I am back on my writing grind… not necessarily on this blog, but in real life. You see, once upon a time writing, fiction especially was my passion. Now, I am on a roll again, writing stuff. But it’s funny how something you write a while back feels so alien, so not who you are right now. Take exhibit A… a story I wrote a last year called “Wasim.” The few people that I let read it (cuz I don’t just share my world like that… ha ha… thought it was good/ok. I thought it was awkward. Even after cleaning it up some more, I still think it’s awkward. But perhaps I should let others be the judge. I put the first little bit of the story below.
Now, I am plugging away on another project that will probably not find it’s way to Elucidated Perspectives… but Allahu a3lim. It’s awesome to get to decide the fate of people’s lives… ha ha… at least there is someone’s life I can predict… 😉
Just thinking about his name and I crack that weird smirk. It’s like my cheeks and my lips are fighting over whether they want to form a smile or a frown, which happened to be my state of mind throughout the entire relationship.
I had hated him almost instantly.
The things Wasim said and did were chafing, grating and irritating. Afterall, he was a six foot one, caramel colored, brown haired, glasses wearing wall of condescension, with a window muddied by all the pressures that come as a first generation immigrant child of professors from God knows where.
I liked him, in that elementary school girl way. You know, when you like someone so you act like you don’t, when you taunt and make fun of all the attributes that you secretly adore. I didn’t admit it, not even to myself, but I saw in Wasim the perfection that I had yet to attain. It was like he was sent to me to help me clean up my act, become a better Muslim, a better person. And I was sent to him, to get him to loosen up, to let the world see the amazing person that I saw.
But, I didn’t know then that you shouldn’t mistake coincidence for fate.
When I tried to be as conservative as he is, to dress like his mom and sisters, to be quiet and demure, I failed miserably.
The fact is, I wasn’t dainty. I wasn’t modest either: Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child were my idols. I wasn’t even particularly religious (not openly anyway). If faith conflicted with something secular, outside the confines of my home, secular always won–
Ramadan fell during basketball season? Then, I couldn’t possibly be expected to fast. My dance costume consisted of a halter leotard and shingle belt? Oh well, the show must go on. (After all, I was just imbibing a character).
Once, I asked Wasim what he thought of our college’s yearly holiday program.
– I can’t really comment on a program that tells everyone to hail Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Simply put: unIslamic.
Truth be told, any recollection him would be incomplete without mention of that word. Back when he and I first started talking to him I asked Wasim if “unIslamic” was his favorite word, since it rolled of his tongue so flippantly. He didn’t understand my sarcasm.
It was clear to me that Wasim’s world was black and white, while mine was grey. Little by little I piled on disappointment in myself for doing something that Wasim did not approve. But, there was also the greater shame of disappointment in myself for my feelings of disappointment.
We didn’t make sense, not together, but the heart wants what it wants, however illogical. Some parents warn their daughters about the womanizers and heartbreakers who only want “one thing.” Mine, on the other hand, told, me to steer clear of guys like Wasim, boys that would grow up to be men who, as my father always quipped, “wore the religion on their sleeves.”
But it was Wasim’s religious piety was what did me in. He was my young adult rebellion, my attempt to try something outside the prescribed box that society had placed me. There was something almost magical about someone who was so clearly devoted to his faith.
Unlike most others (including some of the supposedly pious brothers from the Muslim Students Association), Wasim didn’t stare at the girls with their assets hanging out. He didn’t so much as step into the cafeteria during Ramadan and he always found an empty classroom to pray. I often mused that he was strong in all the areas that I was weak. If he was a super hero, Wasim would have been Mighty Muslim.
That’s how I rationalized things. Wasim could do no wrong. Slowly but surely he became the idol I built to reflect the kind of person I wanted to be. However, in reality, even flesh and blood Wasim did not match up with the demigod of my subconscious.
In retrospect, I should have realized that he was a young, Muslim, Arab male navigating a post 9-11 America, one that didn’t have all the answers, that couldn’t have all the answers. And so was I (well minus the Arab and male part).
Wasim clung to his religion, to his cookie cutter, square peg square hole understanding of Islam. It gave him purpose, it gave him perspective. Unfortunately, it was the vector through which he saw me. And doubly unfortunately for me, disappointed was a pretty common theme as far as his views on my life choices went. There was an infinite number of times that Wasim would sit in front of me, his bushy eyebrows furrowed in that “what are you saying?” position. Yes, admittedly being rather gallant about my views and their contrast with Wasim’s was my thing.
I needed him to know that his view was not all there is to life. I had to push back on any supposition that a lifetime with me would mean my silent obedience and deference. If this is what Wasim wanted from me, he was wrong. At the same time, I was determined to stand my ground at home: If my father thought that he would discourage me form being with someone who made a better Muslim, a better person, then he too was mistaken.
Sometimes, I felt trapped in a false paradigm of conservative vs. liberal and religious vs. secular. In my mind, so much of life’s questions were qualified by circumstances and the ever-present need to consider as many viewpoints as possible. But this way of thinking made me disaster as a daughter, a failure as a Muslim and clueless as how to do anything about it.
I desperately wanted approval, and I sought it out by trying to be everything to everyone: I was the engineering major with the near-perfect GPA, so my dad would be pleased. I was co-captain of the dance squad so my peers would love and cheer for me as I shook my thang at pep rallies and half-time shows. I sought after all sorts of random awards because I foolishly thought with each one, Wasim would realize my worth and be proud to call me his (almost) fiance.
When I look back on that time in my life, it becomes so clear how the human experience is an absurd one. We spend our whole lives stalking and hunting something, believing that once we have it, everything will make sense and we will be happy. But all that effort does is make us tired.