Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Africa Night" and Other Things

As salaam alaikum,

Wow, I've written the most that I have in a long time. I probably wrote 30 pages of my story in the last week, easy. Pretty crazy...I haven't written this much since NaNoWriMo 2007. I can't believed this much life has passed! What can I say, I've been busy...

But thank God for friends, man! Thank God for friends and their significant others for being such militant blacks/Africans and coming up with the idea for this African/African Diaspora book club!

The book club is actually called Children of the Nile, and we actually never read books. Given that all of the members of the book club, which I have affectionately nicknamed "Africa Night," are Harvard and MIT graduate students, we don't really have the time to read a book every month. So instead, we watch documentaries, after which we discuss what we've watched, which usually turns to my friends' boyfriend getting on his soapbox and not leaving concerning his vision for Africa, with one of his friends joining him in disagreeing.

And then, it's midnight, and the train stops running around midnight thirty, so I usually have to leave at that point.

The book clubs, of which I've attended four now, I think, are always at my friends' boyfriend's place on MIT campus. Mostly MIT is represented, thus the predominance of males.

So I don't remember when the first book club was held, but I feel like it was late 2009. We watched this film called, Rabbit Proof Fence which is about the eugenic efforts of the Australians over the Aborigines in the early 20th century. I came and I was immediately impressed with the intelligence and insight of the group and looked forward to participating in the future. So far, I have not been let down.

My friend and her boyfriend/fiance (they're technically engaged, but she wants to keep that on the DL, so that's fine) are traveling with her family to his country insha'Allah in about a week's time, so they won't be hosting Africa Night anymore. However, they would like me to co-lead the group with another member of the group "who seems to come consistently."


I've been set up by people twice this year already. People think they're being sneaky, but seeing as I am the queen of sneak, the supreme emotions obfuscator, if you will, I usually can tell right away when someone's trying to be crafty. And making me and this dude co-leaders is sooo obviously a set-up.

...but we already like each other, so it's okay.

This entry would have been more explosive, but I gave in and told my mother the whole sordid tale. Sordid because...at 25 years old, I'm still such a kid when it comes to me liking someone else. I do this weird thing where I use unisex language...it's not that I'm necessarily trying to be orientation equitable at those times, I just for some reason never admit...that it's a man. I usually use language like, "What I'm looking for in someone," or "Someday, I'll have somebody." I couldn't even say aloud, "What I'm looking for in a man." It sounds too...ugh...

So yeah, this is interesting.

So I first met him when we watched Rabbit Proof Fence. He seemed like a nice, outgoing guy...friendly. Not my type, so I wasn't checking him out like that. [Ugh, talking about it like this already makes me feel silly.] But we watched the movie and we were laughing at each other's commentary and essentially had our own running commentary going the whole time. I was intrigued that he was finding so many things funny. As I got to know him more, I was impressed with his intelligence, how well-read he was, how up he was on so many things...and it was so easy for him. He carries himself easily with it, and he seems like a down-to-earth guy.

Ironically, my friends were trying to set me up with this Muslim dude, but they didn't understand...he was so conservative a Muslim, our conversation would not get very far past, "So, looking forward to Ramadan this year?" Once again, Muslim Relationship Dysfunction set in, and that went a whole lot of nowhere.

So I saw this guy a couple more times before he indicated that he was going to Asia, but the last book club that we were at together...I don't know, there was something about the interaction, and us, and I could tell...something was going to happen, sooner than soons ever been for me (for example, soon for me has been 10+ years...that takes too long to explain).

So months pass, he comes back to the States, I come back to Boston, and this is our first time seeing each other in months. I see him, complement his hat... And then during book club, I notice he keeps making a concerted effort to sit next to me. When there's no room on the couch, he sits at my feet. When there's finally room on the couch, he's sitting so close...

...and instantly, I have a flashback to the last time I've known for sure that a guy liked me. The year was 2004, and the venue was organic chemistry structured study group...and then a review for our exam. [Yes, it's actually been 6 years since someone not a street random has liked me...at least enough to act on it...wow.] It's happened other times, too far back to really recount.

And it was happening again...except, this time, I'm 25, not 19, and a whole lot more mature to know, okay, this is what's going on.

So he and my friend walked me to the T stop so I could catch the train prior to midnight thirty and then he blurts, as I get ready to go down the steps, "We should hang out." And excitedly, thinking finally, a guy making a move, I reply, "Yes, we should!"

So on Saturday, in celebration of Nigeria's 50th Anniversary of Independence (yes), we're going to this gala held by the Nigerian Student Association. Yes, because we are just that gangster that there are so many of us here, we can't just have an African Student Association, it's Nigerian.

At this point in the conversation with my mom, she asked me what his name was. I grinned, though she couldn't see it over the phone, and proceeded to tell her that his nickname...which is the same as my father's nickname.

...and she proceeded to laugh at me for a long time.

And so suddenly, in the course of 72 hours, I'm getting ready to go out with this guy who effectively has the same name as my father by extension of his nickname, a Nigerian, something that everyone who knows me knows I've never felt bound to do...

But it's not like I'm ending up with him. We're just hanging out...

But if my intuition serves me right, I have a feeling...it's not just going to be hanging out. Especially since we're book club co-leads now (in 72 hours, craziness has happened!), we're going to be in each other's lives for a little bit more.

Being such the girl that I am, as I rode back on the T smiling like I haven't smiled since the last time I saw MQ on the campus of UMich (like the Cheshire Cat, I used to say), against my better judgment jumping ahead to, oh my gosh, what if we start going out, and then, he meets my family, and then he introduces himself with the name my family knows my father by.

Maaannnn...of all of the men in the world, I'd have to start liking someone who, unfortunately, in some way, reminds me of my father. Me! Queen of the Anti-Elektra.

Serves me right!

So I said I wouldn't actually say anything until things panned out, but...the week is moving too slowly and too much is happening, so I say it now. Yes, he's Nigerian. And...no, he's not Muslim.

How do I feel about the latter? Hrm...ask me when it seems like for real we're going to be just more than friends at the end of this.

So, for the first time in my life, really, I'm celebrating Nigerian independence. So as MQ was the initial catalyst for me to become more Muslim, shall this man, who needs initials...I'll give him initials if anything exciting happens...make me more Nigerian?

Vamos ver, a gente!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Encontros e Despedidas

As salaam alaikum,

So, I love this song. I'ma translate it...

But first, random updates:

(1) I just met a woman who reminded me of myself...physically, I mean. She looked like me. We were the same coloring, similar build, everything. Especially her face...we had, like, the same eyes. It was creepy. I always say I've never met someone who looks like me, whereas most people have a physical type that fits them. She was it for me. She was at our book club (in which we actually never read books, we watch documentaries, but whatever) with her husband, and she's about 26 weeks pregnant. Hahaha, it makes me feel like a weird narcissist to say she was gorgeous, but what can I say? I've never met someone who looked so much like me, and if I think I look gorgeous, of course, by the transitive property, she would be, too! Masha'Allah!

And (2) a few months ago, like, back in April when book club was still new, I met this guy, and it's funny when you know that you're eventually going to be involved with a person. It's like, you have this intuition, and you know, but you don't want to believe it in your mind, but you know. Yeah. He's back in the country now after a trip to...Indonesia, I think, and after book club we departed with a rushed, "We should hang out!" And we should. I'll say more about him after we actually hang out, but wow. I was smiling like the Cheshire Cat on the T and was so happy like I haven't been since I was a teen on the campuses of the University of Michigan (by the way, great job with ball so far, babes!). I find when I'm really happy, I get hit on a lot more. Three men shouted out to me from cars yesterday...I haven't gotten that much attention since I was 21 years old!

More about this book club, which I fondly nicknamed "Africa Night," and this guy later.

Okay, enough with the updates...I'm going to have to get up on some Milton Nascimento, who wrote this song. This song was great for Maria Rita...it took me a while to warm up to her, though, easier once I stopped expecting to hear Elis Regina...

Send news about the world outside
Say those who remain
Give me a hug, come hold me
I'm arriving
A thing that I like is being able to leave
Without having plans
Better yet is being able to return
When I want to

Everyday is a bustle
Life repeats itself at the station
There are people who come to stay
There are people who go, never to return
There are people who come who want to go back
There are people who go who want to remain
There are people who I only come to watch
There are people smiling and crying
And like this, arriving and departing

They are just two sides
Of the same trip
The train that arrives
Is the same train that leaves
The arrival time
Is also the time of departure
The platform of this station
Is the life of my world
Is the life of my world
Is life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Being Woman for Men

As salaam alaikum,

{Currently Listening: Close to You - Carpenters}

I was doing reading for my Gender and Health class (and so it begins!) about the health of LGBT adolescents, indicators of poor health and improvements of health instruments, and the reading took me back to a very important period in my personal development...when my best friend came out to me.

I was just telling my roommate about it the other day, and I realize that it's not something that I really talk about, at all. For one thing, in the early days, when she wasn't out all the way, I didn't want to out her, so I didn't talk about it to anyone but her, and we didn't really discuss certain things. Anyway, I mean, on one hand, that solidified our relationship as best friends because she put that trust in me and I wanted to make sure that I was worthy of that trust. On the other hand...it left me really confused.

Short version...I didn't understand how she differentiated from me as her best friend and women that she was emotionally attracted to. I didn't understand because for me with guys, liking a guy friend was ultimately on a continuum that could end up with me liking them otherwise than friends, so I felt like in the end I was in a position as best female friend that was transitory, and that I was replaceable by an ultimately more desirable girlfriend...

Short version...there was a lot of crap going on with that.

So around that time, and with the advent of college, I began to struggle with the idea of what love was for me. Man, I was so young. Anyway, I don't think I got past the continuum idea. Other people differentiate between being attracted to someone and liking a friend, but I can't separate the two. If I'm friends with a guy but I'm not attracted to him, it's because I find something about him annoying or in general undesirable. Is there a physical aspect? Sure. But it's not insurmountable...

Anyway, so freshman year, I went through all sorts of crap, and then I met MQ, and, man, totally blew my mind!

{Currently Listening: Encontros e Despedidas - Maria Rita}

I wanted to be better for him...not for for him, but so that he would think I was attractive...so I could be an attractive perhaps maybe option for a relationship.

In retrospect, I realized this was messed up...if I had issues, I should have wanted to get better for myself, right? Well, in my life's path, it wouldn't be self-motivation that got me out of a dark place, but hope for companionship from this one then-boy that drove me.

I've told this sordid tale before. I won't delve further into the actual and instead will dance on the side of the theoretical, while keeping it still somewhat personal.

I think that an unfortunately large part of my female expression has been shaped over the years by men, or at least what I think men would want from me. There is a small part of me that thinks that I would be, by definition, a failure if I cannot get a worthwhile man to be attracted to me. Heh, I say worthwhile and not just any man precisely because of the phenomenon of street randoms, the random men on the street who will hit on you regardless of how you are dressed or time of day, really.

So currently, I see myself as a little bit of a failure of a human being. Yeah.

I'd be so different if my identity as a woman didn't depend so much on what I thought was attractive to men. I'd carry myself differently. I'd dress differently. I'd probably walk differently. I'd hold my eyes differently, I probably wouldn't smile as much. I'd probably care less about fashion and what other females are doing, because I wouldn't care so much to compare myself to them to figure out what I was doing wrong and what they were doing right. I'd probably not be so keen on losing as much weight as I currently want to lose and I wouldn't worry as much about my hair.

There would be things that didn't change. I'd still be interested in maternal/child health, I'd still love delivering babies, I'd still be into family medicine and love adolescent health and reproductive health. I'd still wear orange in the summer and spring and brown in the fall and winter. I'd still be in love with Brazilian Portuguese music and sing it to myself every chance I got. I'd still frequent the gym and go to my samba class (which is all women, pretty much). I'd still watch novelas...

So I guess it goes to show...I'd look a little bit different on the outside, maybe what I would consider right now to be more sloppy, but on the inside...I'd be the same person. And that's good to know...well, except maybe for the smiling part, the other things are things I don't really need anyway.

I just thought about all of this in the context of my attraction to MQ (trying to figure out why that was such a train wreck in the story of my life), and I think the answer in the end will be...I was young.

I don't know.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A New Center of Awesomeness

As salaam alaikum,

So, after several days of moodiness, I am now dedicated to finding for myself a new center of awesomeness! Awesome!

...I mean, what else can you say to that?

What is going to be the focus of this new center? My writing projects!

So, insha'Allah, I'm finishing RMD. I think for fun as well, I'm going to attempt this campy story idea that I had as a teenager renamed "The Misadventures of Nisa," about a girl, Anisa Taylor (heh) who grows up in the burbs, has this killer crush on a childhood friend who moves away when they're 12 years old to go to music school in the city, dedicates her life to moving to the city after that...but by the time she moves to the city at 22, she doesn't remember why she was so hot to move to the city. Anyway, Nisa has a series of misadventures in the city, ultimately leading to her being evicted from her apartment and having to defend her possessions with a concealed weapon. She then experiences what she at first perceives as random acts of charity from strangers, who later indicate that her benefactor is none other than...very predictable, I know.

I've had this story idea for a while. There's even a song that goes with it.

Oh yeah, and this story is based in the 80s. So the song was an 80s-sounding song. I like it!

I also wanted to write a comedy novel of sorts, called, "Desperate Blackwomen," a play on Desperate Housewives, but these would feature all single black women...desperate for various reasons.

My inspiration? The desperate black women of HSPH (public health school), no less...of which I am one, I guess, though I didn't come to Boston to find a man...just saying...

...now, running into one along the way...always preferred!

So I have ton of story ideas flowing, and I'm more excited to write them than ever...not because they're earth shattering, but because they sound like fun. These two ideas are definitely less serious than RMD. It almost makes me forget the fact that for some reason I've broken out into some kind of rash on my arms and elbows that I'm hoping is contact dermatitis vs. scabies. That's quite a wide differential, but I've never broken out into a rash like this before...it makes me miss my smooth skin! I'll never take smooth, non-itchy skin for granted again!

...well, that's a lie, I probably will, soon after this rash clears! Allah (swt) have mercy on we who forget!

But yeah, Glee has returned! Jane Lynch kills it as Sue Sylvester every week! Oh yeah, and Brittany is probably my favorite of the kids...her one liners are hilarious.

Monday, September 20, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

Insha'Allah, I'm going to finish this story I've been writing now for the past three years almost, A Rose Much Desired. I'm going to finish it before the end of October (that includes my final edit), insha'Allah.

Then I just have to figure out who I'm goign to give it to for the first read over.

Why do I say this? Because I just wrote a chapter that was very difficult to write, pretty much has been the chapter that I've been trying yet failing at writing for the last two years at least, and it will get me to the point where I know exactly how everything's going to happen, so it'll be easy to finish.

I hope I can get this published so my family can put it on their bookshelves. It'd be awesome, of course, if there was more interest in it, but judging by my sparse yet loyal readership for this thing...yeah, my family and a couple of friends will read it.

I'm excited, though! Almost done with my first completed work since "Daughter of a Supermodel," which I wrote when I was twelve.


Oh yeah, and my roommate, by reading the title and with my not wanting her to read any of the text assumes that it's a Harlequin novella. Haha, I laugh!

"Are there any sex scenes in it?"

"Well...not really." Heh.

And then she goes on about how you can tell Jane Austen never had sex because of the way that her interactions between males and females were without passion. Thanks, roommie, I'll keep that in mind.

She's still convinced it's a romance novel, I'm sure.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Opposite of Awesomeness

As salaam alaikum,

I must say, though I've grown accustomed to typing on my laptop, ergonomically I much prefer typing on the keyboards of the desktop computers at the medical or public health school. This keyboard here in the MEC types like a dream!

I felt compelled, rather than to read the chapter on discrimination and health in my social epidemiology book, to write an entry that was quintessential awesomeness. I don't know, I hadn't written in a couple of days and after an epically bad Friday evening into Saturday, I felt like a some small epiphany in writing was in order. Unfortunately, here I am, and no such inspiration arises, from the synapses in my brain to the flow of my fingertips over this seductively smooth keyboard.

Okay, I'll stop on the keyboard bit.

So instead of the epitome of awesomeness, I'm stuck with the opposite of awesomeness, I guess. No big revelations. Nothing much to say. I said with my mouth that I'm giving up on the hopes of marriage and will henceforth dedicate my life to my brother who has autism and my aging parents, but I'm not really serious about that anymore.

I mean, no doubt my brother and parents will be a big part of my life and I do still plan to take charge of my brother as my parents age and move my parents into an apartment [with no microwave and no stove] connected to my home [okay, maybe a microwave...] connected to the home where my family lives...but family is still a big goal of mine. A big yet ever more elusive goal of mine...

If I've realized anything, I've realized that I don't really know what's good for me. I know what I want, but I'm not sure, without going into revealing details, if what I want is what I need. For so many things in life, what we want is in fact not what we need. I think that certain qualities I'd previously considered in men really were because of the novelty factor, the desire for "otherness," and I can't actually separate if I'm desiring otherness for otherness' sake or if I'm looking for it as an indirect form of self-validation.

I guess, am I looking to be with someone from a group that I feel traditionally wouldn't find me attractive or worthy of being a mate because I want to prove for myself my own worth? Well, that's no good, if that's the case.

So there's that.

The other thing is...I'm really unsure what I could actually bring to a marriage. I mean, I know the various reasons why I want to get married, but really, how could someone like me enhance the life of a man enough for him to consider marrying me? Or even being in a relationship with me? I honestly do not know.

But alas, human beings are social creatures, so somehow it's supposed to happen. No one knows why I worry so much that I'll end up alone, but they need to understand that they have established precedents to base things off of...people like them who have ended up married, in relationships, or whatever. For some reason, I don't have that. I mean, I realize that this is because of the reality I created for myself, but really, it's the only reality that's true to me and that I'm comfortable living in.

I feel like it just screws me over for relating to others, in particular future mates, in a big way.

So yes, this has been the opposite of awesomeness. At least with the aspiration of dedicating my life to my now-existing family, I have something concrete to look forward to insha'Allah that I'm more certain will be a necessity. The formation of my own family...I don't know.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stuff Invisible Muslimahs Like?

As salaam alaikum,

Before I make the rest of this post...I'd like to state a retraction. To all my brothers out there...Muslim brothers, that is, not race brothers. Black men, I've actually succeeded in not saying anything negative about you...well, nor have I really mentioned you here, come to think of it. Anyway. To the brothers...no, I do not believe that you are all doomed to be my downfall. I am my own downfall sometimes. And for the example I used...paradoxically, as he made me doubt my beauty, he did at one time make me really comfortable in my identity, more than I had been.

So I think the lesson in that is that...with any such relationship, there's the potential for goodness, and there's the potential for badness. I guess it was all part of a necessary learning process to make me who I am today.

But who am I today, and what's the merit in that? That's a question that lies somewhere at the base of my chest...rides on my diaphragm with each breath. [Wow, I need to go back to reading medical literature...I feel myself fast forgetting the world of medicine for the world of...dun dun dun! Public health. I need my med student jeito back!] I got into all six of the colleges I applied to and decided to go to my "safety" school instead of my favorite school, Wash U...or Yale, which had the second best package to Michigan...before I got the scholarship. I would have been a very different person if I'd gone to Yale...not in terms of academics, but people.

I live wondering what my life would have been if I'd never met MQ...I may still be shunning hip hop and R&B. What if there weren't as many black women on campus who went natural? Would I have not stopped straightening my hair? I probably wouldn't have started hijab, may have not become as practicing as I wanted to because of the presence/paucity of Muslims on campus...lots of things, dude!

I like my trajectory. Sometimes I wonder if coming to Harvard was a mistake, but it's too late, because it's part of who I am now and I'm indivisible from it.

But it makes me a very weird person.

So my roommate, who is mixed, just found out that she's exactly like the list of stuff white people like. She's angry because it says white people, when she thinks it's just college culture. But it's like, I hate to break it to you, but I went to college and while I did a few of the things on the list (frisbee), I always acknowledged those things to be...of someone else's culture.

Acutally, ultimate was more my Asian friends in high school. Stuff Asian people like that I ended up participating in...ultimate frisbee, DDR (c. 2002-03), Bubble Tea, math competitions...

Before college, I was a tag-along to the dominant culture amongst the brainiacs, I guess you could call us, in my high school, and we were mostly Asian. The black people were two half-Nigerians and one half-black, half-Asian dude. Very telling. So most of my friends were Asian, particularly Chinese and Korean. Where are we now? We're all engineers, in medical school, in computers or business. Hahaha, I love how those of us in medical school still are in school. I didn't feel the length until I've entered School of Public Health. Man, time has sloowwweeddd doowwwnnn...

So, I digress a lot.

So I don't fit in with stuff white people like. I looked at the various stuff black people like...while I agree with the list and I can identify it with people I know, that's not really me, either. Stuff educated black people like...that was my other roommate. Oh yeah, and it was really funny how characteristic the complaints that black people levered against it were...characteristic, predictable. I know my black people! Not meaning to channel the Dave Chappelle skit with that one...Chappelle, who I wouldn't have known about if MQ hadn't told me about him freshman year...

Stuff Muslim people like? Erm...I'm kind of scared to look that up, before I find something phobic with like, a drawing of the Prophet (saw) or something...

My culture is 100% unique, with various elements. To fit me, you'd have to have a list, like..."Stuff that Black Muslim Nigerian American Hispanophilic People Like."

It's easier to say the Invisible Muslimah, no?

Yep, and that would be me!

I actually have a classmate who has a lot of the same interests as I do...taste in movies, music, travel, languages...he fits the Black Hispanophilic People profile, so that's my closest proxy.

And you're like, oooh, similar interests, huh? And I'm like, ehh, been there, done that. Bought the shirt, bought the hat. My conclusion...he's muito chato.

So what are things that I like? I guess that this journal serves as an example of everything I like. Ramadan...I miss the nur of that month already! Umm...injecting words for multiple languages into my speech when no one understands them but me. I mean, for some reason, as a Muslim when talking about religious things, I feel the need to write/say it in Arabic...then I add Spanish and Portuguese to the mix...

I like going to Brazil. I like the African Diaspora. I like going to Brazil specifically because of the African Diaspora. I like talking about Nigerian men (something I think I avoid here?). I like foo foo and soup. I like Indian food. I like Brazilian music. I like writing. I like writing about black people. I like documentaries. I like documentaries on race and religion. I like history. I like the history of race relations...

I like giving Nollywood a chance.

I like telenovelas. I like being a telenovela snob.

I like Glee!

I like the Daily Show. I like the Boondocks. I like MST3K.

I like talking about how things were better when I was a kid in the late 80s and the 90s.

I like those countdown shows on VH1.

I like talking about marriage ad nauseum.

I like hating reality shows.

The like procrastinating!

The list goes on of things I like. Nothing quite captures my culture. I guess on the stuff white people like list, I fit with studying abroad, obscure films on Netflix and...having gay friends. On the stuff educated black people like, I'm the whole, natural hair, grown and sexy thing. All of the stuff black people like lists are gone...one of them was kind of black nationalist/militant! It took too long to read, and I was all like, calm down!

I like talking about my family's black nationalist history while not ever having been part of it.

So yeah, I'm glad to prove that, once again, I am not boxable.

I do, however, think I need to calm down...on several levels. I'll explain later.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

La mal amada / The Unloved Woman

As salaam alaikum,

I wrote the following (in italics) while I was on the bus to class this morning. But first, two quotes that I feel go a bit along with this:

"Consider the bright morning hours, and the night when it grows still and dark. Thy Sustainer has not forsaken thee, nor does He scorn thee. For indeed, the life to come will be better for thee than this earlier part [of thy life]! And, indeed, in time will thy Sustainer grant thee [what thy heart desires], and thou shalt be well-pleased." (93:1-5)

"Dark skinned women can sometimes turn rejection into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a woman assumes she won't be heard, she will shout when perhaps she could whisper. If she fears she won't be loved, love will become impossible. If she fears she is not beautiful, she can never see her own worth in her eyes or the vision of anyone else." - Marita Golden, Don't Play in the Sun

Consider these two things, and now..."La mal amada." Written from a theoretical dude's perspective...the Spanish isn't that great because I didn't have a dictionary.

La mal amada. Todos la conocen. Ella puede ser visto en cualquier lugar, público o privado, no importa. Ella viaja en el autobús por las mañanas, por el fondo del vehículo con audífonos, tentando de leer un período, quizás el período del día, pero se da cuenta del hecho de que ella sigue leyendo la misma página, momento tras momento, y que, en realidad, ella está mirando por fuera, afuera, por la ventana. Ella viaja por carro, solita, por supuesto, por las tardes, quizás para almorzar en su restuarante predilecta, otra vez solita. Ella está escuchando la misma estación de radio de siempre, de jazz, el tipo de que ella burlaba mucho como adolescente pero de que, en esta época, ella está encontrando algo de inspiración inexplicable. Y ella sigue cantando las palabras de una canción, una rendición que no tiene palabras y uno se da cuenta de que esta es una canción de su juventud, convertida en Musak, como se dicen. Puede verla por las noches, en los trenes, con su cuaderno de papeles, del trabajo, de la universidad, de ambos quizás, en un orden impecable que sólo puede ser de una mujer solterona que no tiene nada que hacer menos poner en orden todo en su vida, entre papeles y cepillas y fotos y toallas y melancolias y lágrimas particulares, personales...todas las cosas de vida, de su vida, de la vida de una mal amada. Pero sí, se sienta ella allí, en el carro del tren, otra vez y predictablemente solita, ojos fijos pero mente afuera, pensamientos por fuera del tren, del tunél en que viajamos, de la ciudad, del país, de la misma realidad. Ella sigue solita y se convience que ella está encima de esto, mejor que eso, mejor que todos. ¿Todos quienes? Todos los hombres que no la miren, todas las amigas que no puedan entenderla, toda la familia que ya resigasen al hecho de que quizás ella nunca se case...todos de todos. Ella es, por hecho, la mal amada, y ella no puede entender el por qué.

¿Soy yo bastante interesante? ella pregunta a si misma, sin duda, en su cabeza, una pregunta mudada por el ruido del tren y sus pensamientos, siempre competiendo. ¿Soy yo bastante interesante para conversación, para comedia, para romance? ¿Soy yo bastante? ella se pregunta. ¿Soy yo bastante por un hombre, por casamiento, por amor en general? ¿Soy yo? ella pregunta. ¿Soy yo humana misma, mujer misma, hermosa quizás? Quizás, ella resuelve. Ella es más cómoda con la noción que ella no merece lo que otras, tantas otras, merecen, simplemente por ser la mal amada, esta característica intrinsica, con que ella fue nacida, en la barriga de su madre, en sus genes, sólo puede ser, ella resuelve, no razona, sólo resuelve.

Dios no quiere que todos sus servientes se casen, ella se convience, a pesar de todo lo que su religión la enseñó, o a pesar de que ella no tiene su propia religión, de verdad, asumiendo así un fatalismo en que ella nunca creyó.

La mal amada encapsula muchas, muchas mujeres de varias edades, de multiples fondos, pero yo la veo. La veo triste, distraída, destruída, disilusionada, pero sí, amada. Amada por mí. ¿Quién soy yo? Ud. quizás pregunte. No importa. ¿Por qué? Porque ella no me ve. Ella no me mira, porque ella sigue existiendo por fuera, y entonces yo soy siempre afuera por ser mismo dentro de su realidad actual.

Y yo sigo esperando que ella regresa para ser amada por mí.

For my non-Spanish speakers:

The Unloved Woman. Everyone knows her. She can be seen anywhere, public or private, it doesn't matter. She travels by bus in the mornings, in the back of the vehicle with headphones on, trying to read a newspaper, maybe the day's paper, but one realizes the fact that she keeps reading the same page, moment after moment, and that, in reality, she is looking out, looking outside, out of the window. She travels by car, alone, of course, maybe to eat at her favorite restaurant, again, alone. She's listening to the same radio station as always, a jazz station, the type that she made fun of as a teenager but now, at her age, she's finding some sort of inexplicable inspiration in it. And she's just singing the words of a song, a version that doesn't have words and one realizes that this is a song from her youth, converted into Musak, as they call it. You can see her at night, in the subway, with her notebook of papers, from work, from college, from both, maybe, all in an impeccable order that must only be from a single woman that has nothing else to do but put everything in her life in order, between papers and brushes and pictures and towels and melancholy and specific, personal tears...all of the things of life, her life, of the life of the Unloved Woman. But yes, she sits there, in the car of the subway, once again predictably alone, her eyes fixed but her mind outside, her thoughts out of the train, of the tunnel that we're traveling in, out of the city, out of the country, out of reality itself. She's still alone and convinces herself that she's above this, better than this, better than everyone. Better than who all? All the men that don't look at her, all of the female friends that don't understand her, all of the family members that have already resigned themselves to the fact that she'll maybe never get married...all of them. She is, in fact, the Unloved Woman, and she can't understand why.

Am I interesting enough? she asked herself, without doubt in her head, a question muted by the noise of the train and her always competing thoughts.  Am I interesting enough for conversation, for comedy, for romance? Am I enough? she asked herself. Am I enough for a man, for marriage, for love in general? Am I? she asked. Am I actually human, actually woman, maybe attractive? Maybe, she resolves. She's more comfortable with the notion that she doesn't deserve what others, so many others, deserve, simply by being the Unloved Woman, this intrinsic characteristic in which she was born, in her mother's womb, in her genes, it must be, she resolves, not reasons, just resolves.

God doesn't want all of His servants to marry, she convinces herself, in spite of all that her religion taught her, or in spite of the fact that she doesn't have her own religion, actually, assuming this way a fatalism that she never believed in.

The  Unloved Woman encapsulates many, many women of various ages, of multiple backgrounds, but I see her. I see her sad, distracted, destroyed, disillusioned, but yes, loved. Loved by me. Who am I? you may ask. It doesn't matter. Why? Because she doesn't see me. She doesn't look at me, because she's still existing on the outside, and so I am always outside because I exist in her actual reality.
And I keep hoping that she comes back to be loved by me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

[uncensored]: Muslim Men = My Downfall

As salaam alaikum,

Phew! Thankfully, I caught myself from almost making the same mistake I did 7 years ago. Nothing major, but something that cost me one solid year of heartache when things didn't work out as expected...

But as I found myself unwisely walking home alone after a party that was no longer fun because none of my friends were hanging out with me anymore in favor of the dudes they were dancing with...I came to this not very inspired conclusion.

Muslim men, so far, have been my downfall.

I mean, not the numerous brothers who I have been friends with...I'm talking about all of the cases where somehow, I've crossed the line with them from friendship to...what the hell is this-ship.

The big one, of course, always and forever will be MQ. I don't know what was wrong with that kid...so many inappropriate things. I'm not talking inappropriate like Satan being the third type inappropriate, I'm just talking about how the things he said should have never been said to a young potentially-swooning Muslim girl, like, not at all.

But then again, he (and I, for that matter) didn't know how Muslim I was in terms of my level of propriety, what I deemed was appropriate, my aspirations for gender relations.

I mean, it was because of him that I joined the MSA and had the courage to move forward in my development as a Muslim. The journey was all mine, though. I attribute a lot of things (too many, actually), to that then boy, but my personal journey to Islam in college is not one of them, catalyst though he may be.

There were also some negative things about my befriending/what-the-hell-is-this-ing him. I mean, granted, I went through the stage in high school when I felt I was too fat, but with him I experienced the first time that I didn't feel beautiful because I was black.

You don't understand, like, coming up in a black nationalist family, my aunt telling me to color everyone brown because brown was beautiful, the color of my skin and my mother and father's skin, realizing how happy I was that I was born black one day at my grandmother's house at age six, all of this stuff...I would have chosen the brown baby to be the best if they'd given me the doll experiment!

And here I was, having gone natural (my hair) at age 18, but now I was 19 wearing my short fro that had shrunk in the rain, going to the IASA (Indian American Student Association) show with my best friend, and there he was...and the way he looked at me, I don't know...it was like he realized I was black, really, as he saw the short kinky hair on top of my head.

And it was like I wasn't the same after that.

I previously was never one to worry about my hair's length. I let my mother fuss over that, tsk tsk tsk over that. I couldn't be bothered. I was just like, my hair is what it is. It doesn't like to be straight, I resolved, so I stopped getting chemical treatments to straighten it one day. Then all of my hair fell out. I didn't especially care.

But then, there was that look, and in one moment I wondered what I would for the next several years...was I pretty enough?

Was I small enough, was I fair enough, my eyes attractive enough, my hair long enough...for him.

For the first time in my life, I avoided the sun during the summer. I used to like my natural summer bronze that came on not from intentionally tanning, but just being out in the summer. For at least three years after that, I hid from the sun. This year has been the first year in a while that I've embraced my darker summer color, really...

Was my hair long enough? To demonstrate that my hair was longer, I started blow drying out my little afro puff. As a result, I lost a lot of hair, had to start over, and it took me a while to be comfortable with my hair in the natural conformation again.

And, like I'm going back to a time when I was 15, I'm all of a sudden worried about my weight again...

That, and from that whole experience, I learned the hard lesson that there are some ethnicities of Muslims who hate black people, though they've had little contact with them, and/or they don't want their children/family members ending up with them.

So that was him. This recent dude who I met two days ago is a brief example. He was Muslim, I was Muslim, he knew I was Muslim, and then he kisses me on the cheek? When is that ever appropriate?

I'm almost wondering if I'll end up with a Muslim man who brings me down a notch. I don't know. I feel like the really religious Muslim men don't want anything to do with me because I'm a little bit at the fringes. I feel like the ones I have more of a chance with have major Muslim character flaws (ex. social drinking) and yet, when it comes to marriage, they're more culturally Muslim than otherwise, and therefore will end up with someone of their own culture, anyway...

...which, invariably, is never my culture.

I don't know. Maybe this theory is unfounded and is the artifact of walking home bitterly with no coat in 50 degree weather. I really, actually had only one bad experience...

But I never, ever want to be near someone who makes me dislike myself that much ever again. Ever.

...in reality, I don't know what to do with my life from this point out. That's the real issue.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Muslim FAIL

As salaam alaikum,


So, first I was almost served alcohol by a fellow Muslim. Yes. Oops. Thank God for my Daddy's super olfactory powers.

He felt really bad about it, though. But then he made up for it by kissing me on the cheek.

And I was like, exclamation point, then I was like, hrm...

Womp womp womp.

It's funny, I write about this "Muslim at the fringes" stuff in my story ("A Rose Much Desired"...yes, plug again), but when it happens to me in real life, I become, like, the haram police...

Inappropriate, bro!

I can't say too much because, like, I'm no angel (heh, grand understatement of the evening), but seriously, those two together means I spent tonight celebrating...

Muslim FAIL!

...this wasn't the substantive blog I promised, actually. This Ramadan was excellent for a lot of things, and I'll talk about those later.


Oh, and I discovered this Wordle sight on another sisters' page, and I Wordled my story. I put one version up on facebook...here's another that's also cool (joking myself once again...)

The conformation of this is very interesting and telling about the story in some odd way. If you find an intersting word or name, ask and I will tell! But I will not give a punch line!

I also did one for this blog:

Computer? Really? Interesting conformation for this one, too...

I think I've had too much caffeine tonight. I need to do homework (!!) tomorrow...it sounds so funny, but it's true! I haven't had homework in a year! I guess it could be worse...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

O Que Será/What Could it Be


The woman I stayed with while in Brazil introduced me to this song, and I didn't understand it at the time...too many words, went too fast. But a few months (or maybe a year) after I left, I listened to it again, and wow, it is a really beautiful song.

I like this rendition the best, though the audio isn't the greatest. It starts after 1:29.

I translated this a while back, and started working with a translation such that I could sing it in English...nothing is as good as the original, though, always.

I found it! Awesome...look at the last stanza especially...wow!

What could it be that does this to me?
That crushes me inside, what could it be?
That I wear on my sleeve, what could it be?
And that rises to my face and makes me blush
And that jumps into my eyes to betray me
And that opens my heart and makes me confess
What no longer has a way to hide
And that isn’t a right for anyone to deny
And that makes me beg, makes me plead
What has no measure and never will
What has no remedy and never will
What has no recipe?

What could it, could it be?
That exists within us when it shouldn’t
That makes us unsure, that is rebellious
That is like a drink that doesn’t satisfy
That is like being sick from a party
That not even the Ten Commandments will reconcile
Nor any of the ointments will alleviate
Nor any spells, any alchemy
That not even all the saints, could it be?
What has no rest and never will
What does not tire and never will
What has no limit

What will it be that does this to me?
That burns me up inside, what could it be?
That disturbs me from sleep, what could it be?
That agitates me with the shivers
That kindles the passion within me
That drenches me in sweat
That leads all of my nerves to pray
That leads all of my organs to cry out
It’s a horrible affliction that makes me beg
What has no shame and never will
What has no control and never will
What has no reason

This is my translation. There are probably others out there.

Police at Iftar and Cultureless Muslimah

As salaam alaikum,

Well, HLM (Harvard Longwood Muslims) had their last iftar Friday night. This was the first year that I wasn't able to make each iftar...one because I wasn't in Boston, and the other because I was with my parents. I mean, I would have taken my parents (free food), but I think that would have been an overwhelming and not enjoyable experience for my father, haha...and probably not for me, either. And stressful for my mother, because she hasn't belonged to a Muslim community since the days of the NOI (1970s). Yeah.

As we were praying, there were a couple of little kids running through the isles that I was trying to ignore/not collide with, and I had a feeling that it'd be like this if I ever made it to ISBCC for Jummah (I may start going to HLM Jummahs, since I'm back at Longwood and have that break before my Gender and Health class...). Anyway, poor kid was terrified and start tapping his mother (who was next to me), saying, "Mom, mom, there's a scary police man here! He's watching, he's going to get us!"

I didn't pay too much attention because...well, I was trying not to, anyway, but sure enough, after Maghrib I got up, my scarf around my shoulders to see an officer of sorts...I didn't stare at him to see if he was security or police, but he was there, arms crossed, watching as we prayed.

And you know, I could henceforth erupt into a rant, waxing philosophically, reflect on how outlandish parties were held by my medical school classmates, kegs were smuggled in, and the only time the police came was when some jilted student who had to be in the hospital early the next day got angry and passive aggressively called on them...but we know how it goes, yeah? I'm actually surprised that hasn't happened before.

After all, my extended (very extended) family at one of the reunions that I could make, was gassed by the police during their Sunday dinner after church because they were called on a noise violation or something at the hall they'd rented. Granted, this was the South, but though I was upset I wasn't surprised. Same thing...I'm not surprised about this, and I don't think most people even noticed, but it was unnecessary.

But then again, when you have Americans thinking that no gathering of Muslims is free of violence (as I heard of one assembly in Chicago...wow, they must live in a terrified world), I expect nothing less.

To shift gears dramatically, also during the iftar, I had a couple of really interesting interactions that I think will be summarized by paraphrasing a conversation that was had between two of the sisters at my table. I met this sis, Maliha, Friday who is in my concentration. Another sister at the table who was a dentist (forgetting her name right now...) started this line of conversation with Maliha that went something like this:

"So Maliha, where are you from?" "Oh, I'm from India, actually..." "With a name like Maliha, I would have expected you to be Arab!" "[Maliha gives an explanation of her father's choice for her name.]" "And where were you before now?" "[Maliha tells where she's lived]" "You know, looking at you, I wouldn't think you were Indian." "Oh, I get that all the time!" "Yeah, I'd say you were maybe...Persian, maybe even Turkish." Another sister, Safia, gets into the conversation, "Maybe it's the way that she ties her scarf, too." "Yes, I think that's it."

This conversation is not an isolated incident. During the last couple of iftars, the group I usually hung out with has been busy doing rotations and have not been able to attend. As a result, I sat at a different table each time and met new people. I realized this was a rich experience and while I'm sorry I didn't do it earlier, I have an entire additional year to do it, since I've decided to prolong my education with this public health degree, so I'm not too sorry.

But anyway, maybe this conversation would seem normal for Muslims who actually have a culture, but for this cultureless Muslimah, it was quite an overwhelming and seemingly tedious conversation!

I'm not calling myself crude and therefore uncultured...I'm saying, I don't have a culture. I've been reminded of this several ways. For one, all of the very Nigerian students in my public health school class have forced me to recognize how American I am, from claiming that I mispronounced my own name (I took that as a major affront!) to reflecting on my American accent. Then, I'm a third generation American Muslim. Before that, we were Southern Baptists...before that, we were a conglomeration of African religions as slaves. On my father's side, he was Faith Tabernacle, a denomination of Christianity that I know for stressing faith ("We live by faith, not by sight," and "Faith without works is dead" type of thing)...before that, the only story I hear is of in 1900, my grandfather was in the arms of my great-grandmother as she ran from the white men (the British). So who knows what religion they were. My grandfather was a Faith Tabernacle pastor...his is an interesting story that I would be digressing too much to tell.

Anyway, all of that to say...my Muslim "lineage" doesn't run deep, certainly not as deep as those of most Muslims who attend the iftars.

So I get a very similar ethnicity probe when I come to iftars. "What is your name?" "Chinyere." "[pause] Wait, say that again?" "Chinyere." "ChEEN-yeh-ray?" "Yes, awesome. What's your name?" "[they say their name]." "Nice to meet you!" "Likewise. [pause] Such a(n) [adjective] name. What ethnicity is it/where is it from? What does it mean?"

And I end up having to tell an abbreviated version of my life's story because my name isn't a Muslim name. Which is fine...I like talking about myself (should be rather obvious by now), but man, how fascinated by (if not fixated on) ethnicity and culture are we!

I am cultureless. Yes, I am American, I was born in the US, but seriously? So many of our customs are borrowed from other people's cultures, anyway...what we have that is unique is an artifact of industrialization and the bastardization of cultural practices from every immigrants home country, and bam, made in the USA. But my Islam is cultureless. On Eid (and at my first nikah/Jewish wedding), I don't wear "my country's" Muslim woman attire...I end up inventing an outfit of my own, usually made up of a dress and pants. If I were ever to host an iftar, I'd end up making my own bastardized versions of Dominican and Nigerian food...with maybe pasta and fried rice thrown in, which in themselves are cultural knock-offs.

The thing is...I guess I could adopt someone else's culture, but I don't want to. After all of this time of stressing about whether or not I have a culture, I really don't care as much anymore, but I kind of like the American mut feel to my existence. I think it's beautiful, actually, a gift from Allah (swt), much as I am (as that's what my name means in Igbo, God's gift).

I'm teasing, but the fact remains...that is my name.

Anyway, I do actually enjoy making up my own outfits, cooking other people's cultural food, cooking "soul food" and experimenting with Nigerian food. I like speaking two languages of people I am not at all related to. I like dreaming up my own customs and gatherings, making them real once I have a family of my own.

I like the idea of incorporating American and Nigerian culture into my eventual wedding ceremony with whoever I end up marrying...we'll have to substitute palm wine for like, white grape juice or something, and then, we'll like, jump a broom after the nikah...something like that.

I always say if life throws you crap, make lemonade, but the fact of the matter is, life isn't throwing crap. Facing every adversity--or in my case, idiosyncrasy--and reacting accordingly is in fact a blessing that is purposeful and meant to make us stronger people...and sometimes to make life more colorful. I'm not worried at other people turning up their nose at my bastardness. Let them turn their noses up even higher, so that I may know who they are and avoid them.

Somewhere out there there's someone who will appreciate my culturelessness...that's all I'm waiting for, though not with bated breath.

...and my misuse of this word has just ascended to dangerous heights. I'd better get to sleep while I'm a little head...

A little...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

History of the Invisible Muslimah

As salaam alaikum,

So in searching the files on my old computer, I also found my first computer journal, which I began when I was 14 and continued, I think, until I was 16, after 9/11. I considered that to be a major turning point in my identity and my very being, I guessed, so I continued with a new computer journal which I called "Freestyle," in which I developed a more stream-of-consciousness style of writing that I think is apparent today.

[This whole exercise reminds me that my personality falls within the cluster B traits of personality disorders - borderline, histrionic and narcissistic...this, of course, falling on the narcissistic side...but then again, what else is one's own journal?]

I realized in reading a few things, however, that I'm the same person, over and over again. I'm more mature now, yes, I've experienced a handful of things, mostly school related, traveled a couple of places, but at base, I'm the same person with the same values. Take a look at this that I wrote 10 years ago:

"It was so hard finding a solid identity during my preteen years because my mother is Muslim and my father is Christian. During my preteen years especially, I began to consider which religion I wanted to be part of. Instead of taking into account the various principles of each religion I began to see which one would afford for an easier life here on earth, not which one would give me an easier ticket to heaven. Not only will my husband and I share the same religion, but also we will have to have somewhat the same moral beliefs. This way, our children will be sure which path both parents prefer the children to take, instead of having to go one path or the other. I want to make sure I have my children praying and depending on God for their needs at an early age, because I was twelve before such a relationship was established. I know this will help them tremendously. " - July, 2000

Hahahahaha! Same themes predominate. The interesting thing here is that I didn't say that I was Muslim, although I allude a couple of times in my journal to preferring a Muslim. At this point, I was aware that I was evaluating which religion would be easier based on society, which was probably Christianity at that point, and I was not calling myself either or, since I wasn't really practicing either. I was Muslim inasmuch as I didn't eat pork and I tended to dress more modestly...I didn't show my legs in public, at least, and short sleeved shirts with dipping necklines seemed daring to me, though I had, like, minimal boobage. I believed in God and I did not believe in Jesus (as) as son of God...but I didn't know of very many Muslims outside of my family, so I grasped hold onto every example of a Muslim that I could in making this decision.

And little over a year later, November 2001, look at the following...parse through the craziness, like, having six children between my late 20s and mid 30s...

"When I turned sixteen, I wanted to be a renaissance woman, and I wanted to do everything when I was in my prime—when I was young. I wanted to go to school and become a doctor right after graduating from high school. During the summers and stuff I wanted to travel around the world and see all of the things that I had learned about in Western Civ and English and History and Spanish class. And then, if I had time in between classes, I would maybe act in a movie, and after all that I would get another of my ideas published. And hopefully by my early twenties I will have found my true love and married. I want to keep the Igbo running in my part of the family, but I also want to keep a uniform religion, Islam, to keep it easier for my kids not to be divided between two different religions. Oh yeah, and I wanted to have six kids and have my first before I hit my thirties and my last before I am in my mid thirties, or at least not into the late thirties so I won’t still have young children when I am old and so I won’t have to risk any adverse health affects of having children at my old age. My time was limited, and I have to start early, and get this all over with so at the latter end of my life I could relax and do the things I wanted to do." - November 2001
Just two months after September 11, and I'm identifying as Muslim...just because, I think, that event made Muslims more visible than they had been before and it forced me to examine myself and my religious identity and come to a conclusion, a conclusion that I guess many other Muslims and non-Muslims came to as well. I think it would be another year before I finally tell my best friend, who is Muslim, that I am Muslim...and another year or two after that before I tell a Muslim outside of my group of friends, the infamous MQ, that I am Muslim...

Haha, I could totally make a timeline in my personal Muslim history...

1988-1991: At intervals when my mother had a conference for work, I would attend my aunt's Islamic School in Flint, MI. I remember the young boys leading salat and thinking that the men who came to pray Jummah in our building (because it also doubled as a masjid) were scary because they were so big and tall.
1996: Celebrated Eid with my grandparents and aunt. Decided that I was Muslim.
1996-1998: Identified as Muslim; found it painful to be the only one in my school, the only black kid who didn't attend church.
1998-2001: New school district; was not sure that I actually wanted to identify as Muslim, and therefore avoided conversations about religion altogether. Most people assumed I was Christian.
2001-2002: Realized, again, that Islam was my religion...the only religion it made sense to fill out on college applications, the only one I saw fit to raise my children, and I kind of just went from there.
2002: I think sometime after Ramadan that year, I told my best friend I was Muslim. She didn't believe me at first, a fact that she will probably still deny to this day, but it was fair enough for her to doubt.
2003: By Ramadan (my first practiced Ramadan...my mother had been fasting Ramadan since I was little at this point...I don't even remember her observing Ramadan when I wasn't, but it was true all the while I was at home), all of my close friends knew I was Muslim, and I gradually let other people know...like, my roommates in college, etc.
2004: I told the first Muslim outside of the Rahmans (Ayesha and her sisters) that I was Muslim. This was MQ, therefore, my first brother-crush...predictable, but it's not so chicken-and-eggy because I liked him before I knew he was Muslim. Joined the MSA and was no longer uncomfortable revealing to people I was Muslim (thus I've been like this for only 6 years).
2005: I told my father that I was Muslim (or rather, "will never be Christian.") Worst moment in our lives to that point, so yes, we are a blessed family. But it was bad at the time.
2006: Began wearing hijab early this year. Traveled abroad with it and did my med school interviews with no problems.
2007: Paused hijab by graduation, went off to medical school. Actually have a group of Muslim friends to hang out with and attend Eid prayers with, which in all this time, I never had. It was pretty awesome.


Yeah, nothing that earth-shaking has happened since then. Not that I haven't been moving forward in my faith and practice...but I was a little bit more stagnant than I was in college, as my goal upon entering college was to become "more practicing" now that I wasn't in the house with my parents anymore. And so it was.

I've come a long way...haha, and maybe in another 10 years, I'll have gone another long way...maybe.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Revamp of Old Stories?

As salaam alaikum,

I need to back up my computer before badness happens.

Anyway, I was just going through my old computer, essentially, which was my desktop before that whole thing crashed, going through my documents to try to find some of my old compositions from back in the day. Of the things I've saved onto this computer include my diary from back in the day and "Sisters: Body and Soul," a story that I wrote when I was 15 years old. Like most of my works as a teenager, I never finished it after I grew into a new developmental stage and no longer felt the subject matter relevant, but sometimes I wonder...could I not go through, completely revamp what is written of the stories, change a few plot lines, edit it, and produce a finished product?

That's essentially what I've done with "A Rose Much Desired" now nearly three years after I wrote most of the manuscript. Insha'Allah I'll be able to finish that project soon.

But yeah, "Sisters" was the story the Jamison sisters and how they came to live together and how the eldest of them ended up raising her sisters. I think I must have recently watched The Ditchdiggers Daughters with the way the story is set up. The story begins in 1994. The eldest of the sisters, Azalea, 18, gets kicked out of her house shortly after graduation, which Azalea understands to be because of her secret relationship/engagement to her former high school sweetheart, Leonard, while her parents cite her sexual activity, particularly in the house, was not the type of influence they wanted around her younger sisters, particularly 12-year-old Clarisse. So Azalea, who wanted to live with her boyfriend, now fiance, anyway, moves in with Leonard to an apartment building off campus. Azalea is to attend the School of Art and Design at the same place where Leonard is going to be a junior in the upcoming school year.

They live together for a while, but Clarisse eventually ventures summons her sister back to the house after months of her not speaking to either of her parents informing her that their mother, Leone (yeah, that name is really close to Leonard...didn't think that much of it at the time!), has fallen ill, though she didn't want the little ones (Tobi, 7 and Melinda/Mindi, 3) to worry. Ends up, Leone has been diagnosed with cancer (I can't remember what type) that is fairly advanced, and with the urging of her husband, they're going out of state for her to be treated in a special center. Since the girls father, Shane, would be off at work most of the day and frequently visiting his wife out of state for the duration of his treatment...

...and that's about as much writing as I got to, haha. As it was, I think I was going to have Shane and Leone to ask of Azalea that she temporarily watch her sisters, let them move into the apartment that she had downtown, until Shane could take some time off of work or until Leone was able to transfer her care back in state and come home. I think I'd change a few things about this to make it less...I don't know, to reduce the suspension of disbelief a little.

As a result of the three younger sisters moving in, Azalea and Leonard end their engagement and break up, though their relationship was already on the rocks before that. Azalea becomes depressed after the breakup but doesn't have time to deal with her own emotions because meanwhile, her sisters have been handling their mother's absence badly. The youngest, Melinda, has stopped talking and has frequent night terrors and Tobi has been acting out in school. Clarisse, to fill the void, shares a bedroom with her older sister, which forces Azalea to have to leave the apartment sometimes for her own emotional breakdowns.

I mean, I could go on about the plot of the story, but there are pretty much three main time points. The first is 1994, when the sisters first come to live together. The second is 1997, three years later, and the sisters are still living in the same apartment building. The last one, which I cut out of a previous edit, was fast forwarding to the future by 20-24 years (can't remember how much), as the sisters visit the site of their old apartment and reminisce.

It's very much characteristic of the stuff I wrote around that age...it was highly impersonal, whereas one of the narrations of RMD is pretty much my life with a few names, logistics and details changed. I dealt with themes that were probably too adult for me (at age 15)...for example, Azalea eventually can't handle her rent alone and becomes late in the payment for a couple of months. After being threatened with eviction from her landlord and having nowhere to go (several plot holes here, but I wasn't that mature of a writer), she ends up arranging to exchange sexual favors with her landlord until she's able to pay rent. Somehow, Clarisse finds out about this and, after urging her to stop and to start asking people for help...the relationship between the sisters is never quite the same, a theme that will carry over into the next portion, 1997.

...yeah, I don't know where I got my ideas from. I didn't watch movies or television shows that had these themes... I mean, I wasn't anybody's baby. I was 15.

I do remember my mother reading the first scene, in which Azalea wakes up in the arms of her sleeping boyfriend after having snuck him into the house and oversleeping the time needed to sneak him back out of the house and my mother remarking, "How does she know about this?"

I'm just impressed that I could write such things accurately...having had no experience in, heh, that field of relations whatsoever. The thing about that is...as a kid, I was precocious in the things I understood...as a 25-year-old, I draw all of my "experiences" from the stories of others. I've actually still lived very little life of interest to write about...but enough life that I don't have to rely on stories entirely crafted from my imagination.

Anyway, that's "Sisters." One day, I just may take it and start all the way over and see where it ends. Originally, Leone was supposed to die, which is why the sisters continued living together, but that's a huger plot hole than what I eventually decided on...that Leone would live but continue to require rehab for a while after her treatment ended. I liked Leone's character too much in the end.

And there is a happy ending for the ill-fated Azalea! How can there be but a happy ending? She's raising her little sisters.


Once I'm done with A Rose Much Desired, I can move on to...the next one, as it were. I don't have any story ideas brewing now, but if I do by November, I will be making an appearance with NaNoWriMo again, insha'Allah!

Okay, time for a nap...;-)