Tuesday, January 11, 2011

RMD and Reflections

As salaam alaikum,

So, when I give excerpts from RMD, I've pretty much been only giving excerpts from the "Agent" chapters. I've explained it before, but the story has three narrations. The first one that appears is "Agent," in which the story opens up with this troublesome relationship between Mo and his lover, Desirée. The second chapter begins the second narration, which is "Desirée." There, we learn that Desirée's interest in Mo started when she was a freshman and he was a sophomore in the same class. We learn that Des is smart and can hold her own, but is somehow attracted to Mo...but before him, she had begun to notice the Muslim boys in her high school. So it goes to high school.

Then, "Agent," returns, and we learn that Mo is having some issues in life, some depression and stress that leave him vomiting in the bathroom of his lab building several days. During the spring break, not wanting to return to be alone in his apartment or talk with his usual friends, he wanders over the apartment of a friend, a Muslim sister who he hasn't spoken to in a while. This is Nisreen. Nisreen, who calls him by his common name, Mahmud, receives him tentatively, not feeling it was proper for him to be there, not only in his state but because he was a brother. Mo tells Nisreen that he's stressed out about not getting into medical school and worries about his fast-approaching future. He ends up throwing up and crashing on Nisreen's sofa in her apartment for a few hours.

The last narration to appear, "Muslimah," is a POV-style narration with Nisreen talking about Islam and framing her disquiet for Mo appearing at her place, not only because he was male but because she always thought he was better put together. She believes that there's more than just his future in medicine in question, but question of his future spouse and his life as a engaged and later married man that has him despairing.

And there is A Rose Much Desired. Heh.

How did a Muslim boy like Mo end up with a girl like Desirée, who, by all indications, was just a normal, geeky high schooler just before they met...who just happened to notice the workings of the Muslim boys at her high school as her best friend, a Muslim girl named Ameerah, decried their behavior and character on the regular? Nisreen wants to help Mo, although she feels uncomfortable and ill-equipped to help out a brother friend. What will come of Nisreen and Mo? Why is Mo so reluctant to tell about his girl problems, and why is he specifically wary of the word "marriage?" ...haha, well, of course, I know all the answers, I wrote it. Then there are questions that come up in the later half that are never answered...muahaha!

I'm having family read it first, but I think they got bored or confused and stopped. To be fair, I gave it to my cousins to read...then my best friend at med school and my intended (I refuse to call him the B word...any of them, actually, haha, even though his abbreviation on here is B). My mother has not read it yet, which is discouraging when you can't even get family to read it, haha, but I decided I'm not going to care too much. To me, it's great, it gets into a lot of themes that were relevant as I was a college-age Muslimah, and...it'll always be my baby.

So, to mix it up, I'll give you an excerpt this time from a "Desirée" chapter. This takes place Des's sophomore year of high school. She's eating lunch with her two best friends, Ameerah and Divya. This chapter is aptly called, "Muslim Boys:"

      “I’m telling you, Desirée, I’ve got slim pickings. Slim pickings,” Ameerah declared one day at lunch, pointing a fry in front of Desirée’s face. Desirée wondered if her eye crossed slightly as she focused on the ketchup on the tip of the fry. It was barely warm outside, but she, Ameerah and Divya had decided to eat on the patio outside of the administrative hallway. The bench was cold to Desirée but the springtime sun made up for it. She watched as Ameerah squeezed more ketchup onto the individual fry before actually eating it. Desirée was amused that Ameerah could eat whatever she wanted and seemingly never gained a pound. Let me eat fries every day at lunch and I’ll have to be rolled from class to class with a stick, she thought.
      Divya was shaking her head, ready to disagree. These days, Divya began letting down her hair, and it covered her shoulders and wavered as she shook her head. “Ameerah, at least they’re cute. I’m the one who has slim pickings.” She swung her legs to the other side of the bench, crossed her legs and smirked. “The cutest ones in our class haven’t gone through puberty yet.” Ameerah clapped and laughed raucously, which she usually did when things weren’t that funny. “I wish I could have my choice of the Muslim boys, but that’s only if I want to be disowned—”
      Ameerah waved her hand at Divya. “You and all this talk about how your parents would flip out if you ended up with a Muslim. What’s so bad about Muslims, anyway?” Desirée sipped on her Code Red and glanced from face to face as her friends spoke.
      “I’m Hindu!” Divya sputtered before choking on a mouth-full of the wrap she was eating.
      “And?” Ameerah was obviously not impressed. She had on her scowling, scrunched-nose disdain face. Desirée recognized it well. She was about to break it down. “You know Amjad who used to go here? His mother was Hindu and his father was Muslim, and they seemed to work out.”
      Divya gurgled between a gulp of water from her water bottle. “They seemed to. That’s key. You don’t know what went on with either side of his parents’ families. It probably was hell. Both sets of parents probably flipped the hell out.”
      “First, dude, eat your food before you like, die.” Ameerah squeezed her last ketchup packet on top of her fries. “Second, you say probably, but you can’t know that for certain. Maybe their parents were more understanding about them getting together. And look, Amjad was brilliant! He was a cool kid, like really, down to earth, balanced, better than the bunch of excuses for Muslims we got going on here.”  Ameerah pointed the fry this time at Divya, raising an eyebrow and nodding before flicking it into her mouth.
      Divya rolled her eyes. “Okay, so I guess I can’t say for sure. All I know is my parents outright told me that I could be ‘little friends’ with whoever I wanted now, but for marriage, no Muslims and no blacks.” Divya caught herself and shrugged, glancing at Desirée briefly before returning her attention to her wrap. “No offense, Desirée.”
     Desirée hated that. No offense. If a person really didn’t mean to be offensive, they wouldn’t have said it at all. And if they slipped and said it accidentally, the more appropriate thing would have been to apologize. “No offense” was defensive. Desirée opened her mouth to answer Divya but was interrupted by Ameerah. “Oh, but you don’t say ‘no offense’ to me, huh? So I’m supposed to sit here while you’re doing your Muslim bashing—”
       “I am not Muslim bashing, I just said—this isn’t even what we were really

talking about, Ameerah, I just said that at least the Muslim boys are cute. I 

don’t think you have slim pickings at all.”

The Desirée chapters definitely have a different vibe from the Agent chapters, which is usually what the excerpts are from. And then, there are the Muslimah chapters...let me see if I can find something good...okay, this is from the chapter, "The Mohammed Mahmud Ghazali Project:"

     It’s kind of hard sometimes to see someone you admire break down. It wasn’t that I followed Mahmud’s life story or anything, but even when he was more in the background of my life, he was like a pillar. I know that sounds weird, a little intense, maybe, but there always seem to be those people in your life that you can count on for constancy, stability. I knew that any time I was freaking out about something, all I had to do was cross his path on campus or wherever and he would always tell me that everything was going to be all right. Then, with that certainty, and I don’t know why it was certainty, just because he said it, I was able to do whatever it was. Nisreen bit her thumb nail as she spoke, And here he was, obviously perturbed about something, to the point that he’s wandering around town and alhamudulillah he at least came to my place and didn’t end up ambling to the other side of town.
      She nodded, glancing up to the ceiling at times. I mean, I know it was foolish of me to look to him for stability those times, or think of him as a rock at all. My rock should always be Allah ta’ala, and not any human being, and him breaking down at my place was proof of that, right? It was hard because I guess for a while I thought of him as stronger than that, above that, more independent than that, but at the same time it’s nice to identify. Someone else is human like you are and someone else is going through the same things as you are. I mean, not to say that I was glad to see him suffering, but—it just humanized him that much more for me, she said, pressing her hands to her chest. She scratched her lower left eyelid, we started reaching a level of understanding, I kind of understood what was going wrong with him, and I knew I could help.
      Nisreen chuckled abruptly, Yeah, I could help him. At the root of it all was a spiritual problem that he needed to realize, I thought. The man was not impoverished in the least. I mean, astaghfirullah ... not that I’m covetous or anything, but I wouldn’t mind some of what he had. In addition to his family he had tons of friends looking out for him and supporting him, and this woman, I can’t be sure but I think I know who she is, who must love him and want to be with him. I mean, I don’t know her or that she feels that way, but if she’s anything like—it’s like, the way we are, the way females are. Nisreen inhaled deeply and glanced and her feet before looking up again. In reality, I guess one could argue that all he was experiencing was normal at this juncture of his life. In the next few weeks, he was going to find out whether or not he had gotten into medical school, and he’s nervous about the not possibility. And after he gets into medical school insha’Allah and starts working to become a doctor and gets closer to the  man he’s going to be—he just kind of freaked out, I guess.

So yes, very different narration styles. There may be too much going on with the story for people to get, but I'm really really interested in what people have to say. Hahaha, people who know me too well (as well as some of my readers over the years) will able to find me in the narrative and pieces of my life story in the story line (haha, one of the narrations more than the other...I won't say which). But yeah, it was awesome writing this and good that I got it done before I enter this new chapter in my life, right before I lost inspiration to write the last couple of chapters as I did. I'll end this with a later excerpt from an Agent chapter. This is from my favorite chapter of the entire story, "Right Left Foot."

    Mo’s so light he feels like flying yet he knows better than to grin wildly at this point. This is no smiling matter, less a laughing matter, and he finds himself another night trekking home with clothing improper for the chill of the evening, his mind fixed on her.
He slipped a while back because they’ve had a freak ice storm and it’s hard to tell the black of the ice from the black of the asphalt and the sidewalks are even worse. He steadies himself and resumes his resolute pace.
Mo stares at his feet and about four feet before him to ensure that he doesn’t slip on yet another ice patch. He also notices that he swings his left foot out farther than his right when he walks. He forgets the ice and finds himself zeroing in on his left foot and contrasting its swing to that of his right.

      Nisreen’s laughing at him. “What is it?” he asks, turning back. It’s one of the warmer days, and she’s wearing a light-weight pink blouse with a neckline low enough that it’s showing her chest a bit whenever the wind blows her scarf. She’s standing near the front door to her apartment building, and he can hear her cackle despite the whirring of the wind that is whipping about them.
      “I’ve grown accustomed to your stride,” she remarks as he returns with her mail in one hand, her mailbox keys in the other.
      “How’s that funny?” he inquires, as she holds the screen door open for him. She follows closely behind him.
      “I don’t know.  It’s just so characteristically you,” she answers, giving him a halfway grin. “You kind of have a clumsy way of going about it, like you’re involuntarily throwing your left foot from beneath you.”

It's been great writing this, whatever comes of this project, whether it's actually published or if I just edit it, with the help of family and friends, bind it and put it on my shelf. This April or so will make this story idea 4 years old. It's the first story I've finished entirely since this campy piece that I wrote as a 13-year-old called "Daughter of a Supermodel," haha, and probably my most ambitious since the story I never finished when I was 15-years-old, "Sisters: Body and Soul." Writing is one of my loves of life...right up there with speaking Spanish and Portuguese, Brazil, the African Diaspora, and other random things, and I'm so happy that at almost 26 years old, 22 years after the first story I ever wrote, which was about P.J. Sparkles' magic powers, that I still can make writing part of my life. And though everyone who's read excerpts throughout the years aren't here to read this journal, thank you all for your encouragement over the years, patience, even though I was really only drawing from the first 100 pages of work.

Alhamudillah for the life of this world in which we have the opportunity to explore so much about our condition and our fellow humanity, to learn from each other and learn to know each other and express all that we've learned through such diverse media!


  1. I enjoyed reading your excerpts from RMD. I think Desiree is the most likable of these characters

  2. People are finally starting to read it. B says Mo doesn't think like a guy, which is a problem (it's like, even when I tried to simplify it...men are pretty amazingly simple)...but yeah, besides that, exciting that people are reading it. That's interesting that Desirée is the most likable. I worry about the characters being annoying...hehe, we'll see what people think.

    Thanks for reading! :)

  3. Love it!

    That is all... it's tough to write in the male voice, sometimes I wonder if it's not harder than writing in the voice of someone whose experiences you would never in a million years be able to have.

    look forward to the rest of this psuedo-memoir. :-)

  4. @Gazelle: Yay, I'm glad you like it. One of my best friends is reading it now, and she knows me so well, she's like, trying to figure out what's fiction and what's real life. I've never written characters who were so close to real people...

    She also thinks Mo is a bit more in tune to emotions than she thinks a guy would be. I may flatten him a little bit, but I think I want him that way...I think the guy he was based on was like that.

    Thanks for your encouragement over the years (years, yeah?)! It's helped me to get this far...