Bricks & Flowers. The Social Construct of Gender Roles Needs Reforming.

I don’t think men are trash. The companionship of a man can be a good thing. A man worth my time will offer his support and friendship. However, a man I can certainly do without is one who holds so closely to the notion that men are the head of a household for no reason other than—to put it bluntly—they think their dick makes them so entitled. It’s laughable. I don’t blame them all for this sick sense of entitlement, everyone likes a bit of power.  This social construct of a society has done opposite works to men and women as if we’re complete opposites. We’re not polar opposites, we’re complementary. While I won’t disregard our differences, it’s important to recognize the intersectionality in our ambitions and skill. Furthermore, one woman varies from her sister, just as one man varies from his brother. The intersectionality between genders and the additional variances among a gender itself cannot be fit into boxes with straight edges and corners. In propagating the stereotypical, old aged roles imposed upon both genders through all sectors of our culture, we leave no room for women who decide on not having children or for the men who like to clean or cook and cry openly. I recognize the contexts in which such traditional roles were outlined, but how is a woman commonly expected to cook, clean and such if she is also working a 9-5? I’ll be bringing bread home too so I can do without this hierarchal shade. If I am maintaining the home and bringing in income, well aren’t I doing it all? If anyone, I ought to be deemed “head of household” with that logic. Anyhow, that isn’t what I’m after. I believe a woman and man should join for intimate friendship, reciprocation, and support. If any are compromised, one should reflect on the sweetness of their solitude and deem if the relationship offers more.

Loneliness can be distasteful, but at least it doesn’t infringe on your power. If anything, loneliness coats the void within you with an adhesive to hold to experiences and interactions that distract you from your fleeting despair. Loneliness forces you into introspection—eroding the blurriness between the states in which you are absentminded and woke. To be profoundly in tune with each distinct mode will keep you from being passive and thus subject to undesirable energy. Anyhow, my love for my solitude is not to say I don’t want love. Love is life. But my fleeting moments of loneliness cause me to draw upon the notion of compromise. How much compromising is too much? Is there such a love with no compromising? A part of me feels that compromise is vital, as it signifies two unique individuals reaching understanding. Compromise makes me think of the woman who has no money for a comb, and her husband who has no money to fix his broken watch. She cuts her hair to afford him a new watch and he sells his broken watch to afford her a comb. It’s a love of pure exchange. No expectations, but total reciprocity. But then… I feel as though we throw around the term ‘compromise’ as this sophisticated disguise for what in reality, is a lover having to betray their personal values. Compromise and imposed change are not the same, and I myself don’t have the wisdom to discern between the two clearly.

As a woman, I’ve been considerably fortunate to not have brothers. I don’t need this “protector” when I can adopt the logic to keep myself out of undesirable situations in the first place. I don’t need a brother to go after a boy that has hypothetically done me wrong. The notion is so silly, for when a person is selective with their time and energy, fuckboys are only folklore. Kind of like the monster under the bed as a child, you’re convinced it’s a thing but it’s not a thing you’ve witnessed to tell the tale yourself. God willing, I’ve had good luck with men (people in general). The energy you put out is what will boomerang back. Anyhow, this is not to dismiss the conscious, selective women who still get hurt. For it happens. But when it does, just remember, Beyoncé’s “Me, Myself and I” is the healing shit.

Look, I am not belittling the glorious male warriors of past time. Yes, I get it, men fought in wars and were physically adapt, yes cool story bro. But what I am saying is that this bestowed “protector” role is a societal construct that has carried on into today—penetrating irrelevant contexts and giving men propriety of what women have the capacity to do themselves.

In addition to not having the big brother to spy on me when your girl was out and about in the city (lol I’m talking about poetry slams and brunch duh), I’ve been even more fortunate to have a gentle father who did his own laundry, cooked and cleaned. In my household, there are no stark roles ordained because of gender. Things are simply done because they have to be, and they are done by one who has love. There is a great joy in cooking to nourish your loved ones, and in cleaning to make your physical space an outward manifestation of the state of your internal self; however, this is under the premise that love is the sole factor. When gender contributes, such acts become menial chores, for how unfair it is to be assigned tasks at birth unwillingly?  To be truthful, I don’t even feel like I am seen as a woman at home. I’m just a soul, a person, who is respected and understood for my ambitions and dreams. I was never told I had to learn to cook for marriage, I was told I needed to learn so that I could support myself as a person. I am grateful.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I sometimes imagine certain ‘female belittling’ scenarios in my mind, and I become so perplexed by what isn’t even my direct reality. I’ll stand in the mirror and enact my comebacks to men who casually slut shame a woman for the same act they themselves carry out. These imaginative scenarios of mine get descriptive too. For instance, I picture being married, and my husband’s friends coming over. In cultural accordance, I as the woman would greet them and then fix them up something to eat as they sat conversing. They would say thank you but would not be particularly appreciative of my gesture, because it was expected.

If I have it my way, and I insist on having it my way, this is how it would go down.

His friends would enter my home, and I’d be lounging on the couch watching the documentary about the Gulabi Gang. I’d say what’s up to his friends while extending my arm out—gesturing for them to walk to me and give me a fist bump, or some platonic shit of the like. I’d hear about their life updates and make a joke to one of them that no woman will marry him until he learns to properly iron his shirt… I’d probably give him a wink too to undo a bit of the damage to his ego. Then I’d get up and tell them to make themselves comfortable on the couch—leaving the Gulabi Gang documentary on so they can get educated.

Then, my husband and I would both go into the kitchen and fix up something for his friends. Even if he wasn’t particularly useful in the kitchen, he still better be in there with me. Perception is important. The collaborative effort is a signal to his friends that I am no damn trophy wife, I am simply a partner in the kitchen with my partner.  I do not serve. Listen, I would happily serve them if it wasn’t that deep. But is that deep. Certain acts are culturally imposed and expected of a woman. And so, my husband and I would both bring the tea and food to the guests. As a team.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

Omen ᎒ Child

 

Wherever you are in this world, & for whatever your labor may be,

If at any moment you look up and see an end, go outside and look up again.

And if even a star is seen at night, move and look to where there is nothing in sight.

For when your gaze becomes lost in the endless sky,

 you will entrust that you know nothing except the fact that you know nothing,

and your compass gifted by The Most High is buried inside.

 

***

 

“Where are you from?” said the old man of fruit stand

 

᎒ “I am from here.” said the girl

 

“I have sold apricots from this stand each year when the sun dances, but when it turns cold they stop growing. So, I have adapted. When the fruit crops are dead I sell bread. I keep the people of this town fed, but I have never seen you.”

 

᎒ “I am from earth, so I can say I am from here, just like you and your foremothers. But your suspicion is not void, for I am also from there too, and so are you.”

 

“Where are your forefathers from?” He asked with a raised eyebrow, “That is where you belong.”

 

“What makes here different from there, aside from different colors on a flag, or military men to secure land? It is a man who tells another where he can or cannot stand. But I am a woman and If I say I have all earth to span, then I can.”

 

The old man frayed the tip of his miswak with his thumb and spit over his right shoulder, letting it land in-between him and the young girl. She didn’t move. He did not understand why she could not give a straight answer and blamed the new regime for making women even more difficult to listen to than they already had been. He decided on telling her to get lost and find food elsewhere, but then he remembered that she had not even asked for his food to begin with. It was him who had started a conversation with her.

 

“If you are from everywhere, then why are you here of all places?” He questioned

 

᎒ “If I am from everywhere then why wouldn’t I be here of all pla…”

 

“Enough! I don’t understand you, you talk too much and you’re making me want to smoke”

 

᎒ “Then why won’t you smoke?” she laughed at how the old man could bring himself to frustration

 

“My wife, she doesn’t let me kiss her anymore, and she blames the smoke for making Mubarak cough”

 

᎒ “Your grandson Mubarak.

 

“How did you know that Mubarak was my grandson! He could’ve been a nephew or the neighbor’s child.” He watched her more closely now.

 

She wanted to use this as an opportunity to fool him into thinking she could read lives and the future, he was already convinced that she knew something substantial, although it was just a guess. She may as well make a profit from it if he accepted having his future read through his palm. Of course, she did not know how, but she was a good actor and that made her a jack of all trades.

 

A funny wind passed by and it made her fear the hellfire. She remembered that the one who engaged in fortune telling would have their prayers rejected for 40 days, and it was in times of traveling or sickness that she’d observe prayer sincerely— making up for all the times she had been deluded by comfort. She was to leave for her voyage into Somaliland at dawn, and could not afford avoidable sins to diminish her chances of getting there safely. She let the idea pass and told the man the truth.

 

᎒ “Because you’re an old man and you look like the type to live in a home of three generations.”

 

“You certainly are not from here; the girls here do not tell an old man that he’s an old man.”

 

᎒ “Why do you only mention the girls, if I were a boy and called you an old man would that have made a difference?”

 

“Yes, if you were a boy I would have laughed, but you are a girl and so you can’t.”

 

᎒ “You know old man, I liked you more when you were silent and polishing your fruit.”

 

“That makes two of us.” the old man reached into his pocket for a cigarette

 

᎒ “Give me a cigarette.” She smirked

 

“Maxaad ii tidhi! (What did you say!) You’re young enough to be my granddaughter, I will not!”

 

᎒ “It’s ok, I actually have my own pack, I figured I’d ask you first in case I may be able to save one of my own, money is tight when you’re a traveler, and I guess you want to be a selfish old man.” She winked.

 

She brought out her goatskin satchel and unzipped it—taking out a cigarette. The old man stood in bewilderment at how casually she took one out. She continued to look through her satchel and pulled out what he thought would be a lighter but was instead a pair of sunglasses. She put them on and stuck the unlit cigarette in her mouth and then leaned against the tree but lost balance and fell in the sand.

 

She called to him mockingly in an exaggerated crackly voice, “Little girl, help an old man who has fallen, my back! I think the angels have come to collect my soul! Make sure my sons get 2/3 of my inheritance and my daughters only get 1/3 if this bad back kills me!” She got up and started laughing at her own performance.

 

The old man tried to stay frustrated at her but could not help but laugh a hearty laugh. He realized she knew she had no manners but didn’t care, and that was oddly refreshing. He had not laughed like that in years. Laughing with his family was short-lived when he remembered how much more fruit needed to be sold to make rent. Laughing as a boy was always interrupted by the desire to be stern so that he could be taken seriously like a man. But here, as he stood with his fruit and the young girl, he couldn’t help but laugh freely at the way she mimicked James Dean with a sly smirk and obnoxious confidence. ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ was one of the only movies he could remember seeing some time ago at a theatre. The subtitles didn’t help much because he could not read. But that did not matter so much because who could ever have forgotten the smirk of James Dean.

 

᎒ “What is so funny old man?” She asked rhetorically

 

“ You know, if you didn’t look so silly, I may have slapped you for disrespecting an elder, but because you don’t actually smoke, I’m a bit relieved and can laugh at your playfulness”

 

᎒ “What makes you so sure I don’t smoke old man?”

 

“Listen, call me by my name, I am Abshir.” He suddenly had more patience with her now

 

᎒ “Ok, Abshir, why do you care for whether I smoke or not?”

 

“Because it is not good for you, young one”

 

᎒ “Abshir, call me Rihan. Now Abshir, why fear my affairs with a cigarette if you yourself smoke?”

 

“Rihan, sometimes, the things we bring upon ourselves are not what we wish for others, it’ll make sense when you grow older. How old are you anyway?”

 

᎒ “Do you want my years in how long I’ve been in this body, or by how much I’ve experienced?”

 

“Because I know you like to talk a lot, give me both.”

 

– “12, and just born.”

 

“You are just born in accordance to how much you’ve experienced?”

 

᎒ “Yes. How much we experience is not about quantity, that is the delusion. Experience is about undergoing something more profound than you had yesterday and letting that override all you know. I detach from yesterday if I’ve witnessed something grand today. And tomorrow Abshir, if I meet someone in another town more fascinating than you, I will forget about you and I will live in the moment my new friend gifts me. So, I am always being revived and reborn.”

 

“You didn’t make any sense at the start of our encounter, and I’m afraid that hasn’t changed. But I like you now, I hope God keeps you safe in wherever you venture to next.”

 

᎒ “How can you assume I won’t build myself a house in this town?”

 

“You’re a 12-year-old girl Rihan, my dear, what house can you build alone?”

 

᎒ “Fair point, but you’re an old man, so we’re both unable in that regard.”

 

She smiled at him and he smiled back. They found common ground.

 

“It was nice meeting you Abshir. I hope you stop smoking just as you warned against it for me. It’ll make your wife happy, and when the women of the world are happy, the entire world is at peace. Empower your daughters as you do your sons. Be equitable, not traditional.”

 

“Rihan, you are perhaps the most interesting person I’ve met in the years I’ve been at this bazaar, can you at least tell me where you are going so I can give you some money according to the distance you must travel, you have made me laugh and for that I must repay you.”

 

“I would tell you if I knew, but I only know one thing.”

 

And she recited for him,

 

Wherever you are in this world, & for whatever your labor may be,

If at any moment you look up and see an end, go outside and look up again.

And if even a star is seen at night, move and look to where there is nothing in sight.

For when your gaze becomes lost in the endless sky,

 you will entrust that you know nothing except the fact that you know nothing,

and your compass gifted by The Most High is buried inside.

 

 

The old man was moved by the young girl’s words and began to weep.

 

She took off her glasses and put it on his face and said,

 

᎒ “I know you like looking manly, so do not let others see you cry. But know that because I’ve seen you cry, you are the manliest of men to me. Be more vulnerable from time to time, your masculinity isn’t so fragile. Be well Abshir. I am an orphan and will keep you in my prayers. The prayer of an orphan is of the most sacred.”

 

“Rihan, don’t go, my wife and I can adopt you as our own. You won’t make it very far alone!”

 

᎒ “The moon & the stars have already done so, you mustn’t kidnap me, that would be a crime. Also, who are you to say I won’t make it far alone without having known how far I’ve already come? I am never alone.” She smiled and left without turning back.

 

The old man wept and called after her but did not run after her. He knew that a traveling soul could never be captured or kept at a standstill. He knew that he himself had been still for too long in the box of custom and tradition. His masculinity was not fragile and he quit smoking that very moment for his wife’s contentment.

 

He admired the young girl. The world was hers and she belonged wherever she set foot. This, he now understood.

 

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

Do Not Let the Net of Your Unconscious Float Too Far |Purpose & Essence

There are certain places that can shapeshift my certainty into shapeless sand. Places like the children’s section of a bookstore, or the corner by the bookshelf in the mosque, bring me to contemplate the things worth living for. It makes good sense, for there is a common root in the child and spiritual one, both are embodiments of what is innate, and what can only be tarnished by the loss of innocence or the negligence of guarding one’s energy.

There are verses from the Quran that can strip my ego of its worldly embellishments, and the dancing thick sound of an oud being strum that can move me to tears in gratitude for God’s gift of hearing.

But if I am uncareful, there too, are certain forms of music that have a way of fabricating my truth—turning reality into an enjoyable delusion in which I forget my sense of self. Profane lyricism or careless nudity can with time, plaque the heart. This is old news of course, but a reminder to myself first and foremost.

Do not get me wrong, good lyricism is poetry, and nudity can be done in self-love and respect, but as with anything, it is about the context, and therefore the energy in which you permit to enter your ears, eyes and all other windows. These are windows to the heart, the cage of your essence. Heighten your awareness and do not let the net of your unconscious span so large that it catches anything and everything with such disregard. Learn to be more selective and in tune with how your heart fluctuates in response to your surroundings. This is the start.
***
Last night was probably the first time I ever challenged my purpose. I’ve lived each day with my ambitions as far from the abstract as one’s jugular vein—within me and sustaining me. It’s a beautiful thing, to know exactly what you want. Vision is the antidote to the one who wastes time. For how can you move with purpose if you do not yet see your purpose?

                                                                                 ***

But as of last night, I’ve come to realize two things about the fragility of purpose:

1. The concept of self-revival emphasizes that we do not have to be who we were yesterday. Our previously self-defined purposes are not definite, for as we grow into our life experiences, we should not be closed off to the idea of our purposes potentially changing.

2. At the same token, if we strive to maintain a single purpose, then the journey is about accepting the different routes, for although our vision is concrete, the ways of getting there are fluid.
There are two journeys to self, one in which the vision is fluid and one in which the route is fluid.

Not everyone realizes their purpose. Some people live in accordance with expectation, and some in a result of limited opportunity—both in which are sometimes in tragic harmony.

I must note that our purpose is not synonymous to our essence. Our self-defined purpose is subject to change, whereas our essence is more abstract and entirely distinctive. Two people can potentially have the same purpose but the cannot share the same essence. Our essence steers us to our purpose. And if you want to gain clarity of your purpose, heighten your awareness and detox your energy. In doing so, you’ll create a safe space within yourself, free of societal expectations and checkboxes. Perhaps you’ll realize that your previously declared purpose is different, or maybe it’s the same and you’ve just now accepted the liberation in knowing there are abundant ways to achieve the same thing. It is about being true to your essence and achieving what you want in the way that is integral to you.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima

A Date at the MET, The Mighty Moorish Empire, Schools of Thought & Discerning between Love and Lust  

NYC | A rainy day | The Metropolitan Museum | Him and I.

We stood in front of the oil painting. It suited its gold frame. With their smooth dark skin and an aura contained by tradition and power, even the common Moor looked like a king. I looked at the decorative jewels the men wore, the precision in the creases of their turbans, and the intricacies of the tapestry rug in the backdrop. Before Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros began his inquisition to forcefully convert the Moors into Catholicism, the Moors colonized and ruled much of the Iberian Peninsula—reviving the oppressed and stagnant times of Europe with their intellectual and progressive practices. The elaborate use of geometry in their windows and walls were awe-inspiring, and surgeries performed in the hospitals of Cordoba would have been adopted by the rest of Europe only centuries later. The Moors were Muslims, and of skin like night. It is no wonder that their honor and empire have systematically been ‘forgotten’ in much of academia.

The first time I heard of the Moors was in Shakespeare’s Othello, as Othello himself, the protagonist was a Moor. I remember my literature teacher defining a Moor as a black Muslim. He wasn’t entirely wrong, but his simplistic description was a microaggression of sorts. Yes, Moor has come to historically describe the affluent Muslims post 711 AD who were black, but the word moor derives from ‘marvo’ of Greek etymology, which simply means black, and nothing more. And to finitely equate Moor to mean ‘black Muslims’, implies two things. Firstly, it neglects the Moorish achievements and the intellectual essence of who they were in deducing how we define them to a physical basis. And second, it makes it as though being black and Muslim must be mutually exclusive as if when a Muslim so happens to also be black, the distinction must be made because that deviates from the ‘norm’ or the Arab Muslim. But since we’re all striving to be more politically and historically correct than we were yesterday, let’s also not forget that Arabs were originally black.

The fabrication of history books certainly favors the oppressor, but art like this does a sort of justice—telling a truth that cannot be untold. This sort of art is my favorite. The type that represents my people, or those of the like, in high esteem.

We moved on to the next painting in the “Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia” section. We stood close to each other, as waves of people with rehearsed tour guides passed by. I tuned them out and made it so that he was the only person in the museum. Us and the art. We silently observed the next piece, and he then asked me about the way I prayed.

“When you say the shahada, as you conclude your prayer, do you simply point your index finger up, or do you move it like this?” He motioned his finger to illustrate.

***

The shahada is what Muslims pronounce in each prayer to cleanse their spirit and revitalize their faith.

It reads:

“Ash hadu an la ilaha ill Allah wa ash hadu anna Muhammada Rasul Allah.”

“I declare there is no god but Allah and I declare that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Although a simple saying, it holds much beauty and weight. Allah simply translates to “the one God”, and motioning of the index finger in prayer is a physical manifestation of emphasizing the oneness of God.

***
“I move my finger, as you just did,” I told him.

“Ahh, you do it like the shafi’i,” he said slyly.

“And what is that?”

“It’s one of the Islamic schools of thought, Somalis are of it. I used to go to a Pakistani Sunday school though, so I have some Hanafi tendencies, that’s another school of thought.”

I raised my eyebrow, and fixed my eyes on the painting as I said, “I don’t see the need for all these divisions in ideology, they’re just deviations of God’s word and these people with a motive justify it by calling it ‘a school of thought’ because certainly knowledge is easier to swallow than announced deviation”

“Ya, that’s true Karima. Not everyone thinks that clearly though. Your soul is good, may Allah preserve you and what we have.”

“Ameen walal

It was funny that I so easily called him ‘walal’ (a Somali word meaning sister/brother, but also used as a form of endearment and respect), funny how things the other says so often eventually find a way on your tongue.

I looked at him as he continued to look at the art. He had a nice way of dancing between his hunger for me and his self-control, it was an art of itself.

We moved on to the next exhibit. Hand in hand, rooted in culture and faith. Sustained by God as we sought a happy medium between our love and lust.

***
Weeks later I texted him, and the conversation went as follows:

–How do men know they wholeheartedly appreciate a woman for her soul? If lust and love are so intertwined for them? This is something I’ve always heard. How do they differentiate? How do you differentiate?

//Good question Reem. It’s a feeling that is intertwined for sure. But one must like someone for their character, followed by their physical attributes. If it is the other way around, then lust is the driving force. It’s much deeper than this of course.

–So then how do you know if it’s love of her soul or love of her physique that takes mental dictation?

//I guess one can argue and say that……… good question fam. I’m at a loss for words. Somethings are felt. It’s hard to express love.

–Yeah makes sense. If anything comes to mind tell me.

//I got you. What are your thoughts?

–Well for me the two, lust and love, have always been compartmentalized. They never initially mixed. I wasn’t physically drawn to you. I’m hardly ever physically drawn to men at all. I’ll find them attractive, but I’ll never entertain a thought into the realm of lust. So, I have to know one’s character before being drawn in. You get me fam? Then a trust has to be built. And then, only after the trust is established, can lust develop. So, you see, the two are never really intertwined with me. It’s sequential, and therefore controllable.

// That’s well said, Reem. I won’t lie, for men, sometimes, actually most times, lust is preliminary. It’s an asshole thing to say, but I’m just telling you like it is. And despite that though, when you respect and honor the woman for the way she presents herself, you train yourself to settle those desires. And in a weird way, sometimes the lust shapeshifts into some type of fire that fuels your desire to learn about her on a deeper level. So, I wouldn’t disregard the lust entirely. It’s energy. So, tell me, if you don’t lust first, how do you go about getting to know someone deeply?

–Valid, and well I guess I sort of just listen to them with no expectations. And they’ll eventually say something impressive to stimulate me mentally. I’ll talk more and more with them, and eventually a trust forms. And then I envision the potential of sexual relations, and if I see them fitting that role too, then love follows. That’s my process, full circle, and whole

//Interesting.

–So I’ll cut the bullshit, I guess lust lowkey precedes love for me too. But it just happens deeper into the game, further into the process. You feel me? Lust is never an initial thing for me.

//I feel you. I love how you think. Your mind is a science homie.

–Really? Is it easy to follow?

//Sometimes. Once you break it down. I think I’m keeping up well.

–lol, yeah, I suppose you are.

***

People discern between love and lust in different ways. Emotions are of the spectrum and beyond the spectrum. When you try to quantify it, you deduce it to what is tangible. Emotions are not of the tangible realm, to begin with. They are meant to be overwhelming at times and inarticulable. Despite this, this is a glimpse into how I view it.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman

 

 

 

 

 

Avoidance Mentality & Learning to be More Present

“Sir, can I sit here?”

“Yes, of course.”

Thank you.

***

I never used to so comfortably ask to sit with a stranger. And I certainly never call a man sir, it’s so proper, and he was wearing an Iron Maiden shirt so I especially don’t know why I did it.  I am not shy, but avoidance is easier. Entirely simple interactions sometimes feel weighty and exerting. It’s not a type of avoidance derived from the fear of being awkward, for I’ll gladly make a fool of myself and not overthink it after the fact. Rather, it is an avoidance stirred from my being so deep within myself, that it’s hard for me to find solace in other things besides myself, make sense?

I walk around so deep in thought that I’m often confused for being sad. I suppose it’s a reasonable assumption, as sadness does have a way of making one introspective. But I’m hardly sad. I just only speak to people if I have to, and that’s if I’m being spoken to…or ordering something to eat.

This is not to suggest that I don’t like people, for I do. But I just rather look at the symmetry (or lack thereof) of their faces. See their repetitive hand gestures or inability to sit for long in their seat. I want to study them. I want to be a listener.  A person’s idiosyncrasies tell me far more than their scripted words do. I feel like a hypocrite because I too, often reply, “Oh that’s nice”, or other bland scripted fillers to bridge silences in the conversations I’m not fully invested in… conversations in which I strategize ways to escape with an “I have to head to class now, ” or “It was nice running into you, but I have to call my mom back, it might be something important.”

(Haha, if I’ve said either of the two to you before, don’t worry, sometimes I’m actually telling the truth. Sometimes…)

That’s another thing, silence. If you want to know whether I like/ love you, assess if I can comfortably be silent with you. I talk less the more comfortable I am sometimes. Small talk has become the only form of talk for many. It’s small talk that drains the shit out of me. I get bored too easily and wish someone would ask me something radical every now and then. I like people who don’t sit on the fence of contemplation. Just lose the filter from time to time and say something that might piss me off. It’ll prompt a worthy dialogue. Just don’t be too much of an asshole though, I remember everything people tell me. Discretion is key homie.

***

I topped too much cinnamon on my iced coffee and it gave me flashbacks of when I was 12 and choking on a spoonful of cinnamon for one of those challenges. I practically almost died, and I couldn’t forgive my little sister for forgetting to hit the record button because going viral at that age would have at least made the near-death experience somewhat worth it.  We do dumb things while we’re young to live less precariously as adults, or at least that’s the hope. Some adults are still idiots.

I opened my cobble textured black planner, (I have a thing for minimalist stationary) and stared at all the things I didn’t get to check off from yesterday. There weren’t many people in the bookstore, but I recognized the gray-haired cashier with the limp. She must always be here on Tuesdays. There was a girl with skin dark like my dad’s, and a loud sophistication swaying from her orange summer dress. There was a familiarity to her, but I’ve never seen her before. There were other empty seats near and in plain sight, but she locked eyes with me.

I suppose my smile was synonymous to an invitation. It was the sort of smile that was full and warm, not passive and routinely. I’m not sure why I smiled at her like I was expecting to see her, maybe it was the way her dress hugged her body or the amethyst crystal on her neck that made me catch a vibe. I have a thing for beautiful women or living art if you will.

“Do you mind if I join you?” she asked.

Her accent had the same fragility as mine. Like her parents immigrated here, and although she only spoke English, she could trade accents unknowingly depending on if she was talking to someone in academia or an aunty she bumped into after Friday prayer at the mosque. A tongue that was always one with the people.

“Of course, you can!”

I was secretly happy she didn’t choose an empty table. I found the simple gesture of her approaching me really attractive. And I loved how unruly and curly her hair was.

(I sound like I was totally checking this girl out… & damn it I was! Women admire and study each other all the time, its fact. And for whatever feelings the inspecting ignites, to each their own.)

That’s all it took. Make eye contact, exchange smiles, and merge existences. The algorithm was simple and refreshing. I decided right then, that I’d make the effort to sit with strangers and connect effortlessly because there was never anything to lose if there was no expectation.

***

“Sir, can I sit here?”

“Yes, of course.”

Thank you.”

I sat at the table with him. He looked about 35 and his thick beard was jet black. From his angular features, perhaps he was Persian, but I wasn’t too sure. He had circle-wired glasses that reminded me of a boy from one of my many high school flings (I was a player…kidding). His Iron maiden shirt was wrinkled and fit in a way that suggested he had it since junior high, which would’ve made him around 13, and that made perfect sense because Iron Maiden was really big in the early 80’s, and people like him must’ve joined the bandwagon in the 90’s.

The table was by the science and business bookshelves. I found it juxtaposing to have the two right near each other. But it made sense when I gave it a second thought, an unsettling sort of sense. For much of public knowledge and the sciences are dictated by those of power, those of the profitable business. I looked at it for a bit longer and found a more settling interpretation. I’m pursuing the sciences and my love does business. Maybe God wanted me to notice the two near each other for assurance.

The man with the wired frames read his thick book with fine print & I got to my own tasks. We minded our businesses in comfortable silence. No expectations, no awkwardness. The world was in order.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima

Paradoxical Beginnings

I’m currently sitting in the far right seat, two rows from the very back of this dimly lit lecture hall. Behind me, two boys– one with a snapback too big for his head– are hovering over a shared phone screen with anticipatory grins, waiting for the funny part of what I presume is some Instagram video from one of those “Daquan” accounts. Such accounts are why vine did not last very long. To the left of me, a girl is eating a Quaker’s granola bar. From her seating choice, and too small of a backpack, I can tell she isn’t the studious type– only here because her major requires it. You’re perhaps wondering what that suggests about myself, as I am sitting right next to her. Well, the difference is that my school bag is quite full, and I typically sit in the very front of every class, I’m that student. But this is just psychology class, no offense

The edge seat is most suitable for those who intend to do other than pay attention to the professor. I never quite understood the students who sat in the middle of the room, with their screen brightness fully on, as they peruse YouTube, Facebook or even porn. I, of course, haven’t seen the latter happen in any of my classes, but I’ve heard a fair share of stories. Such people are either fools or too comfortable with themselves. Sometimes the two are indistinguishable

While I find psychology fascinating, it’s all too instinctive, or at least the introductory courses are (to undo my prior offense). It’s much too common sense. Rather than catching up on FKJ and Soulection tracks on Soundcloud, or inking my planner with ambitious tasks that require me to be up past 9:30 pm, (not happening, I need my sleep) I may as well start this blog.

I don’t know how this stuff quite works; and while I’ve always considered starting one, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Ifemelu from Americanah was to me, like eating the whole bag of chips because you didn’t ration the serving by eating from a bowl. In other words, a fictional character brought me to impulsively buy a membership for this WordPress thing, without first putting my thoughts into the bowl and eating slowly, making the snacking a more thoughtful process.  I could have just opted for the free version of WordPress, but a personal domain is more aesthetically pleasing. The aesthetic of things is what makes life more than passive breathing. Anyhow, the deed is done now, and so far I have no regrets. I suppose the membership will keep me consistent about blogging, then again, I’ve said that about the gym too. I’m on my third gym membership. Coincidentally though, this is my third attempt at a blog. 3 is also my favorite number, my mother will tell you.

***

I remember a couple months back, say mid-June, I had my first day of clinical. I was taking the morning train, thinking of all the things I could call the blog I intended to start that night. I impatiently wanted a side hustle. I spent more time planning clickbait blog titles and strategies to solidify a viewer base, all before even thinking of the blog content itself! How in-genuine and passionless! I’m usually not like that, I promise. I was simply broke, and I think that explains enough. Anyhow, God quickly put me in my place that morning.

I glanced at my google maps and saw that my train stop was next. It noted that I’d get off at 40th & Colorado and then board the 40 bus

I got off the train, thinking a bit of what my clinical preceptor would be like, but I was again overcome by thoughts of what niche I should pick in the blogging world. 15 minutes passed by and the bus came. The driver got out to take a smoke break and closed the bus doors. I stood behind the light pole, standing in its slim shadow. I’ve always been good at finding the in-obvious shadows produced by the side of a building, or the height of street signs. It’s a skill a commuter picks up real quick in the heat of the summer.

As the bus driver got back on the bus, he opened the doors. I rummaged through my purse for my wallet to scan my RTD pass. My wallet. Damn it!

Trying not to lose my cool, I asked the driver for an RTD pamphlet with the numbers for the A-line train. I called, praying unceasingly while on hold as I waited for the tasteless elevator music to end. I couldn’t help but give myself kudos for leaving the house 2 hours early. I intuitively figured I’d need buffer time in case I got lost on the first day of clinic… or lost my shit.

Finally, someone picked up. From her soft nasally tone, she seemed to be in her mid-twenties. She was so immune to calls like this, giving no assurance or sympathy. I was burdening her, keeping her from online shopping, or her unfinished text.

“Is there really no way you could simply call the security guard on the train, I literally just got off!”

“No it doesn’t work that way, sorry”  I swear I almost heard her filing her nails to accompany her bland customer service voice.

“You have no form of communication with the security on trains?”

“No”

“So what are my options then? Everything is in my wallet.” 

“You either wait till tomorrow and call the RTD lost and found, or wait on the opposite platform for the same train to reroute in 20 minutes”

“Alright, thanks for your time” 

“Good luck with your wallet”

“Good luck”, why do people feel the need to retrieve such empty phrases. They don’t say it because they mean it, but rather because they think you expect to hear it.

***

I waited on the opposite platform, and in my anxious loneliness, spoke to the most high, God:

I’m sorry for wanting to start a blog as a side hustle, I could probably just put that time into worshiping you better, or exercising. I don’t know, I suppose you and I both know I would taint my essence in the pursuit of a money driven hobby. It’s unlike myself. Do you want me to stay more low-key? A private life is a happy life they say. Or is my influence best for a different platform? You know what my soul needs. You know I’ve never been into the radio because it’s too mainstream; or read a book recommended by enough people to push me (to the edge, lol) away from my remote initial interest. If it is a thing made mainstream, or a space too saturated, I want no part. And not because I intentionally steer from things that are common, but because I subconsciously feel repelled. You know this already.

But SubhanAllah, what a paradox! As I embellished the idea of starting a blog for money, I became so consumed by the thought that I forgot my wallet and lost my money.  Not to mention, my social security card was in there. So in a sense, it’s as though the idea of profiting in in-genuine ways was compromising my identity. My truth.

Oh most high, if my wallet is still on that train, I won’t start a blog. 

Before the train arrived, I came to terms with whether or not I’d find my wallet. I always went the extra mile to look out for others, always washed my hands long enough to notice if a woman was leaving the restroom without her phone or lipstick. I had everyone’s back when given the opportunity. I knew God would not forsake me. The wallet isn’t a big deal, it’s all material. But it’s the time I’d have to spend replacing everything that made it not worth considering. And my faith surged. The train blew its horn three times as it approached the platform. My anxiety drifted and I felt calm.

The train doors opened, a Hispanic officer smiled at me and said, “Have a seat, I have it!” Praise be to the most high, I was so grateful.

“I knew it was you as soon as you entered, you look just like your I.D,” he said, & we both laughed warmly.

“I don’t know how to than..”

“Ma’am if anything looks out of place, it’s because I was trying to find a phone number, I really didn’t want to have to turn it in or RTD would take it to their lost and found and that would have been a headache for you, hardly anything is ever really found with them.”

He handed it to me. His finger nails were trimmed. His hands were browner than his face and wrinkled, he had to be about 45.

“Oh thank you so so much, everything is in here, God bless you”

“Don’t thank me, ma’am, I’m happy you have it. Aslam alaiku”

He smiled with an innocence that died in most adults at 27, and I smiled back with glassy eyes– biting my cheek so that I did not cry. He didn’t pronounce ‘Assalamu ‘Alaikum‘ quite right, but I knew his intent, &that’s what mattered.

I got off the train, put my sunglasses on, and allowed my tears to fall. People can be genuine. And so I gave up the idea of starting a blog.

***

And yet, here I am… It has been a few months since then.

At this point, I don’t really care for a side hustle or any sort of egotistical attention. I observe nuances others often overlook, and ponder things like eschatology and whether or not I should have another cup of coffee. It’s thoughts like this that I want to preserve somewhere, and if you enjoy my words in the process of me doing this, then I suppose that’s good too.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima