She’d stroll across the office in the most outlandish high heels I had ever seen. Saucer-sized hoop earrings bounced off her ear lobes with every step. A short, tight skirt revealed shapely hips and calves and when she sashayed past you, cigarette poised between two fingers, you had to stop and admire the vision before you.
I was 8 years old at the time and she would have been no more than 30 years old. She was my first crush before I ever knew what a crush was.
Raziya was tall and buxom and of Middle Eastern descent. She was unmarried with no children. Her jet black hair was always kept closely cropped, with ringlets framing her hairline down to her temples.
“Hair just gets in the way of business,” she’d say in her commanding, but jovial, voice, winking. I had no idea what type of “business” that was. Then she’d release her raspy, throaty laugh, engineered by years of cigarette smoking.
I was in awe of this Egyptian goddess and in my prepubescent female mind, she was everything I wanted to be: tall, sexy, and confident. Whenever I visited my mom at the Inland Revenue Division, I’d always find my way over to Raziya’s office. She was usually in good spirits and I’d spend the rest of the afternoon trailing after her like Mary’s lamb.
I loved the way she’d answer the phone in her usual raspy tone: “Raz, here. How may I help you?” If it was a relative who had called, she’d break out into her native tongue, which delighted me to no end. I had no idea what she was saying, of course.
She would give me “work” to do: counting papers, filling out forms, or solving crossword puzzles and word jumbles. She supplied me with a stack of blank forms and I would stamp “PAID” or “PENDING” all over them. She also had a stash of candy and chewing gum in her desk drawer, which she very generously shared with me. If I spent the entire day with mom at work, it was Raziya who would take me to lunch.
“L.B.!” she’d call out to my mom, “I’m gonna take Belle home to live with me, you know!”
Whenever she uttered these words, my heart would leap! And for a moment, my dreams had come true. I would spend the rest of my life living with her, trying to be her.
My mom would respond: “Sure you can keep her. But don’t think you’re going to send her back when you go broke from feeding and clothing her!”
But she never did take me home to live with her, much to my disappointment.
One day, a man came to visit Raziya at work while I was there and they went to lunch together. Without me. They were gone for about two hours! How could she? She always took me to lunch!
Distraught, I went complaining to my mom that Raziya had taken some guy to lunch instead of me. She tried to explain that he was her boyfriend and that sometimes they did go to lunch or even dinner together, but I was inconsolable. I remained in my mom’s office, sulking.
When Raziya returned from her date, I didn’t want to see her. I didn’t return to her office, so she came in to see me in my mom’s.
“Sweetie, what’s the matter?” she asked and ran her hand over my hair. “Aren’t you coming back to see me?”
“You took that man to lunch instead of me,” I wailed. “You don’t like me anymore!”
“Nonsense! Of course I do!” she declared. “He and I will go to lunch together sometimes, but you will always be my best girl.”
I stopped sulking long enough to look at her. “Do you mean it?” I asked.
“Of course!” she repeated. “Look, I even brought you back some chocolate ice cream.”
My face brightened as she presented me with the small package of “Dairy Queen” I had not previously seen.
Chocolate ice cream! I knew I was special!
I relented and gave her a big hug, all misgivings about my place in her heart now permanently put to rest.