I tap my foot impatiently and yell at Humza. "Get off the computer!"
He does not register my words, his eyes focused on the blasting car animation before him. In a swift motion, I reach over and press the small circular button to shut down the computer.
"What?" Humza looks confused as the screen becomes black and then his eyes narrow in anger. "What the hell did you do that for?"
"Excuse me?" I ask, a hand on my hip. "What did you just say? What makes you think you can swear like that?"
He rolls his eyes, bending down to turn on the computer again. I push him out of the chair and he slaps me hard on the shoulder.
"Just stop!" I screech, infuriated now as I dig my nails into his arm. He screams in response and kicks me in the shin.
Abu comes rushing in the room while we fight and he yells at us to stop. "You both are acting like a pair of janwar." He's right of course. The image of two bulls nailing their horns into each other comes to my mind.
"Abu, I asked him five times to get off the computer. I have homework to do and he's busy playing games."
Abu gives a scolding look at Humza but my sneaky brother has a comeback that startles me. "Yeah right, if you call doing homework by always being on Facebook and chatting."
My cheeks feel a little hot and I venture to look at Abu's face, which is depicting a confused expression. Oh God, he doesn't even know what Facebook is, thank the Lord. Boy, he really is behind in technology.
"Iman, do your homework because I'll need the computer soon too," is all Abu says and I slouch in discontent. One computer to use among the four of us makes things really difficult. And, well, to not have the privacy to use the computer in my room makes certain tasks almost impossible...that certain task being chatting with Tariq, obviously.
Still, I manage to do it and quickly minimize the window whenever I hear someone popping their head in the room or passing by. But right now, Tariq is offline and my heart plummets. It is probably a good thing because I have an exam in two days to study for, but that really isn't exciting.
Fifteen minutes before I have to give the computer to Abu, he comes online. I immediately message him but it takes him two whole minutes to reply. Our conversation is choppy, to my disappointment. He doesn't seem interested or focused. I quickly exit from the chat box before heading back to my room and sulking.
"Wanna go to the park?" Farah asks when she calls me later. The sun is still up and we are blessed with a beautiful day high in the sixties. I realize I shouldn't have to sulk inside the house
On the swings, I feel nostalgic at the beauty of being a child. No worries, no annoying feelings. Life seems full of fun and free of worries.
Farah is talking about something but my eyes linger on a couple near the monkey bars. The boy has his hands wrapped around her waist, the girl's on his neck. Their heads lean in together and I look away, wondering why they chose a public area meant for kids to play out their romance.
"Farah, I--I'm so confused," I can't help but say.
"About what?" she asks. She has a white colored hijab on, which is unusual for her, but it looks great.
"About...you know...Tariq," I say. I like saying his name, but around Farah, it's a topic I'm somewhat reluctant to discuss. She's not my mother, but she may as well be.
She shrugs. "What about him?"
"I'm not sure how he feels about me."
"Well, I'm sure he likes you."
"You think so?" I ask, enjoying the sound of it.
"He's a nice guy," she says, surprising me.
"He is," I agree, closing my eyes and starting to daydream again. "It sounds cheesy, but I can't stop thinking about him."
I've been having dreams about Tariq now. I can't remember much about them, but they give me a pleasant feeling.
"Do you like him enough to marry him?"
My eyes fly open abruptly, and I try to swallow the discomfort rising in my throat.
"Marriage?" I ask stupidly like it's a foreign word. I should have predicted this was coming. I am talking to Farah after all.
"Look Iman," she says, looking at me directly in the face. "There's nothing wrong about liking him. But you have to be serious about it and let your parents know..."
I get up from the swing, setting my legs into motion while thoughts swirl around in my head.
"Farah, we're only teenagers. I can't even think about marriage yet. And I would only want to be with him as a friend, not as..." I can't muster the courage to say husband.
"A friend, really? It doesn't seem like it from the way you talk about him."
My lips purse in anger, but I know very well that what Farah is saying is only the truth, and a truth that I really don't like.
"It's just so dumb. So annoying that we can't be friends. I mean what's wrong with--"
"Wow, Iman. You're calling Islam dumb?" she asks in a shrill voice.
I shake my head, raising my hands in the air in frustration. "Farah, what's wrong with you? You know that's not what I mean."
Like any other Muslim girl, I know the rules. But, it's hard when you feel an overwhelming desire to do something and you're conflicted with your desires and what is actually right. I just wanted to be friends with Tariq, but why did I have to feel so guilty about it?
We both stay silent for a couple seconds, staring ahead at the ice cream man and small kids jumping excitedly to get a taste.
"Wanna get ice cream?" she asks. That's one thing I love about Farah. It's very hard to make her angry enough to stop talking to me.
We buy our ice cream and head home. She gives me a hug and does not discuss the topic anymore.
My mother practically screams when I enter the house. I've cleaned my room so I wonder what it could be this time. It better not have to do anything with Humza.
"Mariyam got engaged!"
I raise my hands and let out a scream too. Finally! "Wait! How come she didn't tell me?!"
I grab my phone to call her, but Ammi stops me. "We're the first to know. Don't yell at her. She's really busy right now. When things cool down a bit, then go talk to her."
I slump on the couch. I'm dying to know how it all happened, what the guy is like--the person that will be marrying my lovely cousin. But, as with so many things in life, it's a matter of waiting.
Speaking of waiting, let me intervene here for just a moment. I'd like to apologize for not writing posts as regularly as I had said I would. I have a lot going on right now, including studying for a graduate admission exam, so thanks for being patient and I'll try my best to continue updating.
Okay, moving on....
At school the next day, I feel a tug of guilt as Tariq and I sit next to each other in the library, conjugating verbs. It's like an internal battle.
Don't look at him.
Oh God, but he's so cute.
Stop smiling all the time.
But I can't help it when I'm around him.
You're sitting too close to him.
Am not! We're barely touching.
Ammi and Abu...
Ugh, don't remind me. They'd never understand.
She's insane. Tariq would freak if I brought up marriage.
You should leave now...
In just a bit. It's okay if I'm a little late to class.
"Don't you have to go to class?" Tariq asks me. We look directly into each others eyes and I wonder if he feels anything at all. The way his brown eyes twinkle against his long lashes does weird things to me.
"Uh, yea. But I don't feel like it." Why couldn't I have had the same study period as Tariq? Anum is so lucky.
He leans a little forward. "Iman the naughty girl isn't gonna skip class now is she?"
"I'm not naughty," I say defensively, a smile tugging at my lips. I can't help but glance at the way the fabric of his shirt wraps nicely around his arms.
"It's hard to picture you like that anyway."
"Like what?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.
"Skipping class, failing tests..."
"Well, I did get a C on my trig test," I confide. Awkwardly, I feel proud saying it around Tariq.
"Ouch. That's a shame, with your dad being an accountant."
I roll my eyes, fluttering my eyelashes. The bell rings but I make no move to stand up. "My next test is in a week."
Tariq leans back on his chair, swiftly twirling a pen in his hand. He's already in A.P. Calculus. I'm hoping he gets the hint.
"I'll help you study, but go to class," he orders me. I try to stop from smiling too widely.
Several days later, Anum calls me to accompany her to watch a movie.
"Why not?" I answer over the phone. After studying for that math test, even if it was with Tariq, I do deserve a break. I call up Farah so she can join us too.
"You're both inseparable," Farah tells me after I pick her up from her house. I drive carefully before Abu has another chance to rebuke me later on.
Tariq is everywhere--in conversation, in my sleep, in thoughts. I'm a little surprised at Farah's tone--it is not condescending, but somewhere between teasing and reprimanding.
"He asked me out," I blurt. "Indirectly of course."
"Tell me all about it," Farah can't hide her eagerness. I sense a part of Laila in her. I miss Laila a lot actually. She's been way too busy with guests over from Jordan to give us any time.
"He was helping me with trig yesterday. After we finished, he said he'd treat me to lunch." Friday was a half day, but he had stayed to help me.
"And?" she asks, tilting her head a little.
"I said no," I reply. It was a tough decision, actually. The more time I spent with Tariq, the less I wanted to be away from him. The prospect of going out with him was so appealing, but Abu made the decision for me in the end. He had called me in the midst of it all, asking me if I had seen his topi, the one he always wears to Jummah prayers. After that, I felt compelled to say no to him.
"I'm proud of you." Farah gives me a friendly squeeze as we enter the theater.
My feet seem to be glued to the tiled floor once we meet Anum. She's standing elegantly in a knee-length dress and tights, but it's the person next to her that I can't take my eyes off of.
Tariq is wearing a splendid dark gray polo, the sleeves short for my eyes to pass over his muscular tone. Before I can take in the rest of him, I see Tariq tilting his head over to Anum, whispering something.
I feel a slight pang of jealously, seeing Anum laughing like that with Tariq. Why the hell is she flirting with him when she knows I like him? And how is he here in the first place? Did they both come together? How come she didn't tell me?
Suddenly, I become consumed by the idea that Tariq likes Anum. She is beautiful, with her straight black hair, large eyes, fair skin and arched eyebrows. In comparison to Anum, I am nothing. Why would any guy be attracted to me--a simple girl in hijab--when they had a beautiful non-hijabi to look at?
And then Anum meets my eyes and she motions me over. I have forgotten about Farah who is at my side.
I walk over lazily, avoiding my eyes to where Tariq is standing.
"Hey," he greets me, taking a step closer towards me.
"Iman, we were just talking about you!" Anum gives me a quick embrace and then feels confused that I've brought Farah along with me.
Out of nowhere, another guy appears. He's Caucasian, and he has two tubs of popcorn, one of which he hands over to Tariq. Anum does the introductions, but I can hardly pay attention. I'm so confused and startled by what's going on.
"So, what movie are we watching?" Farah pipes in, looking at me and Anum.
"Oh, I was thinking Road 11," Anum replies. "It got really good reviews."
"And it's rated R," Farah says out loud. I was actually thinking the same thing, but why did she have to say it out loud? This is so embarrasing.
Anum shrugs. Tariq suggests watching another movie. The white guy is busy on his phone. Apparently, we're all going to be watching the same movie together. My stomach churns at the idea.
Anum is pretty stubborn and she's already heading to the ticket counter. I turn toward Farah who looks at me uncomfortably.
"C'mon, it will be fine," I urge her.
She shakes her head. "I think we should leave. I thought it was just going to be you, me and Anum."
My shoulders slump. She can't be asking me to back out now. "Farah, we're already here."
"If you want to stay, go ahead," she says quietly, looking around.
"Where are you gonna go?" I ask.
"Don't worry about it," she replies. We just stand there for what seems to be a long time before she begins to walk away slowly. A part of me wants to catch up with her; I feel sullen for leaving her behind.
"Tariq got your ticket," Anum pokes me in the ribs.
"Farah left," I inform her glumly. I also want to ask her why Tariq and the other guy are here when it was only supposed to be use three. But before I can, my gaze wavers at Tariq and it's hard to think about anything else. I don't look back at Farah's receding figure.
I walk toward Tariq, wondering what it would be like if I just kept walking until we are embracing. I force the image out of my head, the guilt out of my heart, and step into the dark theater room.