We’re six people, and we live in a two apartment bedroom. My dad drives a taxi and he works twelve hours each day to make ends meet. I work part time and I’m looking for a full time job. My older brother temporarily drives an Uber and he’s saving money to pay for a certification he needs. My younger brother and sister are in college and my mom is a house wife, who has diabetes, blood pressure and depression.
But we’re all blessed. We have our moments which end in tears and days of anger and anguish but at the end things turn out fine. We yell our throats out, throw fists, disagree and fight, and hurt each other. But at the end Alhamdulillah- we make it in one piece. Sometimes broken, sometimes tattered, but still we make it. We always do.
Coming to Pakistan we’re no longer the middle class or people trying to make ends meet. We become the elite. The upper class. Mostly because we have American passports which is messed up on it’s own and it’s a another story. But also because here people are deprived of basic human rights. Little children as young as seven are forced to work in people’s houses because they need to survive. It makes me sick and there’s nothing much I can do right now.
But I can narrate stories of women who’ve sat next to my mother and cried tears of blood.
From “my ten-year-old son died because we didn’t have enough money to pay for his medical examinations” to “my seven-year-old daughter works in people’s houses because we don’t have enough money to feed her.”
Stories about diseases that could be prevented with simple medication. Physical and mental abuse and how women have to deal with them with smiles because that’s what they’re taught. It’s okay if your husband hits you. It’s not a big deal. At least he has a roof over your head and he puts food on the table.
I’m not saying Pakistan is all bad. It has its issues like America does. But the people in Pakistan are loving and hospitable. They give when they barely have enough to eat.
One thing I’ve learned is that every person, regardless of nationality, religion and skin color has a story to tell. We’re all closed books with filled chapters reeking of tales aching to be told.
A woman whose husband married his brothers wife and kicked his own wife out with her two children.
A mother whose son left her on the streets.
Two innocent men of the same family being killed because of a political feud.
A woman bought from northern Pakistan to be sold as a bride.
A ten year old boy working as a dishwasher in a resturant.
I know all these people. They walk around me with smiles as bright as the sun trying to hide pain… but it drips from their bodies like sweat.
It’s so easy to judge, to throw hate, pass nasty comments, compare and envy… but its complicated to understand and comprehend.
Not everyone has a perfect life. What may seem like a bed of roses from far could be a mat littered with thorns.
Love is when your dad comes home tired from work at 2 am, but still takes you to the ER because you’re not feeling well. It’s when he tries to sell and advertise your book while driving a cab because he believes in you.
Love is when your mom walks all the way to your high school and waits outside with an extra umbrella because its pouring outside. It’s when your mom stays awake all night with a cold cloth on your head because you have a fever.
Love is when your older brother drives you to your college so you wouldn’t miss class because you aren’t feeling well. It’s when he’s willing to give up his pay just so you could get a new laptop.
Love is when your younger brother buys you ice cream because your mad at him. It’s when he’s willing to travel two hours just to see you.
Love is when your younger sister deals with your tantrums and smiles even when you make her cry. It’s when she gives you her shoulder to cry on even when she’s going through her own stuff.
Love is when someone special travels two hours just to give you flowers and chocolates. It’s when that person is willing to spend their entire life with you.
Love isn’t about gain or loss. It’s not a business. It’s a feeling that keeps you warm even when the sun refuses to rise. It’s the light that shines through the darkest tunnel. Love is when your heart is content and satisfied with whatever life throws at you.
The white-hot chocolate seems bland. It’s mixed with cups of sugar but my tongue can’t seem to hold onto the taste.
The cup is warm, and I wrap my fingers around it to take away the coldness of winter.
Part of me is wishing I didn’t come, but that other part of me, the curious one is glad I did.
He’s sitting across from me and I feel anxious, like my heart is about to deflate in my chest. He’s nice and calm but nervous. He sits in an angle and he drinks his hot chocolate within seconds, while it takes me forever to finish mine. When I’m half way done, I start peeling the paper wrapped around the cup to divert my attention from the thoughts erupting in my brain like a volcano to the paper dissolving in my hands.
I keep my eyes down while he keeps on tapping his foot.
“Give me three good reasons why I should marry you?” I ask him, not because I wanna know but because I wanna see his reaction. He’s taken back like an interviewee does when an unexpected question is asked.
“Just one.” He says. “I’ll keep you happy.”
The answer brings a smile to my face but I hide it. He doesn’t need to know how I feel. I want him to back out. I want him to say things won’t work out between us because I can’t seem to say it. Because I feel like I’m developing feelings for him, and I hate that. I can’t be distracted. I have so much to do. So much to conquer. How can I let a guy side track me like that. How can I get into a relationship when I’m so focused on getting myself out there.
“I’m not ready yet,” I say to him sneaking a look into his eyes. He blinks but smiles and that smile melts my heart. Butterflies in my stomach twirl like a tornado. In his eyes I see confusion mixed with doubt. I wonder what he saw in my eyes. Probably an egotistical girl who has no idea what she wants from life. Or maybe a stupid indecisive girl.
“That’s ok.” He says, and I see a glint in his eyes that I can’t make out. He’s not mad or angry. He’s as calm as an ocean on a bright sunny day. And for some reason that gets me mad. How can he be so calm when I’m over here fighting a war I can’t win in my head. What was I expecting him to say? Maybe some romantic Bollywood dialogue? Saying how he can’t live without me. Maybe a curse? Maybe manipulation? Something besides that calm smile.
It’s weird how some people come into our life and change our entire direction. He changed my whole journey. And he didn’t even know.
I don’t know what it was about him that pulled me closer to him. Maybe in his presence I felt calm and human. I felt safe and for an anxious person that’s heaven..
“I should leave.” I rise to my feet, and pull out my charger from the wall next to the table. I say this because it’s getting late and if I stay longer I’ll change my mind.
“Yeah. I can drop you off.” He offers as soon as we leave the star bucks. The cold air slams into my face like a wall made of bricks.
I smile and shake my head, “Taking the trains would be easier.” I lie. I dread taking the trains at night. Some don’t work and the ones that do work change their tracks or they stop mid-way. Creepy people, drunkards, and drug addicts, sometimes take over the subways at night- especially on the weekends. But going with him doesn’t seem right either.
His car is parked on the opposite side and I’m surprised he didn’t get a ticket. He said he couldn’t find parking and he didn’t want me to wait so he just parked it. I don’t believe him, but I smile to assure him that I understand his struggle.
I feel guilty. I made him drive for two hours, just so I could say no to him. But he doesn’t seem bothered and that makes me feel a little better.
“Bye.” I wave at him. He smiles and waves back. My heart sinks in my chest as soon as I go underground toward the R train.
I’m so confused that I take the wrong train to Brooklyn instead of Queens. It’s only when I pass DeKalb Avenue that I realize I’m on the wrong train.
I curse myself out and regret coming here to meet him.
I’m frustrated with school and my manuscript and work that I feel trapped. Like I’m suffocating. What does my future hold for me? Where am I headed? This is not what I had in mind when I left high school. It was to graduate college in four years. Get into med school. Start working. Buy a house and a car. Easy peasy lemon squeasy. Except the fact that I didn’t want to study medicine and it took me forever to graduate because I was side tracked.
Tears slowly start cascading down my cheek. I sit down on the bench as soon as I get out of the train and try to figure out why I’m hurt. Why is my chest aching like it’s physically wounded. Like I’m having a heart attack. Am I making the right choice? Is this what I want?
Two trains pass by and I blankly watch them. It’s the third train I sit on or maybe the fourth. Everything was a blur that I wasn’t sure what I was doing.
This was a choice I had made and now I had to live with the consequences.
I went home with red cheeks and an attitude my mom and siblings couldn’t understand. I cried myself to sleep that day.
I don’t usually make a list about the things I should do or the things I want to change about myself for the new year. It doesn’t make sense why I need an entire year to change. Why wait? Why not just do it now. The new year won’t change until I do. But maybe it’s easier to keep track with a new beginning and a numbered list. Might as well give it a try.
So here it goes….
1) STOP seeking people’s approval. Just stop it. You did not fight a million sperms, push through a hole, survive, just to hear people tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. You weren’t born to please people, then why put in the effort. Learn to live for yourself.
2) Self- love does not mean being selfish. It’s okay to take time for yourself. It’s okay to think for yourself. It’s okay to speak up for yourself. It’s okay to be you.
3) Stop sugar coating things. Say things the way they are. You aren’t responsible for people and their actions. You’re responsible for yourself. Be honest and truthful.
4) Stop being scared of living. Why do you keep letting fear control you. Darling you’re brave and that’s all that matters. It takes guts to survive and be kind in a cruel world.
5) Be more open. Say what’s on your mind. Spit it out. No point of keeping all this poison inside of you. It’ll only build up and cause more damage.
6) You’re beautiful inside out. Be natural. Be you. There’s a reason why no one has your finger prints. You were born unique, then why choose to be someone else.
7) Your choices are yours to make. Stop being manipulated by others. You know what’s good for you, then why let someone else have the say. Darling believe in yourself as much as the sun believes in its shine.
8) It’s okay to make a mistake. You learn from falling, my love. If you’re too scared to trip how will you see the beauty of life. Making a mistake means you’re on the right path. Don’t steer away from your journey just because you didn’t win a trophy. Who knows maybe the sky is waiting to kneel down for you.
9) You don’t have to be perfect. Remember you can’t be perfect and human at the same time. And it’s okay to be human. It’s okay to not know how to do certain things. It doesn’t make you any lesser of a person.
10) Stop comparing yourself to other people. Love, you have your own chapters to write. Your own book to fill than why are you so focused on someone else’s story. Pay attention to your own road, to your own journey. You will never see the hidden gems in your path way if your gaze is focused on someone else’s.
11) Oh lose weight, eat healthy, and get toned.