“Noon” by Nur Nasreen Ibrahim
The Arabic letter noon looks like a woman’s breast. It is a half broken bottom of an egg, hanging from a stretched taut hidden rope, without the cracks showing. In the center is a dot, the nipple. Sometimes the noon sags, like my grandmother’s breasts, soft and brittle against my cheek as she holds me against her chest. Sometimes the nipple is too far up, the noon transforming into a perky breast by an invisible push up bra. Sometimes I forget to dot it and it becomes silent, a shape without a center, a piece of loose flesh. Sometimes, while writing, I dot the nipple so hastily it looks more like a dash, and my noon is pitiful and flat. Like the scar running across my mother’s breasts, flattened shapes against immaculate sanitised white pages.
Noon is a moan of pleasure from a mouth curved into a soft O.It touches your tongue and slides off easily, relying on thin gusts of wind to send it floating into the air, a musical note that ends as quickly as it began. It is a circular sound, like its image.
I am told my breasts are precious and must be hidden from view. Yet, they are groped at in crowded dark rooms, where beating drums send trembles through them. They are brushed against on train platforms and I wonder if they take up too much space. They are fondled in quiet moments in public bathrooms. But my breasts are odd shapes, one is larger than the other, with dark brown nipples that have illdefined borders. They are clotted ink splashed across my skin, hastily growing in an attempt to catch up with my body. They are surrounded by dark hairs, scratches from a malfunctioning pen. They are full and heavy and I walk with my shoulders hunched forward.
The first time I show my breasts to a man, I hold my breath. He touches them lightly and then hard, pulls at my nipples and kisses them as if he is praying. He traces the splashes of ink with his finger and I feel unfamiliar tremors. My mother always said I needed to work on my handwriting more, I never get the curve of the noon right. After it is over, he disappears.
Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a literature lover and journalist. Uprooted from Lahore, Pakistan, she graduated from Harvard University and is currently living, journaling etc. in Washington DC.