“So, how did you meet each other?” I asked the two girls sitting across from me, seemingly polar opposites. One was a fast talking bubbly girl, with long hair and designer clothes. Her friend, on the other hand, was much less energetic and spoke softly. A scarf covered her hair and a dull red overcoat covered her clothes.
“Us?” the bubbly girl asked. “Well, we went to the same dershane (basically extra prep-classes for the college exam) together and we had a mutual friend who introduced us.”
“We didn’t like each other at all, at first,” the other girl pipped in.
“Oh? Why is that?”
“I thought she was so cold and boring,” the bubbly girl continued. “She would never talk in class and would leave right after the lessons finished, she just seemed so uninteresting. Luckily,” here she flashed a smile at the more silent friend, “I was wrong. Once we started talking, we stayed best of friends. She’s the only friend I need now.”
“It’s like we’re not friends,” the other girl continued. “I don’t call her friend, I call her my sister. I never needed many friends, I always had my family to talk to. It would be first my mom, then my sisters, then my dad, my aunts, and so on. Now I just have another sister.”
“That’s wonderful,” I smiled at them.
“Definitely. From what I hear,” she continued, “that seems to be the biggest problem with America. Loneliness.”
“Lonliness?” Suddenly, my thoughts turned to images of my friends all sitting in the same room, playing on various toys. Then, I couldn’t help but to start to think of the mass-shootings that have been happening in America – almost always carried out by young men who feel disconnected with no one to turn to with their problems.
“Lonliness,” the bubbly girl echoed. “Here, you don’t have a choice to be lonely. There’s always your family, your extended family, and your friends around. Everyone talks to everyone. I know, for example, if I ever feel sad I can run right away to her, talk to her, and she’ll listen to every word, no matter what.”
“Gladly,” her friend relied.
“That’s really wonderful.” My eyes began to wander, and for the first time I felt as if I truly saw my surroundings. We were having lunch in a restored Ottoman mansion – Malatya Mutfağa, a restaurant specializing in authentic Malatyan cuisine. The entire building was made of wood and simply whitewashed stucco. On the walls hung paintings in the Ottoman style, miniatures reminiscent of Central Asia displaying a Sultan and his horses…
“May I ask you a question,” the covered girl asked.
“What is your religion?”
“I’m Jewish,” I replied.
“Oh really,” both girls exclaimed. “Very nice! Judaism and Islam resemble each other very closely, don’t they?”
“Yeah, they absolutely do.”
“So, you have the prophet Jesus, right?”
“No,” I smiled, “Jesus is for Christians.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” the quite girl replied.
“You follow Moses, right!” the bubbly girl inquired.
“So, do Jewish women cover like we do?” the quiet girl asked shyly.
“Well,” I began smilingly, “They are supposed to, but generally very few Jewish women actually do.”
“Ah, they are more open,” the bubbly one pronounced. “Covering is a very good thing, though. Everyone in my family covers except for me. There is no pressure for me to do it, but I am thinking about it.”
“It is a sin if you do not cover, after all,” the other girl said.
“Oh, and what happens if you do not cover?”
“The fires of Hell,” the bubbly girl replied. “God is forgiving and merciful, though. When I pray, I always ask him to forgive me for not wearing a scarf, and I believe he will forgive me that.”
“Definitely,” the covered girl said. “What a wonderful thing it is to be a Muslim! Of course, not covering is a sin, but a small sin. In our religion, there are multitudes of small sins that can be forgiven if you repent. For example, right now us talking and looking each other in the eye is a sin. The prophets always avoided making eye contact with the opposite sex, but they were prophets – they were chosen because they were examples amongst us. And, you are our teacher, so God will forgive us this because we have a meaning behind our interaction.”
“So,” I said, trying to grasp the intricacies of her Turkish, “God is forgiving of small sins, and this will all be okay, then?”
“Exactly,” the covered girl smiled, “But small sins in turn give rise to large sins in the future. All of the world’s large sins now are caused by people committing small sins first.”
“Exactly like that,” the bubbly girl chimed in, a bright smile across her face.
I suppose one cannot tell if two people truly are polar opposites just from the looks of them after all.