Wednesday, October 15, 2008

After Applebees we were inseparable. I discovered a few things about my new friend.

That strange accent that I mentioned before, a hybrid mix of growing up in Pakistan, learning English from British tapes and books, and immigrating at 25 years old to French Quebec and then traveling all over the east coast of the United States with a brief stint in Louisiana. I guess that I should have expected no less of an accent with that history. The funny thing is, I think he adopted more aspects of the French in QC speaking English than anywhere else.

M was a lot of fun. He was funny when you least expected it and he was so cute that it overshadowed imperfections. I think the thing that always got him out of trouble was the dimple strategically placed just to the left of his lips, situated to perfection and showing every single time he smiled or laughed. I loved to see him laugh and you could always tell when he was happy. It was fun to watch the way he related to his friends and the way that he made them laugh and how happy that made him.

I started seeing him after work several nights a week. He would feed me curry of all different types. He taught me about daal and goat meat and naan. Trust me, these are not things that women from my area of the country are familiar with. In fact, one of my first college friends, from Bangladesh, was shocked to see me eating curry in pictures. She remembered the days when I would order chicken wings and french fries as Chinese take-out (another habit I have thankfully broken after meeting M.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

SuperBowl 2003

M and I talked every night. He didn't get off work until after midnight and I had to be at work every morning at 9am, but I still waited for his call every night at about 1:00am. I was so infatuated with his conversation that every night I would listen to his cooking, sizzling vegetables for curry or whatever he happened to be cooking. We would talk until 3:00 am and I would sleep like a baby after that until 8:00 when I got up for work.

Our first date was February 1, 2004, the night of the infamous Janet Jackson "boob" incident and three days after my 23rd birthday. We had scheduled to go out for dinner, but 6:00 rolled around and no call. Then 7:00, 8:00, 9:00. . .he finally called around 9:30 pm. He apologized and said he just couldn't get out of work until later. At this point I was livid. We'd had about three cancelled dates (none of which he had called to cancel, just never showed up.) I told him to just forget it, and he sighed heavily. He said, "No. I really want us to go. I really cannot get out right now, but I will come soon. Is that okay?"

I still don't know how in the world I swallowed my pride enough to take so many stalls and starts, but at 11:30pm I found myself sitting straight across a very thin Pakistani man at my local Applebees. Don't diss Applebees. . . at least it was open late enough for him to have his orange juice and me my chocolate fudge cake. And don't diss the chocolate fudge cake either, I mean who waits until 11:30 pm to go to dinner?

I liked the way that M talked to me. He was still shy and embarrassed, and had no idea what to order from an Applebees. Frankly, he only ate halal food and wasn't comfortable trying to figure out which dishes might be safe for him. The orange juice itself seemed like a monumental risk. I finally did talk him into a bite of my cake, but only one. And even through my own ignorance for the meaning of "halal" food I remember it did not contain whipped cream, so we were okay.

I fell in love with M that night, and it was the weirdest thing in the world. He asked me what I had done all day. Keep in mind that I was working a few jobs, I had taken the day off to schedule our date. I told him that I had gotten up late, read a book, took a nap and now was visiting him. What did he say to this?

"You were a lazy ass."

You could see from the shock in his eyes as soon as the words escaped his lips that this was not meant to come out loud. You could see that it was not something he would have normally said to a near stranger. You could see that he was completely mortified and I had to laugh. M had just accidentally shown some of what is his trademark humor. While it sounds simple and silly, and I guess you had to be there, when I started laughing I just said, "Yes, I was definitely a 'lazy ass.'" It reminded me how unlike me that was, and how I really, really liked this guy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What does it take?!

So M didn't call for a week. I continued about my business. I would go to the store I saw him at, almost daily to get fuel for the ambulance I was driving, but I wouldn't go into the store.

Eventually I gave up even that pretense and went into the store, "to get Aquafina." He, to my surprise, was watching me walk around the store and apologized for not calling me and told me he "lost my number." He seemed very serious and I did not believe him. He asked for the number again and we made an appointment for him to call, which he broke.

Let me make a long story short. We met in November, he took my number in December, and it took until January for him to call me. When he did finally decide to call, it was my first night out to a birthday party. He called and I was not home. I called him back and we made another appointment for him to call me when he got off work, "after midnight."

This time he called. We talked for almost three hours. I listened to him cook, we talked about my school, his job. . .we talked about what he liked to eat, we even hit the "do you drink/smoke/streetwalk for extra cash." Oh, wait, not that last one, but everything else.

He made me laugh and we decided to keep calling each other. . .so, I had a date, every night after midnight, for a phone call.

M

M was interesting to me. He was kind of a mystery and I think that was why I liked him. In the beginning, I would only see him at the store where I met him. He would ask me questions, and I would go about my day.

Eventually he asked me for my phone number and I had a moment's hesitation before giving it to him. I mean, who gives a guy they meet in a gas station their phone number? I just thought that it wouldn't make a very good "meeting" story, and would sound kind of funny on the news: "22 year old Paramedic killed by man she gave her phone number to in a gas station."

It was not a headline I thought my mother would appreciate reading. When I hesitated he had this look in his eye that won me over. He looked so,

innocent?

hopeful?

sweet?

honest?

I don't know what it was in his eyes, but I did give him my telephone number, and he told me he was going to call.

He didn't.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Research

By the time that M and I began dating, I figured out that he was from Pakistan, which was strange to me. I had never actually "met" anyone from Pakistan. My father studied Hindi the entire time I was growing up and for that reason I knew several words of Hindi, and knew a small bit about Hinduism and India as a whole. I knew nothing about the Muslim faith, but because M was from Pakistan, I assumed he must be Muslim.

Because of his shyness and early inability to call me on the phone or drag himself out of the house to meet me coupled with the fact that he had once mentioned that he did not eat pork, I assumed that he was a practicing Muslim.

I began researching everything I could about Islam. I focused on all of the things Americans fear first. My most horrible fear was regarding Polygamy. My father, a devout Christian, always loved talking, researching, and even toyed with the idea of practicing Polygamy. My father's obsession with polygamy was to me like walking into your house one day and finding your father standing in the living room with a rifle aimed at your head ready to shoot you. I, in fact, found out about it while visiting my parents for Christmas break my first year in college.

Something inside me has always feared and thus hated--I know this is a strong word, I'm just being succinct here--Polygamy. I am not specifically a selfish person, but there is no way that I could share a husband. It is completely too personal. There is too much dependence and trust there. I grew up with the idea that my husband would be a "full time" husband, and there is no way I could live with anything else. It is my plan to give 100% and I expect the same in return.

Anyway, I digress, I researched everything I could find. The first thing I wanted to know is if a Muslim man is even allowed to marry a Christian woman. There are lots of different schools of thought on this, but the short of it is that the Koran specifically permits it. Most scholars today do not like it, but it is in the Koran either way.

Does it seem funny that I thought of marriage right away?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Addiction

It turned out that M was addictive. It was something in his eyes that wriggled its way inside me. I could picture them, and there was something in them that I needed to know. It made me curious. I wasn't like I was in love with him, but I could not forget him. I found myself going back to the store where I met him trying to see him. For the larger part of a month I would only see him once in a while, but I kept going back and kept letting him ask me questions. He asked for my phone number and I gave it to him. He was shy about asking, and for some reason that made me feel secure.

It was fine to feel secure, because no matter how many times we spoke in person, and how interested he was to talk to me, he never once called me.

And yet, I found myself day after day going into that store looking for him under the false pretense of buying a bottle of Aquafina. I went in every day and bought a one-liter bottle of Aquafina.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

First Impressions

M was tall. He seemed a little uncertain when he talked to me. He had an accent, and I had no idea from where. He did not smile when he talked to me, he looked too preoccupied with what was being said. He looked straight at my face. It almost looked difficult for him to speak with me, but he asked questions, and he listened to the answers. It was November and he was wearing slacks with a sweater. He was quite thin and had a long face and long slender fingers.

His eyes were what I remember most from this first meeting. They were dark chocolate brown and very sincere. He looked honest and innocent and vulnerable. As I think about it now, it is strange how deceptive his demeanor was in the first times that I met him. I saw nothing of what I know now, save for the beauty in his eyes. Now that I know him though, he is not timid like he seemed in the beginning, and his humor didn't show through in those first meetings either. My impression was very one dimensional and uncertain. He was very curious though and even through his embarrassment he asked questions in a manner that no one from my culture would dare to ask them. He asked them in succession and as if he had a reason to know the answer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Simple, naaaaahhhhhhh, what would be the point??

I met "M" at a very strategic point in my life. I had just finished my undergraduate work, and was taking some time off. I was exhausted from my four years of college. While I was in college I worked as a Paramedic with transport ambulance services, volunteered for a rescue squad, and worked a part-time job in a hospital. At any given time I was working two jobs, going to school for my degree full time, and intermittantly going to school to earn the right to test for my Paramedic Certification.

When you train to be a Paramedic it is very similar to nursing school. You have class time, then you have internship time. You are required to do hundreds of hours divided between hospital time, Operating Room, Delivery Room, Emergency Room, Critical Care, and the ambulance where you are expected to keep track of all procedures that you do, including intubations, IV's, medications, etc. I finished my undergraduate degree and my Paramedic class within two months of each other, and tested for my National Registry Paramedic in the between time.

I had NO idea what I was going to do with my degree, but I knew that a few months off of school would do me good. And so I started working full time on the ambulance, part-time at a hospital, and volunteering non-stop at my rescue squad.

I met M on a night shift. It was late, I needed a bottle of water and M sold it to me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Learning

My father really did educate me. He taught me to read before I went to school. He was obsessive about vocabulary and math. My parents were married very young and started having kids, me first, killing their college careers.

My father worked hard and over the course of many years eventually earned an Associate's degree from one of our state universities. It seems to me though that my father studied less during the times that he was attending school than he did when he was studying on his own. My father is one of those guys who could be just as much at home with an encyclopedia on his lap as he was reading Louis L'Amour westerns or translating his pet Hindi projects. That was one of the things I was most enthralled with, my father's obsession with learning everything he could about India, writing, reading and speaking Hindi.

My father's project of educating me continued with my education on our "status." My family never had a lot of money, but my father had goals for me. My father told me that it was my job to work really hard in school. He told me that we didn't have enough money to pay for college and that if I wanted to be successful I would have to go to college. My father always specified that his degree was not "good enough." He told me that it would take a Bachelor's degree to "get anywhere." He told me that if I worked hard enough I could get a scholarship to pay for my school. We never discussed exactly how good, or where this supposed scholarship would come from, I just blindly believed him. I believed that if I worked hard enough, the money would come to me.

I knew this was what I had to do. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would do exactly what my father said. I didn't talk about it as an "if" it was a WHEN.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Let My People Go!

When I was young my father thought it necessary to "educate" me. It was a true education in all senses of the word. He thought that it was wrong to lie to your children, even if it was about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. He felt like once a child figures out, inevitably from friends at school, that their own parents were lying to them about something as innocuous as the Easter Bunny, it would erode their faith in all that their parents had ever, or would ever tell them.

Okay, so I'm being a little dramatic, but he figured it was better that the truths of the world start out coming from a child's parents instead of the other little kids at school. I was grateful for this actually and felt that the other children deserved to know.

My father had also educated me, in my five year old reality, that it was not my place to tell the other children at school, but I paid no attention to this part. I think I must have envisioned myself as a first-grade Moses. I was freeing "my people," in reality my first grade peers. This was how my life as an opinionated girl began, with phone calls home about how I made my entire first grade class cry.