Subway Rides.

 

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She closes her eyes pushing back her tears. There’s nothing to cry about, she tries to comfort herself. Well, until a big fat bill lands on her doorstep or she falls on the ground again, she has nothing to worry about. And so, she opens up her lids and the white neon lights blind her for a second. She shifts her vision to the two passengers sitting on the opposite seats. A young handsome dark-skinned man and an old fair-skinned lady with a pair of grey-rimmed glasses that matches her hair. She shifts her eyes to the grey floor and wonders what material might it be made of, cursed by her architecture education.

She follows a drop of yellow-brown liquid finding its way through the vibrating floor of the subway car until her vision slowly blurs and she can see it no more. She feels hot streams of tears along the bones of her cheeks, announcing her failed effort of self-comfort.

Worried of grabbing attention of the surrounding commuters, she takes a quick glance around, fighting back her unstoppable tears to refine her vision and notice others’ facial expressions. Being on a New York train, she’s sure she would be unnoticed, yet alone grabbing serious attention.

She looks at the old lady who draws a warm smile and nods softly.

She moves her eyes to the young man. He stares back with a pair of warm brown eyes then reaches into his pocket and offers her a napkin.

She then knows her miserable day just got a little better.

(Photo Courtesy: Marwah Garib).

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Resurface.

resurface

Sometimes as I walk down the street and hear a car horn, I am transported back to a late cold night in Marghani Street in Eastern Cairo. The cold breeze finding its way through my black leather jacket, I pull my laptop case closer to my chest hoping to reach home before midnight. Sometimes, when I cannot breathe through the humidity in some summer days, I become the high school student managing to walk her way back home into a grey maxi skirt on the streets of downtown Abu Dhabi, breathing her way through a much tougher humid climate. Sometimes with a sip of Coca-Cola Vanilla, I am reminded with the joy of such sip while breaking the fast of a long Ramadan day a couple of years ago in Stuttgart, Germany. Sometimes in the supermarket when I come across the candy section, a vivid image of a three-year-old girl holding curly red strips of candy between her hands sitting in a car seat while her father drives in the streets of Orlando, Fl.

Sometimes, memories as such resurface into my mind. Sometimes with such memories tangled into my dreams at night, I loose the sense of place. Sometimes at night I’d hear my mother calling me from the hallway. Other times I’d hear a close friend’s laugh, or a song being badly sung in my undergrad studio and I’d laugh out loud.

Sometimes I wonder whether these days: my teary eyes the day I landed in America after 20 years, my heart dancing in joy catching a glimpse of Manhattan’s skyline for the first time, the first time I walked through Times Square unimpressed, the time I almost fainted and took an ambulance, the first night I slept in my own apartment after a whole month of a horrible commute with nothing but an air mattress and a pillow, and the happiness after submitting the last assignment of the toughest semester of my life.

Sometimes, many times, I don’t even believe that all of this have happened in such a short time.

But sometimes I wonder if these are going to be memories that would one day resurface in my mind.

(Photo courtesy: Marwah Garib)

Morning Stories

She stands in the middle of a circle of people talking about her unfortunate journey that morning. As she speaks, she realizes that her voice is the loudest in the room. A couple of hours later, as she jokes with a colleague, she hears another friend sitting across the room laughing at her words.
A decade back, she sat at the end of the second row leaning against the wall. She watched closely the other girls at class laughing, dancing and singing loudly, celebrating the absence of a teacher between the classes. She watched everything through the lens of her thin-rimmed metallic blue glasses quietly drawing figurines on the sides of her notebook.

She hears someone across the room calling her name, wanting to listen to today’s story.
‘When did she become the entertainer of the room?’, She thought.
Some colleagues ask her why she smiles all the time, why she laughs even when she’s mad. She didn’t even notice it until it was pointed out. She spent the night tucked under her blanket, remembering just two years ago, when she preferred to walk in the rain so no one would notice her tears. She remembered the pain in her chest, the loss of her emotions and being engulfed by loneliness. She remembered her identity being stolen away from her for five straight years.

But as she’s standing in the middle of a circle of people she’s just met only weeks earlier, she realizes how much her personality has evolved. She’s surprised , and impressed, by whom she’s become. How she’s taking all these serious steps on her very own, sometimes (many times) getting lost on the way to create some interesting stories to be told the next morning.

Love, Like, Hate

I love,

the way he talks

the words he uses

In his perfectly structured sentences

those I don’t understand.

 

I love,

the way he thinks

the way he reaches out to me

and comforts me.

 

I like it,

when he’s far away,

Yet near me.

When he tries to cheer me up

From my little miseries

 

I hate,

that he’s far away

That I can’t touch him

Or see his face

Other than in my head.

 

I hate,

That I can’t hear his thoughts

Sewn in that beautiful voice

More often than this

And that I had to say goodbye,

Once Again.

 

 

 

The Quest of Finding Oneself.

At the end of her last semester of college, just like any soon-to-be graduate, she started to panic. Even if not asked by anyone, the typical question popped in her mind every single minute of the day. What will she do next? Where is she going to live? What is she going to do? Is she going to find a job? Or rather pursue graduate studies?

She started writing out lists and hanging them on the walls of her room. If they did not fell on their own, she’d rip them off, as they were a constant reminder, when she woke up every day and just before she went to sleep every night, of the dark uncertainty that awaited her impatiently.

She tried remembering the last time she was in such a cross point. She was in high school, she didn’t know which university she is going to join or which country she’s going to study for university. Yet, things miraculously happened, she ended up in a place she never thought she’s be. It was life being unfolded in front of her. It was life being life.

How did she deal with it back then? She remembered being nervous and uncertain, but she always had a plan. She kept herself calm and she worked hard on achieving that. But she’s not doing that anymore. Instead, she’s having nightmares, she’s afraid, she’s extremely uncertain, and she is extremely mad about the injustice around her in the world.

Who was she? She tried to remember. Which led her to decide her next step after graduation: to get to meet her older self again.

And so, she moved back to the city where she grew up. She moved back to live with her family in her childhood home.

She took walks in the park where she had happily played as a child. She heard herself singing, doing little jumps between the different playing areas. She visited the streets and malls where she hung out as a teenager and remembered the first time she went out with her friends. She even visited her school which now moved to a new campus (she envies the new students so much). There, she met some of her teachers and saw the pride in their eyes as they remembered her, the good student.

After five years, she got reunited with her school friends. They reminded each other of memories they thought they had forever forgotten. They recalled the kid in 4th grade who brought a plastic bottle filled with soil and insects to science class. They remembered their cute teacher in 8th grade and the vast amounts of food in the end of year parties.

As she’s travelled back into memory lane, she kept gathering little pieces of herself.

In the walls of her room, she was reminded with the times she’d lock her sixteen year-old self for hours writing a poem, or creating a song or the time she started a novel. She was reminded with the long days she had spent sitting behind a desk, determined that, that year, she’d get the highest grades she would ever achieve. And she did.

Now, she locked her twenty-three year-old self in the walls of her room and spent days in front of a screen determining her future. She hung up a calendar, not to mark the months of unemployment, but to write down a small list of goals for each day. She wrote her dreams and hung them on the wall, the way she did five years ago. The papers didn’t fall off on their own, and she didn’t rip them off either. They didn’t remind her of the uncertainty that has now become her reality, she didn’t have nightmares. Instead, they kept her determined, ambitious, and optimistic, the way they did five years ago.

In the walls of her room, the memories of school and in the jokes of her school friends, she was reminded of her highly ambitious dreams, and her limitless imagination. She has met herself again.

 

Immediate Cures.

She did the morning usual, the winning of the argument in her mind by getting up from bed, the basic washing, the praying, the changing of her clothes and then heading downstairs. That semester, she was spending almost half of her week at home. Her schedule celebrating the last of five tough years.

She pressed a button, and the coffee machine roared to life. She held her red mug, passed it under running tap water then slammed it on the cold grey marble. She entered the living room and approached a window. She slid it open. A cold breeze rushed into her lungs, making her feeling alive for the split of a second. She turned around to face the other side of the room and stared at the window in the opposing wall. She heard a thought and felt her mind lightening up. She looked at the window, and for the first time, she saw the window not as a source of sunlight and fresh air, not as an opening to the outside world, but as a savior. A savior of the darkness that had been eating her mind alive for years. She could picture herself taking a couple of steps back, then running with her fastest speed to dive freely into nothingness. She could hear the crash, waking up the neighbors and gathering everyone on the street. She realized that she was just seconds away from the cure. She realized that she’d always been so close to ending the voice that had been crushing her soul.

But then she noticed two problems regarding the idea. First, she lived in the first floor, which meant she’d probably just break a leg. And second, she was a practicing Muslim. In Islam, lives are believed to be gifts granted to living beings by Allah (God) and so, people cannot choose to end anyone’s life as well as theirs own. If they did, they’d be cursed. But she didn’t want to be in pain both in her life and death. She wanted an escape to a place where she’d be happy.

A beep came from the hallway cutting through the silence in the living room and the noise in her head. She remembered that she had left the coffee machine open. She immediately turned her eyes away from the window, shaking her head as if driving the idea out of her mind. She went to the stairs landing where the kitchenette is placed. Dark and cold, the stairs caught her eyes. Her mind immediately journeyed down to the kitchen. She heard a thought and felt her mind lightening up. She started searching through her memories where the sharpest of knives was to be found.

She stood at the middle of the kitchen with the reflection of her face on the shiny silver knife. She placed the knife on her wrist and felt the cold metal on her thin skin.

The door bell rang.

She looked at the floor. There was not a single drop of blood. She looked back at her wrist, and found that she hadn’t sliced through.

She threw the knife into the drawer and gathered herself together before heading to the door.

Her brother swung it open.

She threw her arms around him and held him tightly.

She had survived another day.

***

Note: This post describes exactly what I have been passing through the past couple of years. It is not easy to publicly speak about some of the darkest days of my life but I see it as my duty to do so, hoping to spread awareness about mental illness in a society that still portraits them under the light of shame. I hope awareness of mental illness, especially depression, would drive its sufferers to seek professional help and push institutions such as schools and universities to establish mental health centers.  I thank God this is over and pray that no one would ever pass through similar days.

The Concept of Growing Older

As I turn 23, I am struck, just like every year with the new number I am adding beside my name. Although I know that according to society, being in your early 20s is considered ‘young’, but also according to society, at 23 I am supposed to be either married or about to get married. I am supposed to have a job and become financially independent from my parents.

But growing older is not getting married and having children. It is not that huge promotion at work. Growing older is not the greying of your hair or the wrinkles around the corners of your eyes. It is not the increase intake of medication or the inability to take the stairs. Growing older is not adding more candles to your birthday cake, either.

Growing older is the ability to freely formulate your opinions. To create original ideas. Growing older is your ability to treat those who hurt you with respect. To be able to forgive. To be more understanding. Growing older is giving the room to yourself to continuously evolve. To know that at this very point in your life, this will never be the final version of yourself. That you can adapt freely to changes, to the things you lose and others you gain. Growing older is to lock that ego of yours and allow your knowledge to continuously expand, to be always open for new ideas and information. Growing older is to open the doors of your soul to the ever-changing world.