy will be following our lead. When there’s no privacy, wear your
privacy! Like we do.
Maybe we’ll start a new fashion. We could start a clothing business! “Wear your burka to worka”
could be our slogan. (She giggles again.) What would the Flintstones say?
They’d say yab-ABAYA-dabba-doo! But seriously Lala, the spies will win, the cameras will win,
the watchers will watch. Soon facial-recognition cameras will take over, and anyone who wants
anonymity will have to cover their faces.
Like us. The past is the future. (She is suddenly grave.) But what will ordinary people wear then?
Search me. Space suits? Surveillance is theimprisonment of the future.
What will become of us all, Lolo?
I don’t know, but I’m not worried about us – we always re-cover.