Archive for August, 2016

Birthdays are starting to confuse me, a lot. There’s this thing about them that kinda makes you feel like you have to feel something. When I was much younger, I used to countdown for my birthday and my birthday parties always made me feel special. As I grew a little older, I started despising the idea of “aging”, and would often choose to spend my birthday away from any possible human interaction, in a sad attempt to forget that I was in fact growing up. Then came this phase of my life when I started to be content with who I was turning out to be, and the idea of growing up didn’t sound half as bad because I was starting to mentally grow and outgrow so many habits, places, and people. My birthday then felt more like a confirmation that I was progressing and that I was indeed on the right track.

This year, and the previous one, I happened to not feel a thing. I mean, yes, birthdays are exciting and it’s good to have this many people wishing you that many heartwarming things all on the same day, but then I look at myself in the mirror and it feels like, now what? I read my birthday reflections from other years, and I realize I’m a somewhat different person today, but then I have no idea what to do with this realization. I even just read something that my 19 year old self has written on her birthday, where she was predicting I shall be freaking out on my 22nd birthday in particular, because it’s supposed to be followed by a somewhat new phase of my life. Today, I am 22, this new phase is shortly coming up, and I swear I don’t feel a thing. And it kind of feels wrong. Like I should really be feeling something, I should be having way more intense thoughts than the ones currently racing through my head, I should be a different person than the one I’m staring back at in the mirror today.

It’s not that I feel unaccomplished either. I’ve actually realized I’ve stopped feeling bad when I notice that someone’s doing any of the things I do way more better than I would’ve ever done them. I watch accomplished people telling their stories, and I don’t find myself wishing they could’ve been my own stories anymore. Which has actually been one of the things I’ve been struggling with all my life; seeing myself through other people’s lenses and feeling bad over how I never seem to be up to their standards. I don’t do that anymore, I believe. Instead, I ponder over all the things I never thought I’d be doing a few years back, and get excited about all the other things I expect to be doing a few years ahead with all the things I now know. It feels weird, because this was never who I am.

Well, I guess there’s no point of writing this, really. I’m only hoping to read this in a few more years and maybe make more sense then of that which I’m currently feeling but am unable to find the right words to describe. I guess future me would appreciate present me for letting her in onto this little part of her brain. Because today, I am 22 years old and I really do not feel a thing.

And that’s okay, I guess.


Day 20

Ammu Omar has come to pick us up before school is over, Mrs. Nadia tells us. She allows us to leave early and asks us to please take care of ourselves. How does a person take care of themselves? I wonder. Ammu Omar has never driven us to or from school before so mom and dad must be preparing a surprise. He sits there in the driver’s seat of his white Honda, talking on the phone as usual. The second next thing he always does whenever his laptop’s not around. Nora, Ramy, Noha and I share this look that we all know very well, then the four of us immediately rush to the car and knock really hard against its windows. Poor Ammu Omar, he looks terrified. He still smiles, puts down his phone, and gets out of the car to give me a hug. He asks why we’re out this early, and I realize I’ve really missed him, so I hug him again. On our way back home, he promises to give me an extra cookie after lunch if only I let Noha tell us all about her day. She talks and and Ammu Omar listens. He’s a very good listener. I love watching him listening to people. My heart jumps as I remember he’s about to see our gingerbread house. Mama made it yesterday, but we told everyone at school today that we’ve done it ourselves. I can’t wait to know what Ammu Omar thinks about it.

We arrive home and Nora gets her key out to unlock the door. I wish I had a key too. Mama says I can get one when I’m as old as Nora. She says that all the time, about everything. Nora gets her own room, her own jewelry box, and her own iPad, just because she’s 16. She unlocks the door and Ramy walks to his room. Mama and baba are not there, which is cool because we get to spend more time with Ammu Omar. We order pizza over the phone and wait for it to arrive while watching an episode from Arthur. The pizza man finally arrives and Nora has to go get Ramy from his room. I don’t think he likes anyone in the house as much as he likes Nora. Or pizza for that matter. We gather around the kitchen table to eat, and in my heart, I wish for this moment to never end. We’re only missing mama and baba, but it feels warm. Nora has her pizza in one hand, and her iPad in the other. Arthur is still playing in the background. Ramy tries to take a sneak peek at what Nora’s doing, and it makes her laugh. Noha has ketchup all over her face and Ammu Omar looks pale, but he still smiles.

Suddenly, Nora stops laughing and frowns at her iPad. She tells Ammu Omar she wants to speak to him alone. What do people say when they speak to each other alone? Will I ever have something that I would want to speak to someone alone about one day? Ammu Omar puts his pizza down and they go downstairs to the basement. Noha and I continue watching Arthur. Ramy’s eyes are fixed on the door to the basement. He doesn’t go to his room after finishing his food. He just stares at the door. We don’t hear anything but Ramy stays focused. It seems like an hour before they come up again. Nora has red eyes but she isn’t crying. Ammu Omar looks so much paler than he already was, but he still pretends he’s fine. His smile is no longer there. His hands are tightly holding onto Nora’s shoulders and it only reminds me that I miss his hug. He asks us to switch off the TV and we all gather around them. They look like they have something important to say. Did Nora fail her test? Oh my God, no, does she have a boyfriend? Does mama know? Why do we need to know though?

Nora walks away from Ammu Omar and sits down next to Ramy. Her left hand reaches out to hold his right, and their fingers slip in between the spaces of both hands. Ammu Omar sits down between Noha and I, and he pulls us closer. I don’t understand, but I feel like watching Arthur would be better than this. They stay silent for a few seconds then Nora asks if anyone has heard about a car accident that took place this morning beside the school. We all nod and then she asks if anyone knows what happened to the people in the car. Noha and I shake our heads, and she assumes Ramy doesn’t know either. She takes a deep breath, but then I don’t remember hearing anything until Noha starts crying while shouting out mama’s and baba’s names. She cries so hard. Ramy cries too. Nora holds him closer and they both cry in each others’ arms. Ammu Omar pulls us even closer, but I still don’t understand. Why are they crying? Why is Noha calling out on mama and baba? What does the car accident have to do with all this? Ramy pulls Nora’s arm away from him and runs to his room. She follows him. Noha jumps onto Ammu Omar’s lap, puts her arms around his neck, and digs her face deep into his shoulder. She’s still crying. Ammu Omar looks at me but he doesn’t say anything. Noha’s cries grow even louder. They give me a headache. Mama, make her stop! I hear myself saying out loud. Mama’s gone, she’s gone, Noha keeps repeating. Make her stop! I find myself saying again, and everything around me slowly starts fading away.

It’s hot. I’m sweating so hard. I can feel someone’s arms around me but I can’t open my eyes. Are you sure you want to do this? I hear an unfamiliar voice ask. I don’t hear an answer but the arms holding me suddenly tighten, and I feel myself moving around. I hear footsteps. They’re loud. There are five of them. Are mama and baba back yet? Everything fades away again. Then I hear screams and loud cries. The arms holding onto me get warmer. I feel a weird smell and remember that mama just gave me a shower this morning; I can’t let the smell get to me. I hear a voice that sounds like Nora, shouting, don’t do this to yourself, they wouldn’t want you to be doing this to yourself. But I never hear an answer, and the voices fade away again. When they’re back, I no longer feel the arms around me, but I feel more relaxed. I hear Nora’s voice again. This time Ramy answers back, but his voice is different.

They must’ve left because they’re mad at me, he says. Yesterday, mama came to my room and she asked me to turn off the play station but I never listened. She told me she wanted to have a conversation with me and I said she can talk while I play. I didn’t even look at her. Oh how I wish I could just get one last glimpse at her beautiful face. He starts crying. Do you think they’ll ever forgive me for what I’ve done? Baba didn’t even tell me goodbye this morning when we were leaving to school. He’s mad. I know he’s mad. Can he come back for just one second so I could apologize? I want to apologize, Nora. Please tell them I want to apologize. Please bring them back. Please. Nora doesn’t reply, and I feel like someone’s squeezing my insides. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Mama, baba, help me, I can’t breathe.

(Story’s First Part:

Invisible Scars

Posted: August 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

You know when you feel like you’re drifting away from someone so special, but that someone doesn’t allow you to openly talk about it? Not because they’re bad friends, but because they truly just don’t even realize it at all. You’ve always told each other how your favorite part about this friendship is that no matter how long it’s been since you’ve last communicated, the minute you talk, it still feels like it’s only been just a day or two. And it actually does.

Yet sometimes, certain things do happen when they’re not around, and sometimes it feels like it’s too late to tell them about those things when they show up again. Sometimes they miss out on many important events in your life that it just doesn’t feel right to let them in onto this new person you’re turning out to be when they’re back, because sometimes these things happen to you and you just can’t explain them to anyone who hasn’t already been there.

Then they show up, and you remember how much you really miss being around them. So you swallow the words you’ve been mentally preparing to tell them, you swallow your ego, you swallow all the anger, and you almost choke on all the things you should’ve let out but preferred to keep inside, while they don’t even realize any of it over the sound of their own news that they’ve been waiting to share with you. And you listen, but you secretly still wish you could’ve been there when these things happened too, because they just don’t sound like the person you’ve always known anymore, and you would’ve loved to watch it all emerge.

You’re scared to admit they’ve caused you pain because it can be even more painful acknowledging the fact that they didn’t even notice it. So you randomly show up one day and tell them how much you miss them, and they tell you they miss you back. But it’s not that you actually miss them, it’s that you’re feeling empty without them, it’s that you’re feeling hurt at their apparent obliviousness, it’s that you wish you could squeeze them between your arms and cry so hard, but you know you’ll freak them out so you choose to cover it with a smile and ask them how they’ve been instead.

The problem is, we do change. The things that never mattered to us a few years back, might be very significant to our well-being a few years ahead, and we just can’t go around asking people to adapt. Especially when we realize how much of an ugly cycle it is, when another friend shows up after a while, mentions how much we’ve been missed, and we reply back with the same heartless I miss you, too that had already cut deep inside us upon hearing it from someone else. And we realize we can no longer keep count of the invisible scars that we, too, obliviously leave behind.

Day 19

What now? Omar thought, as he continued staring at his laptop screen. He had been sitting there for almost three hours, and every time he was almost about to finish a paragraph, he would just backspace everything and start over.

What am I doing wrong? Why does this have to happen now?

After another 20 minutes of feeling paralyzed, Omar finally got up and walked downstairs to the kitchen.

Coffee? Nope. I need to work on my caffeine consumption, remember? Okay, soda? Oh God, I forgot to buy some.

He finally grabbed a glass cup, poured some water from the tap, and walked to the window. After his first sip, he fringed. It was warm. Omar hated warm water, but his mind was too occupied with the words he desperately needed to push out, that he forgot to add some ice.

Yousra, his brilliant editor, was pressuring him to finish at least 7 chapters of his novel within 2 months, because their publisher needed to receive something tangible that would convince him to wait and not sign contracts with another writer. She had a very strict schedule for him, and even though he usually followed her schedules, this time he felt too pressured that he couldn’t go past the 3rd chapter. The problem was, he only had two weeks left. Something was wrong. His mind would always freeze every time he felt that his mental editor was watching over his shoulder, and it never gave him enough space to create.

Before he could go back to get some ice, he heard his phone beep and knew it must be her. He left everything and ran back to the room.

It was a text message, from an unknown number.

Hi Omar. This is Mrs. Nadia, Blue Sky’s principal.
We’ve been trying to reach you but something seems to be wrong with your phone.
Please call back ASAP.

Blue Sky was his nephew’s and nieces’ school. It was very unusual of them to contact him, but he knew he was their emergency contact and so it had to be something urgent. He immediately called back, with his heartbeats pushing hard against his chest.

“Hello?” Omar quickly said as soon as Mrs. Nadia picked up.

“Hi Omar. Thank you for calling back. We actually, umm, have some bad news.”

Omar didn’t respond.

“Your brother and sister-in-law had a terrible accident this morning near the school, after dropping off the children. They’ve been taken to the hospital, but, umm…”

Omar still didn’t say anything. His heartbeats raced even faster. It can’t be true, can it?

“Well, neither of them survived. I’m very sorry about that.”

Oh, God. No. No, no, no. No.

“Omar? You still there?” Mrs. Nadia asked after a long pause.

Omar cleared his throat. “Yes, Mrs. Nadia. I’m still here.”

“I know how this must be hard for you and the kids, but the kids actually don’t know anything up till now. They’ve heard about the car accident, of course, everyone has. But they still don’t know it’s their parents. The school day ends in two hours and we need you to pick them up and deliver the news yourself, they’ll need you around. I’ve also given the hospital your number, and they will be contacting you soon so please fix your phone. I’ll make sure to send you the hospital’s address in a text message anyway. If there’s anything the school can help you with, please let us know.”

That was too much to take. Omar immediately hung up after she was done, without uttering a single word. A few minutes ago, his only problem was how to portray the conflict between his characters in a novel that only exists on paper. Now he had to deal with a real conflict that he was unexpectedly being exposed to, while supporting four young children who needed to know about something that he himself could not fully grasp yet. That was definitely too much.

Not knowing what to do, he decided to text his editor.

I have a family emergency. Don’t think I can make it on time. He typed, and before thinking twice, he pressed send.

A family emergency?

It sounded weird to his own mind. He had never been late for work because of a family emergency. He never even knew what family emergencies meant. Omar had already been living on his own before his parents passed away, and the only family he knew of was his brother and sister-in-law – who was practically his own sister. Now, they were both gone. That was not a family emergency; that was a disaster!

Do I go to the hospital? Or do I pick up the children first? He already knew he was a terrible decision maker; he didn’t need something to prove it this loud.

The children first. He decided, and grabbed his shoes on his way out.

“Oh, you’re here already,” Mrs. Nadia was surprised when she saw him. “I figured you’d pass by the hospital first, you know, get done with the documents and everything before the kids are out.”

Shut up, you’re not helping. Just shut up.

“But, oh well, it seems like you’ve thought about it and decided it was better to come here first.” She replied to her own statement upon realizing he was not planning to give her any answers.

Yeah, right. Omar, thinking, and deciding, all in the same sentence. You really need to shut up.

“I’m just hoping… you’d take this better… You know, with the kids needing your support and everything.”

Omar nodded his head, with no words coming out. Who was she anyway to tell him how he should take this?

“Well, the kids will be out in an hour or so, you can rest here for a while if you wish.”

“Thanks, but no, thanks. I’ll be waiting outside in the car.”

And those were the only words Omar had heard himself saying since he received that phone call. The phone call that was already changing the entire course of his life.

Back in his car, he remembered he still needed to contact the hospital. It was one of the calls he so much despised.

“Cairo Medical Hospital, how can I help you?” The voice on the other end said.

“Hi. Aah, I wanted to ask about, ah, two patients. I mean, two… patients.”


“I mean, they’re not patients. They… passed away at the hospital, today.” He finally said.

“Oh, I’m really sorry about that. Can you give me their names?”

“Ahmad and Arwa.”

“Okay, let me check. Ahmad Abdelfattah and Arwa Kamal?”

“That’s right. Listen, I have no idea how this whole thing is supposed to go. Can you please help?” He sounded too desperate, but something about her voice pushed him to ask.

“Well, yes, of course. Yes,” The lady sounded surprised. “We’ll assist you through the whole thing; you don’t have to worry about that. Right now, the two bodies are being prepared to move to the hospital’s mortuary until the arrangements are over. We actually tried reaching out to you earlier but failed, so we decided it was best for them to stay there for the time being. When you come over, you’ll need to get done with the financial stuff first, then we can proceed from there.”

“Okay, I just need to pick up the kids first. Can I be there later today?”

“Yes, whenever it suits you. But the sooner the better.”

“Okay, thanks.”

As soon as he hung up, he heard loud knocks on the window and almost jumped out of his seat. It was the children, all four of them, giggling and high fiving each other because they had succeed in scaring him. His heart sank, but he still smiled and unlocked the doors.

“Hi, Ammu Omar!” 8-year-old Nada enthusiastically said from across the car window. “Where are mom and dad?”

“Won’t you give Ammu Omar a hug first?” He stepped out of the car and she immediately ran towards him.

“How come you’re out so early?” Omar asked after they hugged.

“Mrs. Nadia said we can leave early today because there was a surprise waiting outside. Turns out you’re the surprise!” She giggled and hugged him again.

“Where are mom and dad?” Nora, their eldest sister asked again.

“I’ll tell you when we get back home,” Omar replied without stuttering, and kept his smile on. “Don’t you miss spending time with me?”

“Yeeesss!” The twins, Nada and Noha, shouted out instantly.

Ramy rolled his eyes. He was never fond of his uncle, and always preferred to stay in his room whenever Omar visited. It baffled Ahmad and Arwa how Omar could get along this well with the three girls, but not with the one guy who was already a smaller version of himself. It confused him too, but being the person he is, he preferred not to intrude and usually just let it go.

“Oh, oh, we have to show you our gingerbread house. We’ve spent all night working on it!” Nada said.

“Yeah, you’d love it. We’re going back to our house, right?” Noha asked.

Omar hadn’t really thought about that before.

“Well, yes, if you want to!” He quickly said. It did seem like the reasonable thing to do.

“Yeah, let’s do that. I have a lot of homework, too. Mom will barely get any sleep tonight.” Nora randomly added.

“You guys have the keys?” Omar asked.

“Mine’s with me,” Nora replied, “but Ramy’s was stolen last week.”

“Stolen? How was it stolen?!” Omar asked before Ramy angrily interrupted.

“Gosh! I told you I lost them somewhere around the house. Stop exaggerating everything this way!”

“Anyway, seatbelts on everyone,” Omar had to end it before they start fighting. “And then I want to hear eeevery tiny detail of how today went. Who’s starting?”

“Me! Me! Me!” Nada and Noha enthusiastically yelled.

“Okay, okay, calm down,” Omar said in between his laughs, “Nada, would you mind letting your sister start?”

“Do I get an extra cookie after lunch if I let her?” Nada slyly asked.

“Who taught you that?” Omar laughed and reached backwards to tickle her. Everyone laughed along.

“Do I?” She repeated with a wide smile on her face.

“Fine,” Omar surrendered. “Noha, you start.”

Noha started describing her day in details with Omar giving her the exact reaction she was waiting for after every sentence. She seemed to be enjoying it.

He couldn’t help but wonder though, was that the right thing to do? Should I have told them about their parents first?

It was just what he felt like doing at the time, and he was hoping he wouldn’t shortly regret it. Nevertheless, he was amazed at what he was turning out to be. A person who wasn’t able to form a proper sentence a few hours ago, but was now able to lift the spirits of those poor kids who had no idea what was waiting for them. None of them felt a thing. It’s just amazing what one can do when they realize they’re the only source of support for someone. It’s just amazing how we can sometimes choose to suppress our own feelings and emotions, just until we make sure that those who are in need of our help get the help they deserve. Omar was ready to do that for them. He was definitely going to learn a lot about himself in the process.

~~ To be continued

Day 18

For some reason, this is the first prompt I immensely struggle with since I started this challenge. Every day I bring in a new favorite book cover, come up with an idea for its story, then hate everything about my words midway, and decide to start over the next day.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been accidentally letting out pieces of myself in real life these days – pieces that I’ve been trying to keep private for so long but that have been pushing themselves out lately with no permission whatsoever from any sane part of my brain – that the idea of other new pieces coming out in written words is starting to sound kind of scary. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been reading for others lately, and being able to sit back and watch someone precisely describe feelings for me that I’ve been wishing I was capable of wording, currently feels more comfortable than having to push and do it myself. Or maybe my mind’s just fond of the fact that it can so badly screw things up, then effortlessly hit backspace and realize it does really have the chance to start over, without having hurt anyone in the process, without having to live with the guilt of having done something it shouldn’t have done, and without having to beg for second chances.

But then again, maybe it’s none of that, and I just seem to have so much happening on the inside right now that needs to flow out, and my insistence on writing about things that are completely unrelated is making my insides so stubborn that they’re refusing to pave the way for anything else.

Whatever the reason is, I decided to divert a little from the challenge, skip this prompt for everything it’s been making me feel, and pour out complete nonsense until I’m able to get back on track. So far, my insides seem to pretty much like that. So here are some of the things that have been troubling me lately, with no specific order for how they choose to come out.

  • Children. Children are beautiful creatures that I never seem to get enough of exploring. I love children, a lot. But isn’t the reproduction process still kind of a selfish one?

We bring children to the world with certain thoughts at the back of our heads; not wanting to die alone, having someone take care of us when we’re too old to do it ourselves, trying to raise them up properly because it’s one of the things that can get us straight into paradise, sometimes even having someone to keep us company at home because the husband is too busy at work all day. Thoughts like those that we do not always openly talk about, but know are there.

Isn’t it kind of unfair? Bringing someone to the world without, well, their consent? Giving ourselves the right to choose their names, the way they’ll be raised, any genetically associated diseases, and even mental issues that we tend to unconsciously pass along from one generation to the other without completely realizing how many people we’re actually messing with their brains?

There are endless reasons why I think it’s unfair, but then again, the idea of family is still too appealing. I personally am grateful for having someone that I know will unconditionally love and support me no matter what I do. The only reason why parents are probably motivated to get out of bed each morning and go to work is because they know they have to financially support their kids, and they still lovingly do it. Mothers go through so much pain during pregnancy and after, as they try to make their children understand that the things they do and are so much hated for are only out of love. Bad parents do exist, but there are plenty of others who beautifully touch their kids’ lives and bring up amazing humans.

I do not completely disapprove the whole thing, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder how some people wholeheartedly wish for this all their lives and do not seem to think twice about doing it as soon as they get married. I can’t get myself to even like the idea of doing this myself and sometimes it makes me sad that I don’t have this natural instinct that every other girl (or guy for that matter) I know effortlessly yearns for.

I mean, it’s awesome having a baby to yourself, watching them grow, being so proud of them and all, but how can you not think about all the hardships you’ve been through for instance, and still willingly decide to be the reason why someone else could be crying themselves to sleep in a couple of years when they go through something similar? How can you realize that you’re psychologically suffering from a certain issue and still bring up children that are probably going to pick up pieces of those issues whether they want it or not? How can you watch everything that’s happening with the world on the news every day, and still be okay with the fact that you’re bringing someone who might actually decide to join ISIS one day and screw up the world even more? And even if they turned out to be just fine, still, how can your heart accept the fact that they’ll still have to live in such a messed up world, face injustice in their own countries, and feel completely helpless towards the injustice taking place in other countries too?

Sometimes I do hate myself for not being able to think about this any other way.

  • Social Media. A few years back, I was completely fascinated by this new invention, because whether I chose it or not, I was always only comfortable being myself behind screens. Now I’ve matured, and seen some ugly sides of this virtual world. But I still can’t get myself to hate it, because how can you hate something that has shaped so much of your life?

I am truly uncertain if I would have been able to find out about my passion for writing, or even improve it a little over the years, if it weren’t for Twitter and Blogs. Being here is what pushed me to write more and learn from others who write so beautifully themselves. I could get feedback from people I have never even seen before, and I could even bond with others over the things we both write and end up being close friends.

I have been in contact with people I could’ve so easily lost connection with since we parted over 10 years ago, because of Facebook. I have learned about events and places because of my online circles. I have seen people get employed solely because of the connections they have made over social media. I have seen people get famous and do things they never knew were even possible just because they got enough exposure. I have seen so many good sides of this world.

Yet, I have seen us turn into judgmental individuals who care so much about likes and favorites more than they care about human beings. I have seen people seem so happy and sociable among online settings then watched how badly they can collapse in the dark all alone. I have seen us lose normal human interactions because we’re busy looking at our phones all the time. I have seen us waste so much time stalking people on social media, valuable time that we’re never getting back.

I despise the fact that things can have such strong advantages and disadvantages at the same time, that if you choose one option, you know you’ll have to deal with the other’s consequences too.

  • Graduation. An idea that seemed so distant, but is unexpectedly happening in just four more months. What?

Well, I thought I’d be freaking out, but I’m too excited about this in a way that’s scaring me. I am willingly choosing not to spend an extra semester as an undergrad and cramming myself with classes and work instead, just because I can’t wait to get out of this place. I love being on campus, I love watching myself grow in this place. But I can’t wait to step out. I feel like this is a pretty stagnant phase of my life; no real challenges, no real development, nothing that I know the real world shall offer me. So I should be excited. But sometimes I wonder if I’m overestimating myself. Maybe the experiences I’ll go through in a few more months will make me realize how so unprepared I was. Maybe this place is all where I need to stay. But you never know until you try, and if you try, there’s no going back.

I’m scared but I never say it out loud.

  • People. Those weird creatures who’re made up of issues they never want to admit they have, including myself.

I’m watching someone struggling so bad to be themselves around people that are supposed to be family, but aren’t. I know the real them, or I think I know the real them, but nothing they do sounds like who they are and it painfully frustrates me. I keep wishing I could tell this someone to be themselves, until I realize I’m hardly being myself either. What is being one’s self and how do you do it? Do we happen to only have just one self? I realize I have so many sides myself and it honestly gets ugly watching them all trying to force themselves out when I’m around different people who have already been used to different sides of me. Am I not being myself if I choose to let out a different side of me around each different person I come to know? Why does it annoy me this much to watch someone I know not being themselves? Is it because I never am?

I’m watching someone wanting to be heard and unheard at the same time. I’m watching them write about themselves in other pronouns, because they want to let people in on their stories but know they won’t be able to handle the questions if anyone knew they’ve always been their story’s protagonist. How cruel is it to be gifted with something you can no longer really use to soothe your own thoughts and struggles?

I’m watching someone being so oblivious of their real worth, going around and meeting people who seem so inspiring, and only wishing it was possible to be like them. I’m watching them continue to be so oblivious of how others continuously wish for the opportunities they have or the qualities they possess. Is it true you never appreciate what you have until you watch it go? What if you knew how to appreciate it then? Would appreciating things make them stay?

I’m watching someone being so self-conscious because they genuinely believe they are the center of the universe. Every picture they post on Facebook shall be judged, every word they say shall be heard and discussed, and everything they do shall be making someone fall for them. Isn’t it exhausting? Isn’t this part of the problem that social media constantly creates? Isn’t this what we all sometimes experience without completely realizing how much we’re harming ourselves?

I’m watching someone fall for the love of their life and make one compromise after the other without taking notice. Which makes me wonder, should love be this controlling? Demanding? Draining? It makes me wonder if my heart would one day convince my brain to let go of something I’ve always believed in just because someone has helped it beat a little differently. It makes me wonder if love is blinding or if it is that we willingly choose to close our eyes. It makes me wonder if it’s easier to love the wrong person than to walk away from them. Love will probably always be on top of the list of things I have a hard time deciding how I feel about them.

I’m watching someone convincing people that they know who they are, while they’re only good at wearing masks that make you think you can see through the real them. I’m watching someone getting hurt for all the wrong reasons, and unconsciously letting it out on all the wrong people. I’m watching someone choosing to reply to every I miss you with a thank you because they’re too scared to say it back and realize they have feelings for someone. I’m watching someone writing for a person who never wants to read.

I’m watching myself as I watch them all, and I wonder, how does all that make me feel? Am I being watched too? Does that who watches me understand any of that which I seem to be struggling with? Do they really see me?

Day 17

This is a story of a great man who has succeeded in changing the definition of Tawwakul in the dictionary of my heart.

My sister and I were on our way to the airport, a couple of hours before our flight was scheduled. We had to request an Uber driver to get there, after walking around for a few minutes with the heavy bags. Abdullatif was the name of the driver we were matched with, and little did we know about the difference he was about to make in the way we believed in Al-Latif.

The car shortly arrived and the driver helped us with the bags.

“So, where are you from, Basma?” He asked as soon as we got in the car.

“We’re from Egypt.” I replied.

“I knew it!” He enthusiastically replied then said a happy “Alsalamu Alaykom!”

“So, where are you from?” My sister asked.

“Masr, of course!” He said.

He was Egyptian, too. What a coincidence, we thought.

We then started a long conversation about Egypt and what each one of us was currently doing in the U.S., after which he told us the story of how he got there.

So Abdullatif is a simple Egyptian man who has always led a truly simple life. He graduated from the Faculty of Commerce and got stuck with serving at the army for a period of time after his graduation. Most of his friends were able to skip that, but he had applied in April, unlike everyone else he knew, and in that specific year, April applicants were the only one asked to serve. It was frustrating, but he still said Alhamdulillah and went through it with a satisfied mind and heart.

One day, during one of his holidays, he was randomly hanging out with his friends. They mentioned that they had all applied for the green card lottery, and asked him to do the same. He found the idea somewhat ridiculous, since only a few were going to be chosen from among 100,000 other applicants. His friend still insisted he would do it, and actually filled out the required forms for him. He had everything ready and was only required to send them out. And so he did, without realizing what was about to happen to him.

A few weeks later, he forgot about that application and normally resumed his life. After finishing his requirements at the army, he was able to secure himself a job, which he did not fully enjoy, but had no other alternatives at the time. Again, he knew that God must be holding something better for him, and decided to go for it for the time being anyway. A few weeks into the job, he found out he was being asked to perform certain tasks that were not in alignment with his own values. Even though he knew he did not have other alternatives, he still refused to do them and clearly stated that to his employers. It was all faced by the very expected reaction; his layoff.

He went back home feeling bad about it, but deep down; he still believed God must have done it for a good reason after all. On the very same day, and after he had already forgotten about it all, he unexpectedly received a letter from the lottery people announcing that he had been chosen among the 50,000 filtered applicants. He could not even believe it and started looking for people who could help him out with the rest of the forms right away.

One of his cousins kept the forms at his place for over a week, and when he handed them back, Abdullatif thought they were the farthest they could be from being representable. He had no other choice but to send them, though a part of him felt they would not be accepted this way.

He waited for a few more weeks, and then one day, he received a phone call asking him to come over for an interview at the U.S. Embassy. He couldn’t even believe himself, and made sure he was perfectly ready for it. With a few more challenges along the way, the interview still went well and he was almost about to get accepted. The only thing that was missing was a few documents from an American citizen who can be his sponsor. He was allowed a period of one month to find one and have all the documents ready by then.

Abullatif started feeling a little disappointed. He did not know of anyone living in the U.S. that would have been ready to sponsor him. It was like a dream coming true for a few minutes, and then quickly fading away. He knew that being chosen from among all those applicants and getting so close to making it there, especially when he had least expected it, was already too good for him; it eventually had to stop somewhere.

He didn’t give up though, and continued to search for someone who can help. The month was over before he was able to find anyone, and so he contacted the embassy, explaining the situation. Surprisingly, they allowed him one more month to continue the search. He searched everywhere, but it was still almost impossible for him to do it during that extra period. He went back to the embassy again, explained the situation, and was granted one other additional month. It was a little hard to believe, especially when it happened again two other times, and he realized he was being granted four entire months for something he was originally supposed to have had ready by the very first month.

After all those allowances, he was told that he would be offered another final month, after which he would lose all his chances to get the green card. It was the very final chance. He still had faith in God and exerted some effort to try and find the desired person. Heartwarmingly enough, he happened to find four different people during that last month, who were all ready to fill out the documents and sponsor him. Four different people who were mostly distant relatives that had existed all along, but that he still hadn’t had the chance to cross paths with earlier when he was truly desperate for just one. Four different people who were God-sent gifts to him at the time when he really needed them.

Abdullatif has now been living in the U.S. for almost 18 years. He has made a family, secured himself a job, and met us on our Uber drive to inspire us with one of his life-changing stories. We did not get to hear everything about the struggles he has faced throughout the journey, which are definitely a lot. We did not get to hear everything about the nights he probably cried himself to sleep when he was not able to find a suitable job after graduation, or was stuck at the army while his friends survived. We did not get to hear everything about the endless thoughts that ran all over his mind when he had to do something that did not match his values and he had to say no. We did not get to hear so much of the story’s little details, but we got to feel all that in the way God has made sure to satisfy his heart at the end of his journey.

We got to feel it in the way things magically started working out every time he was so close to giving up. We got to feel it in the signs God has sent us with every part of the story that we could so clearly relate to through our own stories and hardships. We got to feel it all in the way he was full of life and the way his smile broke through his face with every heartwarming side of the story he got to retell. We got to feel it when we first entered his car and realized he was an Egyptian too, because what were the chances of being matched with this Egyptian man in particular at 8 AM on the very wide streets of America, who would be so interested to know more about us and then share his story?

It was definitely not a coincidence, but a sign from Him and a lovely attempt to pull us a little closer. A lovely attempt to remind us that, despite everything we go through, He will always be there, making sure our life is perfectly planned, and making sure we get exactly what we expect of Him, because how many times does He have to remind us that He’s perfectly عند حسن ظن عبده به?

“Would you like to come over and have tea with my wife and kids before dropping you off at the airport?” Abdullatif asked after narrating his story. “They would love to see you.”

“Well, we do have some time on hand!” I replied. “We would definitely love to see them too.”

Day 16.jpg

Someone mentioned your name today and my eyes immediately shifted to them. I didn’t know if I was curious about how you’ve been doing or if I had just been waiting for an opportunity to talk about you and feel your name between my lips again.

They talked about you for two minutes straight, and I couldn’t even blink all through. It wasn’t out of pain; it was more out of not completely grasping the fact that I did not feel a thing upon hearing it all. I waited for a heart twitch, anything happening with my insides, any tears that I’d try to stop, but none of that happened. It just felt like talking about an old friend whom I hadn’t been in contact with for some time. I didn’t even push to keep the conversation going, like I’ve always tried doing in an attempt to prove that it was perfectly okay for me to be talking about you. I felt a few stares from some eyes who had already known about us long ago, carefully watching my reactions, but it was no longer that irritating. None of it annoyed me. I actually kind of felt like picking up the phone and calling you right at that instant. It was not out of wanting to hear your voice or feel your presence in my life again. It was more about wanting to reconnect with an old friend who had made some sort of a difference in my life that I wanted to thank them for. It’s something I keep failing to explain, and I’m sure you would have found it hard to understand it yourself if you had been there to witness it all.

I don’t hate you, I just don’t find it in me to want you in my life that bad anymore. I know for a fact I would’ve never understood this feeling I know of now if I hadn’t had you break my heart this bad. I’m still grateful for your existence, even if you never know anything about it. I’m still grateful for the pain, for it has helped me grow into someone I’m proud of today. Someone who no longer wants you back. Someone who’s able to smile upon having you crossing their mind.

I guess I only wish thinking about me would make you smile too, one day.