Mariyam called me this morning and asked if I wanted to join her while she went downtown.
How could I ever refuse?
"We'll be going to the Skydeck," Mariyam informed me when we got into her Acura SUV.
"THE SKYDECK?!" I practically screamed.
"Woah. Calm down there, sister," Ahmed said. I would have given him a fitting reply if we didn't have guests with us.
"She gets excited over small things," he explained to his friend and his friend's wife. That is no way to talk about your cousin to your friend.
I turned to the couple and smiled at them. "Going to the Sears Tower Skydeck is no small thing. I've been dying to go there since last year, but no one was brave enough to join me," I explained.
"Is it scary?" Anisa asked.
"Well," I began, "if you go and stand on the ledge, which is an extension from the 103rd floor, you will be surrounded by glass from top, bottom, and sides."
Maybe I shouldn't have said that. Anisa didn't look the most excited, but her husband, Sajid, definitely did.
"Good thing I brought along my Canon. It's gonna be an incredible view."
"And it's called the Willis Tower now. Not Sears," Ahmed corrected.
Well, I obviously know that, but to me, it is still the Sears Tower.
"It's the tallest building in North America, right?" Mariyam asked.
"What a true Chicagoan my sister is," Ahmed said, "she has to confirm that fact with me."
I knew Mariyam wasn't too excited, but she had to drive. Ahmed was still recovering from the surgery on his arm.
There was traffic on Lake Shore Drive, and on top of that, Mariyam was being very nice and allowing cars to cut in front of her.
"You don't have to let every car go," I finally said.
"Hey, when I need to go in another lane, someone will be nice to me too."
"Yea right. If anything, city drivers are aggressive and not as nice as you."
"It's a good deed," she simply said. I couldn't argue with that.
After the long drive, it was a long wait in line. I began to get impatient. So, I tried to entertain myself by observing people.
You could tell apart these tourists just based on how they spoke. The Southerner accent vs. the New York accent and of course, if someone was speaking amazing French or Madrid Spanish, they were probably European. When some of them looked at me, I smiled at them. But, sheesh, some people are just rude and don't like to smile.
I wanted to talk privately to Mariyam about any marriage updates, but I didn't get a chance. Especially not in the elevator.
I jumped up and down like a little girl who just got a princess dollhouse when I got to the ledge.
Anisa started to look pale just at the sight of it, so Mariyam took her away. I didn't waste any time in taking the breathtaking view of Chicago underneath my shining gladiators.
"You are a chicken," I told Mariyam afterward.
"What? Me?" she asked, feigning innocence. We were driving home after dropping Ahmed and the couple over to a relative's house where they were going to have lunch.
"You used Anisa as an excuse to not stand on the ledge. CHICKEN!" I have so much fun teasing girls for their scare of heights. Thank the Lord I'm not as scared; I am quite an adventurer.
"The poor girl was going to puke and her hubby was too busy clicking pictures," she defended herself.
"Speaking of hubbies, what's the status on the matrimonial site?" I asked.
Her expression changed to a more solemn look. She shrugged.
"What happened? No one interesting?" I asked, slightly disappointed. I was looking forward to good news, although I have had my fair share of weddings this summer.
It looked like she was hesitating to tell me something.
"You found someone," I guessed, "but there's something wrong with him." Wait, did I just say that?
"He's Arab," Mariyam said simply.
I understood right away. "Your parents don't like that." I knew my aunt and uncle pretty well to know that.
She pursed her lips. "They would never agree. I haven't even told them."
"Did you even contact him?" I asked.
"Yea, through the website. I can't say anything until I meet him in person, but he seems like a really good person."
"You should at least tell Khala about it," I encouraged. "You never know."
We parked in front of my house, but I didn't leave immediately.
"An Arab. That is so cool," I mused, leaning my head back on the seat. A streak of sunlight settled across my face, but I didn't mind.
"Oh Iman, the hopeless romantic." She knew me too well. "I just wish..." she drifted off into her thoughts.
Mariyam is like an older sister to me more than a cousin. I looked at her and touched her shoulder.
"I don't like it that our family sometimes considers our ethnicity to be superior over others. It's just not right," she said, anger and frustration evident in her voice.
"Yea, when culture is given more importance over religion," I added. "I don't know why we can't marry outside the Indian culture, but Mariyam, if Allah wills, then that won't last forever."
I wanted to give her hope, but she didn't want it.
"If you go against the family's will, you're taunted by everyone."
"Who cares? As long as your happy?" I said.
"No. My parent's happiness means a lot to me," she said.
We sat in silence for a while. I couldn't come up with anything else to say.
"Hey, Iman, why did you get so serious all of a sudden?" she asked, breaking the silence. She softly pinched my cheek like one would to a young child. I drew back, laughing.
"Serious and me? C'mon," I asked. "I should be heading home now before la madre gets worried."
"Sure, chica. Go ahead and enjoy the last month of vacation."
"Hardly a month. And Ramadan is next week!"
"I know! Woohoo! Pray hard and don't waste your time!"
I was happy to leave her smiling, but I prayed that things would work out for her. She really truly deserves a good husband.
American Muslim Girl