"All I want for Christmas is youuuuu," the lady sings from the speakers above while I steer the grocery cart. I want to stop and put back my purple ear muffs on to block out the sound. But, Humza keeps making fun of the fact that I'm wearing it over my hijab and I've become self-conscious about how I look.
It's not that I don't like Christmas music. It's just that I am so tired of hearing it everywhere. For God's sake, this very song was playing even at the Indian restaurant we dined out at last week. Sparking green and white Christmas trees are just about everywhere, from the doctor's office to my aunt's house. (She considers herself too American to not have at least a Christmas tree). There are two neighbors on my street that seem to be in a competition for the award of "Most Random and Overdone X-Mas Decorations." Who sells a reindeer flashing five different colors anyway?
That's what you get for living in a Western country where just about everyone, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas. But, it makes me wonder what it's like during Eid or Ramadan in a Muslim country.
"It's amazing," Ammi tells me. "There's so much joy and excitement. All the women gather together to make a lot of food. We buy new dresses and bangles. You walk out and you can't help but greet someone and tell them to have a great Eid or Ramadan."
Hmm...if I wear to walk out of my house during Eid and tell someone Eid Mubarak, they would probably think something is wrong with me. Not that I would do that, obviously, unless if I was sure it was a Muslim.
Anyhow, it still seems like we're celebrating, because we have a party to go to on the 25th. Except the occasion is a baby shower.
I feel that day by day, our family is expanding infinitely. There about three female relatives currently pregnant and many more relatives immigrating here to live the American dream (only to realize within a month that money, in fact, does not grow on trees, the economy is downright terrible, and the winters are freakishly harsh).
Abu jokes that the total number of family guests we will be obligated to invite by the time I get married will be close to a thousand. I tell him it will probably be much more than that, because I'm not planning on marriage anytime soon.
"Iman, get some romaine lettuce and put it in a bag will you?" Ammi asks me.
"Sure," I reply. By the way, have you noticed how outrageously expensive healthy food is? Ammi would love to buy all things organic, but Abu would freak out if she did.
"You can be cheap about everything, but not food," is Ammi's argument. Add the shopping for clothes part, and I completely agree with her.
While I'm placing the bagged lettuce in the cart, I notice a familiar guy in my peripheral view. I turn around, curious.
"I've already gotten the Snickers for you. Let's go now," I hear a familiar voice. His head is covered with a black hood, but as soon as he turns his head, I recognize him. Our eyes meet, and I smile a little.
"Hey, Iman," he calls out. Before replying, I look around me to see where Ammi and Humza are. They don't seem to be in sight.
"Hi, Tariq," I reply. Or should I be saying salaam to him? If it was a Muslim girl, I wouldn't have even thought about it. I would have just said salaam. Next to him, his younger brother resembles him closely, with a dark pile of hair and high cheekbones.
We are in the same Spanish and Art classes but he had never really said hi to me before. He knows I don't purposely communicate with Muslim guys, and I guess he respects that.
But why now? Being the girl that I am, it is only natural for me to analyze and decipher the most minor of things, especially when it concerns the opposite gender. I am hoping he leaves before Ammi comes though, because then it could just lead to another misunderstanding.
"Enjoying break?" he asks, while his brother tugs at his sleeve. It makes me wonder, how can some guys be warm in just a hoodie or a sweatshirt when it's fifteen degrees?
"Uh...yea," I decide. "Is that your brother?" I ask, knowing the answer already.
"Yea, he's a chocolate addict, I swear," he replies. I laugh and he smiles, but his brother whines angrily. I guess I am not the only one with an annoying and spoiled young brother.
"I gotta go before he throws a tantrum. I'll see you at school then," Tariq says to me, and I nod a goodbye to him.
Lather that evening, Laila is over at my house to see Eclipse. She has seen it two times in the theater already and owns it on DVD, but is appalled by the fact that I have not seen it yet. Hence, she's forcing me to watch it with her. It's only us tonight because Anum and Farah are both out of town. Lucky them.
An hour into the movie, I can't help but notice that there are way too many kissing scenes.
"Laila, you watched this movie how many times?" I ask, almost afraid of the answer.
"Ah, I lost count," she replies. "But, it's soooo good!"
"Yea, but it would be much better if someone wasn't kissing every other minute," I said.
"That's the best part!" she exclaimed excitedly. "Wait till the part where Jacob and Bella finally kiss!"
I roll my eyes. She's pulling me into her love craze now. "I saw Tariq today," I tell her.
She hits pause on the remote and sits up straight, her large eyes widening. "No way! Tell me all about it."
One thing I have learned about Laila is that she gets excited about everything, even the most minor of things. So I should have expected this, and yet I was surprised by her reaction.
"Tell you what?" I ask her, confused. "I just saw him at Jewel Osco."
"Oh," she said, her shoulders sagging a little, deciding it wasn't as exciting as she thought it was. "But he must have talked to you!" she predicted, waiting for me to explain.
"Yea," I reply slowly, "but it was just a hi."
"Aw that's so cute! Man, you two would look so good together. I can just imagine--"
"Laila!" I interrupt. Now, I'm starting to feel a little uncomfortable. "I didn't mean it that way. I was just saying casually that I saw him. I don't...you know...like him or anything."
"Yea right you don't," she refutes, her eyes twinkling. I roll my eyes, shaking my head. "Iman, have you seen him? He's so adorable!"
I reserve that word for little kids, not necessarily for someone like Tariq. "I thought you were crazy about Asad. Now it's Tariq's turn?" I ask.
"No, no. I mean for you, he's so cute. And this is so perfect. He's even in our art class!"
"Laila," I grab her by the shoulders. "Really, stop it now. These movies are getting to you. Don't think of any crazy plans."
"You're no fun Iman," she pouts her mouth.
"How about a pillow fight then?" I ask, grabbing one from behind me. She shrieks as I throw it towards her. And that's how I stop her from talking about boys.
Later at night, I think about Laila's words. Now that I think about it, Tariq isn't so bad looking. But then again, I can hardly remember how he looks like, and it won't be another two weeks before I see him at school. Maybe Laila was exaggerating again.
For now, I have to focus on enjoying vacation. Even if I have to listen to Christmas songs, at least I will be able to sleep late and not worry about tons of homework. Hurray!
Happy vacation (and for those of you who don't have that privilege, I sincerely apologize),
American Muslim Girl