Ramadan Day 4 – I Tell Myself


is there a place in the
community.
for
those who leave.
but
never leave (you).

–ex

by nayyirah waheed


“I never saved anything for the swim back.” from Gattaca

 


I would like a routine I tell myself as I wake up for the first morning without a headache.

I make my way downstairs and think about snatching a chip from my mother’s table. Since I’ve moved across the cuntry, I’ve been unable to anchor myself. I float in a jumble of activities that seem to push me further and further into outer space. I can’t decide whether to clean my mom’s study, to organize my closet, to buy furniture, to look for an apartment or room in Oakland, What am I doing today, I ask myself, and it turns out that an attorney I was hoping to meet with so we could strategize some community development work is unable to meet. I have an unexpected work request, but I think that I need to start doing at least one thing every day. The best way for me to be productive is to go the library.

I’m going to write for hours, I tell myself, about my feelings while reading a book of nayyirah waheed’s poetry.

At the library, two high-schoolers immediately join me and one of them has chicken poppers, and the other one has boba. At first I stare at them from under my baseball cap, but I decide that the look of longing may be misunderstood. So instead I glare. But that makes me feel uncomfortable so instead I put on my headphones and float off to outer space.

I worked most of the day, slowly but steadily. I texted with the Imam. How’s your fast going? I ask.
Physically fine. Mentally just been a little confused, she writes.
That’s a good way of putting it I realize.
I’m mentally confused too, I type. But I forget to press send.
In hindsight, that’s just as well. When I come back to the text later in what was ten minutes, but felt like an hour, I am still very confused.

 

IMG_5842

 

Right now, I’m at the public library watching the fountain outside squirt little lines of water up and down. This makes me feel that I should definitely get on the whole calling the sperm banx and getting more info thing. But I’m mentally confused, I tell myself, and what if I pick a donor who isn’t the right fit?

T once said to me, as she slung down a martini with a certain strong emphasis, Who cares? It’s a crapshoot! That’s how straight people do it! We laughed.

There’s something awful about having too many choices. Queer people not only negotiate gender roles and public/private distinctions, if they’re privileged enough to go into the artificial reproduction system — they need to be able to take action despite the fundamental truth of giving birth or becoming a parent: Nobody is ever ready.

I remember once having a meltdown about whether to go to a restaurant or a rally at the airport against Trump. S said to me, would you like me to be directive? I can do that for you. Let’s go to this hearing at the courthouse. S listens very carefully to the people around her. I worry sometimes that she’s better at listening to me than I am.

One of the few regular activities that sustains me is speaking to Queen who is a new friend. One of my favorite things about Queen is that they’re a really confident person, but also that they’re aware of the space they occupy in the world. Also, they love to process, and I love to process. Queen resides in NYC but feels very sad about not being in CA. Every time I speak to Queen, I feel very sad that I’m not in NYC. This is a relationship that works within a mutually occupied framework of loss and longing. Still, despite the fact that I feel supported by my NYC friends, I often tell myself that I have to be independent and learn to wean myself from the City and all the kinfolk, queer family I built there. It’s a thought with a bitter underbelly: I’m going to lose them all eventually, so why not now? And telling myself that I have to be ready to do these things instead of allowing them to happen (or not happen) organically is probably why I found myself joining in Quran study with my queer community miles via FaceTime.

(pro-tip from one of my friends. friend: you’re dehydrated! me: i can only drink some water friend: electrolytes – get some of that stuff with electrolytes in it!)

(Also, as sidenote #2, I don’t know how to footnote on wordpress, but I seriously dislike certain words. They taste like, welllll…you don’t want to know what they taste like, but one of these words is organic. Everything about it sucks. When people use it, I sometimes want to get up out of my chair and tell them — hey, my life didn’t just happen without my agency. But I can hear it now. Blah Blah Blah.)

For my blog, I had so many good ideas. I planned to entertain with some more fictional chapters about one of my favorite characters Alameda, she of the never-ending anxiety (a common trait we share) and the talking bear.

I hoped to read a different poet and then everyday I planned to write a poem in the style of each poet.

I wanted to address a different community or current news topic and free write my feelings about it, or maybe do a little research into ways we could effect change.

Oh! Oh! My favorite idea was the one where I would write letters to all the people who are dear to me. One a day for each day of Ramadan. But then I had to scrap that because I became consumed with anxiety at the thought of inadvertently revealing too much about myself. This may seem laughable to you in the context of my blog, but seriously – if you don’t have anything nice to say, you sure as hell shouldn’t blog about it.

Finally, I was left with the tried and true, absolutely themeless situation of this actual blog. This goes against my impulse as a storyteller. I like to imagine and then organize into an arc (it can be a very random arc that looks like a kindergartener drew it) or an outline (it can be the kind of outline that makes people think it’s better to live a life where magic is real). After all that work of story-telling, I then like to labor over sentence and detail, sometimes image, even sound. Sometimes when I write there’s a beat to each word, and it makes me really happy cuz then I can be bumping while typing.

Believe it or not, every time I’ve sat down and written, I’ve continued to ask myself
a: am I mentally confused? what am i writing about?
b: where am i?
c: what can i possibly say today? writing is like trying to catch butterflies with a net in the middle of your fasting day. also, it’s like the desert and there’s only a few butterflies flitting around here and there.

So today I tell myself to get into the groove, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly I wanted to say, or even a cohesive theme, and I really blame this all on the fact that on top of fasting, I wake up every day and every day I do something different because I haven’t really settled in to a home. I talk to different people. I write different things.

What I need is a routine. But I don’t have one. And maybe Ramadan provides enough structure so that I —

— I just went on FaceBook and saw that a whole bunch of people were posting one of those online generators — this one tells you what the title of your memoir should be. I got Where Are My Glasses? Hmmmm… Not as exciting as my personal favorite: Scheduling in the End Times.

–maybe Ramadan provides enough structure so that I don’t need to work so hard on my own internal routine. Maybe.

But sometimes when you’re really struggling the best thing to do is to visualize, so here goes.

This morning, I had a cup of Earl Grey and an English Muffin with one fried egg on top, and a strawberry and yogurt smoothie. I wrote for a couple hours and then jumped in the shower. After that, I went to the gym and did the elliptical for thirty minutes and then lifted for another half hour. I did ten reps of a tricep flattener on both arms, btw. Following the gym, I picked up a coffee from the local cafe.

I worked steadily at the cafe for a few hours and ticked off a list of to-do’s for my paid job.

Shortly after, I drove to my mom’s office and picked up my mother for lunch. She and I meet regularly for lunch on Mondays, but only Mondays. We made an exception as today is a Tuesday, but that was due solely to the holiday weekend. We went to her favorite bento box spot. She ordered the teriyaki chicken with nigiri, and I ordered the salmon with California roll. We both had a mug of green tea. I packed up the leftovers.

I dropped off said leftovers and a fresh cup of coffee with my mom, and I walked into the office. I spent a couple of hours in meetings with various staff and with my mom and sister (they work in the same place), and around 5:30 or so, I headed over to my sister’s place where we cooked dinner together. Sometimes her husband cooks dinner, but tonight was a shared cooking night.

We got out a slow cooker and tried a new Indian recipe from a slow-cooker book that I recovered from a friend, Ayesha’s, BookFace page. “The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes” by Anupy Singla. It was a huge hit, and my two sweet nephews both ate with us together at the dinner table while we discussed their day and whether how Black and Asian relationships can exist separately outside of the white gaze. Mid-way through dinner the doorbell rang, and my brother had decided to pay a surprise visit. He was dating a really hot dude, and he wanted to talk about how the first meeting would go.

in the early evening, after dinner, we all took a walk as a family to the nearby park where we played Pokemon Go, and my sister was able to take down a gym for the blue team, and my nephew B was able to find LordPokemon675 real identity. That person own most of the gyms in our area. I enjoyed holding hands with 4-year old P as he crossed the street.

The sun behind us was golden and orange all at once, kind of like the same burnished color as this couch I’m trying to get rid of (but that would be outside of this routine).

My mom and I walked home since that was the healthier option rather than driving for less than 5 minutes. When we got back home, Turkey the cat was purring graciously in the driveway, and we fed him. Then, we sat at the kitchen table together for a few more hours. I finished that novel S loves, Sea of Poppies, and my mom watched her favorite Korean soap opera.

I fell asleep thinking about how much love I have in my life. I prayed, of course, and I was the living embodiment of gratitude.

The next morning when I woke up, it was to the sound of my two darling babies screaming. My friend, Bollywood Heartthrob, also a writer who travels to Marin on the weekends — who’d been watching them so that I could have one true vacation day in the last year had brought them back to the house. I’d fallen asleep past my alarm.

“She actually peed on me,” Bollywood Heartthrob said, pointing at baby #1, stomping around. No worries, I said. I got this. I held my children close and thought to myself, I can’t wait to explain this world to you, but mommy sure needed that break. And as I cradled my two little hearts and hummed, my mom came over and encircled us all. I realized that you never really know what’s going to happen next, and that the only routine I wanted was being able to see the people I love everyday.

At least this is what I tell myself.

 

 

 


 

— From the Poetry-A-Day for Ramadan group by Mohja Kahf:

Clockwatching.
This is not a poem…just reporting Ramadan clockwatching, is all…and I mean, this is even with all the hacks/shortcuts/taking breaks / that we can muster…we have entered Ramadan clockwatching phase of day here at this house…6:09pm…weeded a lily patch and my son came out, not to help, but to tell me, “uh mom? It’s 6:12” “uh, son? that’s not the time we are waiting for, sorry.” then I was done weeding and it was still only 6:31pm…hope reading this passes a few minutes for you…

 


 

 

in our own ways
we all break.
it is okay
to hold your heart ourside of your body
for
days.
months.
years.
at a time.

— heal

by nayyirah waheed

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