Month: January 2014

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Part 22

Islamic school on the weekends and during the summer no longer became an option for many reasons. One of them was money, nothing is ever free, and the other was our decision as a family to discontinue my education there. If I wasn’t learning anything new, then it wasn’t necessary. My father took up supervising my Quran memorization at home. One thing about about Uncle A that has never changed is love of arguing. If there’s nothing to argue about, he will create something. He was doing well with his pharmacy business, but he always found time to argue with my father about things. One of their fights went overboard and he threatened to snitch my father out to the police because of his job.

It was almost a daily routine to sit down and listen to my father tell us stories about his narrow escapes from the police after work. NYPD would raid their rooms and it used to be much like something you would see on one of those crime drama shows. Undercover police would watch their places of operation on a daily basis, but were easy enough to spot. My father had a worker that had a lot of gambling debt and the police used that as a weak point to use him a mole in my father’s network. One of their unexpected room raids was caused by his defection and it involved jumping out of a three story window to escape. One of his employees broke a leg from the jump and got caught. A lot of times, my father would come home past midnight and my mother would argue with him about his line of work. When she was at her wit’s end, she would call him a criminal to his face and to me when I would ask about certain things that were going on. They had to do a lot of lying especially when reporting taxes to cover for his illegal source of income and all of this was way over my head.

The test that determines eighth grade graduation was a source of a lot of stress and studying. Most of the specialized schools that I applied to rejected me so I was automatically enrolled in William L. Dickinson High School. The graduation ceremony was a lonely one since my friend and I had parted ways close to the end of the year. ¬†Social activities that we had in school consisted of mandatory dance class supervised by Mr. L which was a dicey subject. I had told my parents and my father said that it was a dirty activity and I couldn’t partake in it. Had to relay the message to Mr. L and explain that I couldn’t do it if it involved dancing with a partner. He just rolled his eyes and mumbled something under his breath then designated me as the record player during the dance sessions. He eventually found a way around it by having me partake in the Cha Cha dance that we did en mass without partners. We made an agreement not to tell my parents about it.

My main anxieties about high school had to do with being in such a large school that was a long bus ride from home and the stories of violence that circulated that public school.


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Typewriter Muse

Poetry included in The Sin of Greed.
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Part 21

There was a small group of friends that I was part of at the mosque, but only because the girl that I considered to be my best friend was at the head of it. When I wasn’t hanging out with them, I would be listening to reggae on my tape player. Lessons were pretty boring when the Chinese boy left, so I would hide the headphones under my scarf while I listened to music in class. The dynamic of our little group was a bit odd. It was basically just us with a bunch of my friend’s groupies that would hang around. She was pretty and popular. I was the muscle whenever it was needed and the one that carried out secret operations that required sneaking into forbidden areas like the men’s section. ¬†It turned out that my friend lived on the same block as me so excursions to the park happened more often.

Morning TV shows before school became an obsession for me at that time since my father got us cable for the Arabic channels. Captain Planet, my early childhood favorite, wasn’t around anymore so I had to make due with Toonami. Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon were necessary for me to start my day right as time went on. The moment I found out that those shows were adaptations of comics, I had to read them. Comics had always been one of my secret obsessions and the only book that we took with us to Egypt was the “Death of Superman” comic. By the time we returned the US, the poor comic was beaten from overuse and I needed new material badly. It eventually got to the point where I rejected the TV shows because I found the comics to be superior story-wise. Not to mention the artwork that was completely different from anything I had been exposed to before. Trips to Barnes and Noble would be begged for and, when I found out about Amazon, it was game over. We didn’t have a car so public transportation to Barnes and Noble in Hoboken became a bit tedious with the little ones. Sponsored time using dial-up internet through AOL was my portal to a more convenient way of getting my fix.

Chores also became a part of my daily routine and the one that I hated the most was cleaning dishes. It was like pulling teeth for my mother to get me to do them. Our domestic bliss had its had moments, as to be expected of any household. Once, I had gathered up my siblings to play computer games with me and my father stormed in yelling at us to get off. He accused us of doing nothing but goof around and I asked him what we did wrong. My line of questioning got him angrier and I my own anger rose with every accusation he shot our way. I ended up yelling at him, saying that we didn’t do anything to deserve that kind of treatment. He went and got the broom and started to hit my siblings with it so I grabbed the handle and refused to let go. We had a short tug of war while maintaining eye contact with each other. He eventually let go and walked away with a smirk on his face.

There was a night where he continued to hound me about my weight. He called me fat and mocked me about it while he laid in bed with my mother. She told him to stop at one point, but he told her to be quiet and continued. Trying to get her in on it. Looking back at it, it was his way of trying to push me to be lose some of it, but at the time it just made me more depressed. I cried myself to sleep that night while my anxieties about starting high school grew deeper.

High school scared me, but New Jersey started to feel more and more like home.