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  • Everyday Aisha greets me "ahlan wa sahlan gelbi": Hello my heart! or "Keif halki hobni": how are you my love? She hugs me with hands covered in Henna. She starts my day with laughter.

    She is the mistress of Arabic. Her voice rises and falls, and entertains the whole office through lunch. Her hands move with her voice, painting the story in the air. Though I do not understand her stories fully, I cannot stop listening.

    Instead, I feel clumsy as I stumbled through her language. She is like an acrobat, and I am still learning to walk. Still, as we sat in the sun, she waited. She waited when I combed my memory for words. She waited as I struggled to constrict my throat for the ayin and gargle the ghrain. She waited with no impatience, and no judgment.

    Perhaps it is a blessing from God this "gelb beida", (pure heart) of hers. Quietly Aisha slips away and prays. She has visited Mecca 5 times, and at least one was the required Hajj. When the desktop computer is working, Koranic chants can fill the office.

    I do not know if it is because of Islam that she refuses photographs of her face. That is as much a part of her as her smile, and her prayer. I respect that. But, one day I will leave this office. There will be no more "gelbi" or "hobni". I will try to remember these details. But memory is like water, constantly shifting and leaving pieces behind. It feels criminal to remember her heart and not her face.
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