The Prattling Tongue Strikes Again

Isra is a girl I knew via a friend of a friend of a friend. She and I met in typical Arab fashion: at a mutual friend’s henna party. A year and a half ago, Isra got married. It was the wedding of the season–or so her invitation claimed. I thought it was like every other Arab wedding: loud, tacky, and with those weird vase candelabras that looks like they were stolen from the set of The Phantom of the Opera. And don’t me started on her kosha (raised dais that the bride and groom sit on). It was completely covered in bulbs that I couldn’t even look in that direction without thinking about the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You know the scene when the mother ship opens up and a huge light illuminates from within, forcing the scientist to put on glasses.
Now a year after that wedding, she’s pregnant and having her baby shower at a friend’s home in Burbank. She sent everyone an email about a month ago about her ‘Babies R Us’ Baby Registry and asked that people please refer to the list when shopping for her and her baby. Of course the moment I received the email, I smelt trouble. I knew that if there’s one thing that Arabs can’t do, it’s follow directions. Sorry, but you all know it’s true. If you hand an Arab a list, they’ll toss it aside, believing that they know better. Unfortunately, there are times you do need to follow instructions, or lists in this case, and this was one of them.
I sat there nibbling on some cookies as Isra began opening gifts. The first couple of gifts had me shaking my head. The first was a floral dress for a toddler, which is great except Isra’s baby wasn’t coming out already five years old. The second was a newborn baby shirt that said, “Daddy’s Little Boy,” which would have been very sweet if Isra was actually having a boy. The third just astonished me: a pack of a baby bottles–for kittens. “Where the hell did you shop, Lady? PetSmart?” Isra had a hard time disguising her emotions. She was obviously pissed, and even if she and I weren’t BFFs, I didn’t blame her.
Finally, Isra went to my gifts and yes, I followed her registry, so I don’t have to say that she was happy. Isra embraced me and just as I let go of her, in came Alaa. Who’s Alaa, you ask? Alaa is the sister of Amr. Now, I bet you’re wondering who Amr is. Well, when my father decided to start these Friday night meetings, the first actual meeting I had was with Amr, (The Prattling Tongue). When this guy came to meet me on that lovely Friday night, I did not get a chance to get a word in edgewise because he rambled on and on and on and on. I mean, the guy just wouldn’t shut the hell up. But, that wasn’t the worse part about it. Amr apparently went home and told his father that I was the one who wouldn’t stop talking, although I didn’t say anything aside from ‘Hi’ to the man, and his father called mine and said that I “talk too much” and that I “need to be trained”–like a dog. Needless to say, after that I seem to hit into his sister Alaa everywhere. Why does it seem that the one person you would like to avoid is exactly who you always see?
Anyway, our falling out happened when I hit into the girl at Chicago Ridge Mall. She made a point to stand in the eatery, laughing and pointing at my friends and me until they finally walked right past us and said,
“Let’s hurry up, you guys. If she says hi to us, we’ll be forced to talk to her and then she’ll talk us to death.” She and her friends joined in laughing in unison before walking away. I was infuriated and embarrassed, especially when it was her brother who didn’t know how to shut up.
I tried my best to smile and act as if I wasn’t bothered by her presence, but I’ll admit it sucked not to have my tag team partners Lama, Sumiah, and Asma there.
“Oh look who it is,” said Alaa as she walked over. “Assalamu Alaikum.”
“Wa alaikum salam,” I said as we shook hands quickly.
“Here you go habibti,” said Alaa to Isra as she handed over her gifts. “Me and my mom shopped for hours to find just the right gift,” she added, her nose raised so high in the sky I was sure it would be cut off by a plane.
Isra opened the box and inside were two American Girl dolls.
“What the hell is a newborn baby going to do with an American Girl doll?” I thought. By the time this baby grows up and actually appreciates American Girl, those dolls are going to be expired–like I am.
“Oh wow,” said Isra.
“We went through every aisle of the store trying to figure out exactly what doll we should get you,” said Alaa. “Then I came around to this one and found out that she actually has like hundred of different kinds of clothes that you can buy off the Internet. I was gonna buy them, but the shop was so busy. I even stood in line with all the stuff I bought you, cause I bought you a lot of stuff as you can see,” she said looking right at me as if I were jealous. “… and by the time I came out I was like, so hungry, so we went around to try and find someplace to eat, but the mall doesn’t really have a lot of kosher places to eat. Because you can never trust random American places cause they always eat pork, or they have some sort of pork item on their menu and you don’t know if it’s actually cooked separately or cooked altogether…”
This was the first time I’ve ever heard the girl converse and the only thing that went through my mind at that moment was, “My God, she and her brother are two freakin’ peas in a pod!” Amr and Alaa were obviously obsessed with the sound of their own voices. The room had to sit and listen to Alaa ramble on about everything from where she went to eat, to the waiter who had a “really, really, weird way of looking at me,” and even, “I tried on the heels and even if the sale was like super duper good, I was sure that they were mis-sized.”
The best part of her rambling session came when she brought up that her brother and his tongue had married last month. She spoke about it as if we all knew, but it was the first time I had heard anything about it. After my father’s passing I stayed out of all the town gossip and the exciting people behind them.
“Yeah so many girls wanted to marry him, so many,” she said, looking right at me. Of course I was confused because I wasn’t one of them. “But, that’s too bad for them because he’s happily married right now,” she added.
I couldn’t help but wonder if his partner was “happily married” to him and his tongue. I mean, this family talks so much that they all need to marry either a shrink or a mime.
“They’re moving to San Diego in the next couple of months and I swear I’m so jealous cause I’ve always wanted to live in California. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live in California? It’s always sunny and cool and there’re so many famous people, like everywhere and stuff and I can’t forget their clothing stores. I swear, I would be lost in there forever because they have so many nice things there and their fashion is like, so nice and…”
My eyes scanned the room of women, several who had begun to yawn. Isra was already half asleep and I was bored as hell. I didn’t go to Isra’s baby shower/Alaa’s super-long talkathon show.
“I think I’m going to head out,” I said to Isra. Alaa looked so insulted. As if I had done something nobody ever does around her–had a conversation. Those must be a taboo when it comes to her friends.
“OK,” said Isra, hugging me. I went to the closet to grab my purse. When I turned, Alaa and her tongue were right behind me.
“You’re leaving?” she barked.
“Uhh… I’d love to chat with you, but if I do, you’ll talk me to death,” I said before I walked away. I exited Isra’s house, leaving Alaa and her tongue where they should be left–in the closet.

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