I had no idea that it was detrimental to your health to wash your hair and go out in ninety-degree weather. But, apparently, it is and I came down with a horrible throat infection on Sunday- that sent me to the doctor’s office on Monday. After receiving a shot and a shit load of meds, I found myself back at home in bed. I was dreading the fact that I was not expected to get any better until the following Monday… and birthday was on Sunday.
Of course, the thought of turning twenty-eight was traumatizing. Not only have I officially expired, but I’m already at the “rotting” stage and only two years away from becoming a “grazing cow” at thirty; especially if I remain un-married. Birthdays always make me think about marriage; partially because it was my father’s wish that he enforced on me to make before I blew out my candles every year after my failed engagement to my cousin Musa at fifteen. I knew that if I were to regain my health before Sunday, the day would find me blowing out the candles of my cake while looking around the room at all the stern faces angered at the fact that I’m old and unmarried.
A part of me was actually happy to think that this annoyance would be avoided if I were still sick on Sunday. There would be no need for family to visit a sick birthday girl who was far too under the weather to even get out of bed. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about seeing long faces leering at me, wondering what the hell I’m celebrating… or taking me aside to remind me just how old I am and that I need to get married. I wanted my health restored, because being sick is never fun and watching HBO On Demand isn’t as enjoyable when you have a high fever, chills, and have to blow your nose constantly.
But, by Friday I was back to normal, minus a cough that everyone believed was contagious, and having dinner with my friends at RL Restaurant. The atmosphere seemed strange to me, but not because I hadn’t been there before. I felt, instead, as though I’d been in a week-long coma while I was sick, and now I was finally able to rejoin society. The first face that greeted me was Adam’s; my friend of over seven years who literally stood up and ran over to me and wrapped me in his muscular arms that seem to almost want to explode from his black blazer.
“Hey You…” he said while still embracing me. “You look better.”
“Yeah, I feel a lot better,” I said, greeting Jason and Cindy who also stood to hug me.
After making our drink order, we chatted about everything from Jason’s girlfriend’s insistence on making him get pedicures, Cindy’s newly single status, to Adam’s belief that his Lifetime Fitness trainer is gay and madly in love with him. Of course, the conversation shifted to my birthday which was a fact I was trying to forget and my plans for the weekend.
“You’re lucky your birthday falls on the best weekend of the year,” said Jason, referring to the Labor Day weekend.
“What are your plans for the weekend?” asked Adam.
“I’m meeting a friend tomorrow,” I said just before being interrupted by Jason with a sly, “A friend, huh?”
“Oh stop,” I said laughing.
“Who’s the friend,” asked a stern-faced Adam who is about as protective of me as my own brother.
“A guy I…”
Jason and Cindy began laughing as if they had caught me in some sort of revelation.
“…Are you going to allow me to finish my sentence or not?” I asked, slightly annoyed.
“Let her finish, I want to hear this,” said Adam.
I went on to explain in little detail about my new friend, Hani, a thirty three year old lawyer who I met through a mutual friend. The two of us had gone to dinner once before and I thoroughly enjoyed his company, so when he asked me to assist him with shopping for a new wardrobe, I agreed! Partly, because I love shopping and helping others become the best fashion-forward person they can be, but also because I did thoroughly enjoy his company. Now, this isn’t to say that I could see myself marrying the man, but I am open to meeting new and interesting people in the hopes that perhaps it might turn into something magical. And Hani was one of those people.
So, there I was sitting in a corner booth at a Mexican restaurant on Saturday waiting for Hani to arrive.
“Are we waiting for someone else?” the waiter asked.
“I hope so. That would be rather sad if I was dining alone.”
“Especially, for someone so beautiful,” he said revealing a beautiful crest white smile, that forced me to crack a smile myself. “I’m Montana,” he said.
“Did your parents love Montana?” I asked.
“Born and raised in Montana,” he said leaning against the wall next to me. I can’t help but be attracted to any man as confident as Montana.
“Oh wow!” I said.
“Where are you from?”
“Chicago,” I said.
“Can I get you anything to drink?”
“I’ll have a diet coke.”
“Coming right up,” he said with a smile.
I took out my iPad and began searching for someone’s WiFi to steal. Just as I did, Montana approached with my drink.
“So, Montana from Montana, can you share the restaurants WiFi password with me?”
He gave me the password and proceeded to stand next to my table.
“What kind of man keeps a woman waiting? Especially one as beautiful as you!”
I couldn’t help but smile, but I knew that Hani had simply lost track of time while working out and didn’t think twice about it.
“Well, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of running late before,” I said.
Suddenly, Hani walked in looking very handsome in his camel-colored slacks and red button-down.
“So sorry. I didn’t mean to be late,” he said apologetically as he took his seat across from me.
“You’re fine!” I said. “You look very handsome.”
“Oh thank you,” he said.
“And you smell great,” I added. I love when a man has good sense to put on good smelling cologne that’s put on just right–not too much, not too little, and a whole lot of sexy.
Montana from Montana approached. “You’re finally here,” he said, looking at me with a side smile. I was happy that Hani didn’t see. “Can I get you anything to drink?” Montana asked Hani who asked for a Coke.
“What’d he say when he came over here?” asked Hani who I had hoped didn’t hear the waiter’s bold comment.
“Nothing, he was just joking about you keeping me waiting.”
“Son of a bitch,” Hani said, half joking and half serious.
“Oh stop! He’s just kidding. Anyway, how did your workout go?”
“It went great! I’m really trying to get bigger.”
I was surprised that Hani found any need to change his body being that his is just fine, especially his muscular arms and broad shoulders. I think there’s nothing sexier than a man with toned, tanned arms.
Dinner went by as it had before–perfectly. There was something about him, I felt like I could talk to him about anything. I know that there’s a cardinal rule for women, that they should never compare exes with prospective men, but the last time I had felt this comfortable with a man–it was Nidal.
Our conversation shifted from architecture to my birthday, which was just around the corner. Hani wasn’t aware that my birthday was the next day and felt horrible for asking me to shop …and for not taking me to a better restaurant.
“No, you’re fine. This place was amazing,” I said, not wanting him to feel like he owed me anything.
“Well, let’s forget shopping! What do you want to do for your birthday?” he asked in the sweetest way a man could.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I think we should get your shopping out of the way and…”
“No! I want to do whatever you want. Tell me what you’d like to do and we’ll do it!”
“Really?” I asked, feeling a sense of power.
“Yeah. Tell me!”
“Well, I have always wanted to go to a club. It’s part of my investigative writing. I was going to go with my brother, but since you offered…”
“You wanna go to a club?”
So, at exactly 11:45pm, Hani and I entered a club that was booming with music, mist and alcohol. There were plenty of girls dressed in little to nothing, and men who trying to imitate Pauly D from Jersey Shore. Hani could tell that I was rather uptight- then again, I had never been in that kind of atmosphere and I continuously found myself looking around the room to make sure there weren’t any Arabs there. I knew I shouldn’t have been there and that if anyone I knew saw me, I would have to face the consequences of their prattling tongues because, well, good Muslim girls don’t go to clubs. But, I did my best to enjoy myself as much as possible. Hani made it easy. He was very laid back and continually asked me if I was okay, in-between pointing out the perks of the clubs and answering all of my questions: “Why do women leave their purses there like that? Aren’t they afraid someone will steal it?” “Why are they kicking that guy out?” “Why is there mist?” “What the hell kind of dancing is that?”
We were there for what seemed like hours, when in fact it wasn’t, but in that time two very touching things happened. The first was that a blonde woman, one who reminded me very much of the Antichrist Natalie, smiled at him. I noticed and told him, “If you want to dance with her you can,” I said, not out of jealousy, but it wasn’t exactly like I was the life of the party: standing in one corner watching everyone as if I were at the zoo.
“She was just being nice. It’s just a smile,” he said, believing my comment to come from jealousy.
“No, I’m not jealous, I just want you to enjoy yourself and I’m not much fun; so I figured if you wanted to dance you should dance with her. She’s very pretty!” I said.
“I’m fine. Besides, if I wanted to dance with anyone, it would be you!”
I couldn’t help but be flattered. Hani seems to know when to say the right thing at the right time. Perhaps this is from experience.
I not only didn’t expect that answer from Hani, but I also didn’t expect him to approach the DJ at 12:01am and ask him to wish me a ‘Happy Birthday’ over to mic to the entire club. That was very sweet and completely unexpected. I have to admit, Hani is very suave and he knows it. He seems to be very well versed and trained in the art of gallantry, and that scared me because a part of me was falling for him and it all seemed much too quick.
I was happy when the night was over because I had to get away from him and clear my mind alone. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do much of that since my entire family sat at what they called “a surprise party” for me which consisted of Al-Jazeera in the background, a lonely cake on the kitchen counter, and a family room filled with men and women wearing the longest expressions imaginable on their faces. I entered the room with the coffee and cups in hand, serving every one of them who didn’t thank me …or really make eye contact with me.
“How old are you again? Thirty?” asked my cousin Layla who knew very well that I was turning twenty-eight since she and I are the very same age. We’ve even celebrated our birthday’s on the same day because hers is the day before mine.
“No, Layla, I’m turning twenty-eight,” I said, trying not to slap her.
“Ya Rab!” said my cousin Waleed who sipped his coffee loudly. “What are you doing with your life?” he asked me. “You are old!”
“Thanks for the compliment,” I thought.
“You need to get married. What’s wrong with you intee? Your father would be so disappointed in you. How can you allow this to happen to you? How could you allow this to happen?” he asked my mother who lowered her head. My father’s family constantly makes it a point to blame my mother for my staying single.
“I’ll get married soon,” I said, hoping to lighten the mood.
“Yes you will! Because from now on, I’m going to involve myself. Your uncle is being too nice and you’re being too picky. You’re not young anymore. You can’t be so picky. That’s for the young. Young people can take their time. But not the old.”
“I believe I counted three youngs in there,” I thought.
“OK,” I said, not wanting World War 3 to break out, especially in a room with twelve pairs of eyes staring at you like you just entered the room in your panties and bra!
“Yeah, because this is crazy. I’m calling your uncle tomorrow and we’ll start setting some things up. Maybe you can even take a trip with Dalia overseas in November,” he said, referring to his daughter, I mean his bride who’s twenty-four years his minor.
I said nothing. Going overseas is one of my greatest fears when it comes to my family. Every single one of my cousins who were the least bit stubborn were taken overseas and married. Some forced, guilted, threatened, and others actually fell in love with the man and didn’t mind marrying him. Whatever the case, I wasn’t interested in being some man’s ticket into the United States and so I hoped and prayed that Allah (SWT) brought Mr. Right along–soon!
Suddenly, I began to think of Hani and whether there was a possibility that he could be Mr. Right. We did have a lot more in common then I initially thought we would. We shared the same interests and he could always make me laugh. But, could I see myself marrying him? Was there possibly a future for us? That I wasn’t certain of.
The time present the cake and sing me finally came; ‘Happy Birthday’ if you could call it that. To me it sounded more like a room full of Arabs mumbling; I think I heard my name somewhere in there. Whatever it was, I took a deep breath and was about to blow out the candles when Waleed suddenly stopped me by saying,
“Make sure you wish to get married.”
The room exploded into a laughter that was quite refreshing. I’d begun to believe we were at a funeral. I inhaled again and made a wish- one that I won’t share. That’s the whole point behind wishes, right? You keep them locked away deep inside until the wish actually comes true. That’s what I will do: keep it to myself and not tell another living soul in the hopes that one day, perhaps when I least expect it, that wish will actually come true.