“Not even water?!”
The smell of coffee tingled Marwa’s nostrils as she breathed in deeply. She shook her head and sighed. It was the first day of Ramadan. First day she couldn’t drink her usual cup of hot hazelnut coffee with french vanilla cream. First day of the blessed month. Glancing at her gold watch, she knew she was a few minutes late to work. At least she was already in the building, her main goal was to get to her desk before her boss arrived. She did not see his car in the parking lot.
It was difficult for her to go back to sleep after waking up for Suhoor. The alarm didn’t go off as it should have at 3:00am. Instead, her mother knocked heavily on her room door which she warned her about earlier that day. She specifically told her mother: “Ma, do not wake me up. I have an alarm. If you do have to wake me up, please do not bang on my door.” Yet, at 3:34am, her mother must have forgotten what she initially said.
“Good morning Maria!” Jim yelled as soon as Marwa stepped out of the elevator. She rolled her eyes. Relax and smile, do not be angry, she thought to herself.
“Good morning Joe.” She replied, proceeding to go to her desk. Jim smiled awkwardly with his small lips pressed tightly together. He opened his mouth waiting for the words to escape his mouth, but nothing. He pressed his lips together again and followed Marwa to her desk.
“Why do you keep calling me Joe?” Jim said calmly. By this point, Marwa had already sat on her desk, ready to begin her new assignment.
Her eyes peered over to his. “You keep calling me Maria, when my name is Marwa. I have told you this numerous of times.”
He chuckled loudly. However, Marwa did not find any of this funny. He was a new writer at this office, and the odd thing was that he knew everyone’s name but hers. She assumed that he knew it was Marwa, but he just decided to call her Maria for jokes. She was not here for jokes.
“I apologize, I really thought it was Maria. Do you have a nickname?”
That was it. Marwa closed her eyes, and began to count in her head: 1, 2, 3, 4…
“Okay then, I’ll leave you be.”
When she reached 30, she opened her eyes and Jim was gone. He was at his desk glancing at his computer screen as if nothing happened. Do you have a nickname? Did he seriously just ask me that? Rubbish.
It was now lunch time. Marwa wanted to use her time to go pray. Before getting up, one of her coworkers, Liz, approached her desk.
“Hey! Do you wanna grab lunch? Grubs is having lunch specials and I thought you might be interested.” Liz grinned. She was the nice one in this office.
“Uh- I can’t today Liz. I am fasting.”
Liz squinted her eyes at Marwa. “You’re fasti-” Her eyes immediately widened as if she just discovered something new. “It’s Ramadan already?”
Nodding her head, Marwa said, “Yeah, but thank you for the invite. I appreciate it.”
“No problem. But I have a question- you can’t eat at all?”
Marwa gently shook her head, “No. I fast from sunrise to sunset.”
“Wow, can you at least drink water?” Liz asked, now intrigued. Her eyes were still wide with interest.
“No… during this holy month, Muslims cannot eat or drink anything until the sun sets. But it is more than just not eating, it is also abstaining yourself from negative thoughts and behaviors. It is a month of understanding and having empathy for those who are less fortunate.” Marwa replied.
Marwa knew what was about to come next.
“Not even water?!”
Written by: Diaka Thiam
Note: I wrote this because I had a similar experience but I decided to use fictional characters. Thank you for reading 🙂