Alpha : This is 16

Your mother has been charged with aiding and abetting Osama Bin Laden.

This is 16 

I have the power to change whatever is in my hands
1999

I’m becoming an emotional time-bomb. My nurse practitioner diagnosed me with manic depression and suggested I see a psychiatrist for anti-depressants.

This is 12. 

The thoughts of impending death and doom sit at the perimeter of my mind as I try to cover them with smiles or goofyness, slowly losing my mind in real life. 

I’ve learned to carry two identities; Kamila and Girl X. Most people see Kamila. I get to see Girl X and not seeing her ever again would be too soon.

She creeps in in the quiet moments, the ones I dread. That’s when the darkness takes over. I’m back in that house on 60th street with them. 

Every time I close my eyes.

I hate going to the musajids (mosques), they’re full of all of their friends. I feel like an outsider everywhere. 

I don’t belong anywhere. Allah is trying to show me He doesn’t want me around. 

Fear and anxiety ride my face like a mask. My mother wants to know why.

I don’t trust anyone in this community anymore. 

…Is what I want to say. 

What I actually say,

Nothing.

I’ve been cast as a weirdo by most of my peers. The sappy, silly girl who cries at the drop of a hat. 

Fuck this 

My mother is at work. She took a sleeping bag on her way out this morning, so that means she’s not coming home until tomorrow. She’s been working at Verizon as a developer/analyst and manages remote projects for outsourced teams in India. Her hours off are non-existent, which leaves me (not) writing to my dad after homework, dinner and bath is out of the way. 

I always wait until morning to make my lunch, and I think that’s what’s saved my life. 

My mother knows me.

Kamila!

Kamila!

……..

I’ve swallowed some pills.

I wake up in CHOP with a saline drip and a sore throat.

Kamila?

-Hmmm? 

Baby, you’re in the hospital.

-…..

They pumped your stomach. 

My mother knows me.

2000

Why did you wait to tell me? Look at how long it’s been! Why didn’t you tell me? You know I would’ve-

Exactly why I didn’t tell her until now. I really had no choice. She knows I’m fighting something.

I feel terrible. My mother’s rage shrouds the hurt, disappointment and betrayal she’s juggling. I want to die. I want to take back the truth. I want to make it go away, watching her recall those years.

I’m okay, Mommy.

She doesn’t accept that  answer. 

I start therapy a week later. I’m bombarded with suggestions that my suffering could be a result of my religion. I know I’m being indoctranized. My therapist is a Quaker woman who has wittingly expressed that she has no idea what it means to be Muslim. 

I start to see my nurse practitioner regularly to talk. 

You’re a strong young lady, Kamila. 

-I don’t even know what that means.

March 17, 2004

My braids are burying my eyes as the metal spheres of what appears to be the barrel of an assault rifle sits about a foot from my face in between my ropes of hair

Let me see your hands! 

Pull the covers back! 

Sit up!

Follow me!

The Diary of Anne Frank is a favorite of mine. My books are my family. My life has a way of reflecting the stories I’ve come to know as favorites.

Anne Frank, born June 12, 1929, died in a concentration camp shortly before liberation troops released the surviving  prisoners. The authenticity of her diaries have been called into question as the passages demonstrate the eloquence and imagination of one far beyond her years. 

There’s a rare beauty in a survivor. 

Anne and I have the same birthday.

I.C.E. UNIT 

C.I.A. 

Pennsauken Police 

Can she put on a khimar?

-Agent (I forget his name), go with Kamila to get a—?

(Mom) Khimar, a scarf.

-A scarf

They’ve turned over everything in the house. The kitchen looks like a stampede hit it. They’re in my room, the attic, flipping my bed over. My dhikr beads and Al-Ghazzali’s Book of Death and the Hereafter has its cover ripped off. 

My books are my family.

I’ve got my mother’s Hajj-whites. I don’t know how this is going to end.

They’ve put the guns down and my mother is talking to a C.I.A agent. Looks like they’re ready to talk to me.

Kamila, how old are you? 

-16

Where do you go to school?

-CCP

What’s that stand for?

-Community College of Philadelphia 

Do you know why we’re here?

-No. 

I’m looking around now and Mom’s sitting by me and I can hear my step-dad in the living room being interrogated. They’re allowing me to stay with mom sense I’m a minor. 

(Now looking at Mom)

Your presence is your consent.

As if yours is.

I’m definitely going to give him my ass to kiss.

Do you know why I’m here, Kamila?

-I don’t know why you, or why they, are here. You want to talk to us, I assume. 

I am an agent of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the CIA. Do you know what the CIA is?

-An acronym 

Mom’s clearing her throat to say, “Kamila, not right now”.

Your mother and your family have been under investigation for some time now and we have reason to believe she is helping a very bad man do some very bad things.

I’ve just told the man I’m in college, he could at least spare me the Christmas Story. 

Black and white surveillance photos cover the kitchen table. Pictures of me and my friends going in and out of my house, my mom and stepdad and his kids and their friends and family coming and going, as far back as two years.

 Your mother has been charged with aiding and abetting Osama Bin Laden.

This is 16.


Alpha : Sweet 16

Your mother has been charged with aiding and abetting Osama Bin Laden.

This is 16 

I have the power to change whatever is in my hands
1999

I’m becoming an emotional time-bomb. My nurse practitioner diagnosed me with manic depression and suggested I see a psychiatrist for anti-depressants.

This is 12. 

The thoughts of impending death and doom sit at the perimeter of my mind as I try to cover them with smiles or goofyness, slowly losing my mind in real life. 

I’ve learned to carry two identities; Kamila and Girl X. Most people see Kamila. I get to see Girl X and not seeing her ever again would be too soon.

She creeps in in the quiet moments, the ones I dread. That’s when the darkness takes over. I’m back in that house on 60th street with them. 

Every time I close my eyes.

I hate going to the musajids (mosques), they’re full of all of their friends. I feel like an outsider everywhere. 

I don’t belong anywhere. Allah is trying to show me He doesn’t want me around. 

Fear and anxiety ride my face like a mask. My mother wants to know why.

I don’t trust anyone in this community anymore. 

…Is what I want to say. 

What I actually say,

Nothing.

I’ve been cast as a weirdo by most of my peers. The sappy, silly girl who cries at the drop of a hat. 

Fuck this 

My mother is at work. She took a sleeping bag on her way out this morning, so that means she’s not coming home until tomorrow. She’s been working at Verizon as a developer/analyst and manages remote projects for outsourced teams in India. Her hours off are non-existent, which leaves me (not) writing to my dad after homework, dinner and bath is out of the way. 

I always wait until morning to make my lunch, and I think that’s what’s saved my life. 

My mother knows me.

Kamila!

Kamila!

……..

I’ve swallowed some pills.

I wake up in CHOP with a saline drip and a sore throat.

Kamila?

-Hmmm? 

Baby, you’re in the hospital.

-…..

They pumped your stomach. 

My mother knows me.

2000

Why did you wait to tell me? Look at how long it’s been! Why didn’t you tell me? You know I would’ve-

Exactly why I didn’t tell her until now. I really had no choice. She knows I’m fighting something.

I feel terrible. My mother’s rage shrouds the hurt, disappointment and betrayal she’s juggling. I want to die. I want to take back the truth. I want to make it go away, watching her recall those years.

I’m okay, Mommy.

She doesn’t accept that  answer. 

I start therapy a week later. I’m bombarded with suggestions that my suffering could be a result of my religion. I know I’m being indoctranized. My therapist is a Quaker woman who has wittingly expressed that she has no idea what it means to be Muslim. 

I start to see my nurse practitioner regularly to talk. 

You’re a strong young lady, Kamila. 

-I don’t even know what that means.

March 17, 2004

My braids are burying my eyes as the metal spheres of what appears to be the barrel of an assault rifle sits about a foot from my face in between my ropes of hair

Let me see your hands! 

Pull the covers back! 

Sit up!

Follow me!

The Diary of Anne Frank is a favorite of mine. My books are my family. My life has a way of reflecting the stories I’ve come to know as favorites.

Anne Frank, born June 12, 1929, died in a concentration camp shortly before liberation troops released the surviving  prisoners. The authenticity of her diaries have been called into question as the passages demonstrate the eloquence and imagination of one far beyond her years. 

There’s a rare beauty in a survivor. 

Anne and I have the same birthday.

I.C.E. UNIT 

C.I.A. 

Pennsauken Police 

Can she put on a khimar?

-Agent (I forget his name), go with Kamila to get a—?

(Mom) Khimar, a scarf.

-A scarf

They’ve turned over everything in the house. The kitchen looks like a stampede hit it. They’re in my room, the attic, flipping my bed over. My dhikr beads and Al-Ghazzali’s Book of Death and the Hereafter has its cover ripped off. 

My books are my family.

I’ve got my mother’s Hajj-whites. I don’t know how this is going to end.

They’ve put the guns down and my mother is talking to a C.I.A agent. Looks like they’re ready to talk to me.

Kamila, how old are you? 

-16

Where do you go to school?

-CCP

What’s that stand for?

-Community College of Philadelphia 

Do you know why we’re here?

-No. 

I’m looking around now and Mom’s sitting by me and I can hear my step-dad in the living room being interrogated. They’re allowing me to stay with mom sense I’m a minor. 

(Now looking at Mom)

Your presence is your consent.

As if yours is.

I’m definitely going to give him my ass to kiss.

Do you know why I’m here, Kamila?

-I don’t know why you, or why they, are here. You want to talk to us, I assume. 

I am an agent of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the CIA. Do you know what the CIA is?

-An acronym 

Mom’s clearing her throat to say, “Kamila, not right now”.

Your mother and your family have been under investigation for some time now and we have reason to believe she is helping a very bad man do some very bad things.

I’ve just told the man I’m in college, he could at least spare me the Christmas Story. 

Black and white surveillance photos cover the kitchen table. Pictures of me and my friends going in and out of my house, my mom and stepdad and his kids and their friends and family coming and going, as far back as two years.

 Your mother has been charged with aiding and abetting Osama Bin Laden.

This is 16.


Alpha 

1987

My mother is weeping in her car. Covered in an oversized flannel and work pants, the warehouse uniform she’s become accustomed to wearing, she’s got her head to her chest to talk to me as I lay in her belly.

She’s working at a packing plant and afraid to lose her job, so she’s hiding her pregnancy. She’s just returned from going AWOL in the previous year to live on the beach in Florida with my dad.   

And today, she’s spotting. She thinks she’s losing me and is balling her eyes out and praying in the car in the parking lot at work. 

“Stay with me. I promise I will give you a great life. Just don’t leave me”

She’s pleading with me. The baby that will renew her faith in humanity. 

My father, her first love, abandoned her upon their return to Philadelphia. She’s 19, alone and terrified. A possible dream deferred, laying wait in her womb. 

She’s thinking of the names they tossed around together. The memories sting.

“Rashida”

-No, sounds like a girl with big earrings

{This may be why I like big earrings…}

“Tunisia”

-No, why not Taneesha? Sounds just like it. 

“Maryaam”

“Hasana”

“Kamila”

-Like Camilla Parker Bold? No.

No, like K-a-m-i-l-a

-Is it an English name?

No, it’s Lebanese for Perfection

Aunt Maryaam, my grandmother’s aunt, was an avid Kahlil Gibran reader. She was an international pianist and had come across his writings in Lebanon while our family was living and performing  there in the 1940s.

Aunt Maryaam had been one of my mother’s most adored humans, so anything she was into, my mother gravitated to or was intrigued by. Kamila Rahmeh Gibran, a mother of four who raised her children alone in the states after leaving Lebanon, had been the object of her illustrious son’s devotion and affection, even after her death. 

1996

Kamila Hasana Ahmad!

-Yes?

How long are you going to let this letter sit here? I keep telling you to write your dad a letter. This is the second one he’s sent since I told you to write him. 

-Tomorrow

It’s been two years since I met my dad for the first time. My mother tracked him down and located him in a Florida prison serving a three year sentence. He’d been bouncing between finding and losing himself in Southern Florida. My mother drove us from Atco, New Jersey to somewhere outside of Orlando Florida to meet my father.

He’s ugly.

-Shhhhh. What? You look just like him.

No. I look just like you. His arms look like boobies.

{His muscles have never gone neglected}.

My dad was waiting in the line of inmates that were scheduled for visitation. I couldn’t figure out why his aura threw me off so much, but I’ve held onto that day and that feeling ever since. 

Dear Dad,

I don’t have any stories this time. I’m too sad to write and I can’t tell you why.

Kamila Hasana Ahmad

My mother respects my privacy. She sends the letter.

1998

“In tonight’s forecast, severe thunderstorms and showers”.

Panting 

Kamila!
-Yes?

Where are you? 

……..

What’s wrong?

{Thunder rumbles outside}

 Allah is going to strike me!

{I’d started having panic attacks the summer I turned 11. Thunderstorms and public places were triggers. I truly believed I was going to die before I turned 12. I was convinced Allah had really given up on me and wanted me dead because I couldn’t fix myself. I was in the midst of four years of abuse that would end right before the panic attacks started presenting themselves. My dad’s letters came less frequently and I started to feel like life was a hoax and I wasn’t a kid. I was 10.}

You’re a child 

-Really?

Glee

Perception 

That you see me in my innocence 

‘Cause I don’t know what it looks like 

I just feel it mostly 

And they want to feel it too 

Confusion, anger and shame laced in a cocktail of adolescence 

You have three holes

No, I have four 

This one, this one, and that one 

And the one in my heart

Late, great 1998 

God Bless you, you sick year 

Thanks.

The Universe had me lose both parents in different ways. I use my last breath of the day to ask my babies what’s up.

Today, I reaped the greatest gift, “Mommy, I love you. Thank you for everything”. Thank You for everything.
Momma, still a strong bond even beyond the depths of realms.
Papa, though you be an occasional friend, you are a reminder and a reflection.
Thank you for being a lesson.
Thank you for being an example of how to be authentically you.
Thank you for the thick skin.
You were the first to show me how to trust a man.
And the first to show me how to be strong when you learn you can’t trust a man.
You have been one of life’s greatest lessons.
My air sign parents.
Full of air, full of life.
Your love story is one for the books. Let’s tell it, you ran away from home as teens to Florida. To live in your car. On the beach. Because screw that, you had all the answers. You didn’t have FB or IG, you didn’t even have Google Maps (God Forbid!) but you had love. Real love, that joined the tides while you bathed away your oppression. You walked together in the pouring rain across the Ben Franklin Bridge. Mom carrying me in her womb, ready to drop. She walked, you followed. More afraid than she was, you thought, but to know my mother was to know she was more afraid than anything, but too brave to give a damn about being afraid. So here I am, cause she was brave enough to keep pushing. Not knowing what was on the other side of the bridge, she kept going, and so did you. And it’s as if you both stood still inside of me. I’m your love in human form. I’m not a diary entry. Thanks.

______ now, I am

I’m not dead 

Fear is paralyzing; the ultimate distraction
That no one has ever, ever been able to afford.
In the arena of my mind, I set fire to the stage and watch Love and

Fear duke it out to be the last one standing on the ashes.

Focus is my Victory.
I can truly hear myself
(((SCREAM)))
Trampling between pride and hunger, I see the pattern

I’m.mortal.
“i-m-m-o-r-t-a-l”
Soul is who aches when I cry and who rejoices at the tears.
The stream is the aftermath.
What’s screaming but Fear shrinking in sight of Heart?
You?
A single vessel, for the moment, her 1000th time saving the world, today.
Sound waves bare witness to your Exodus, forever echoed throughout the Ether.
I’ve given up to be the ashes, the sand in the arena of Love.
Because
I’m.mortal

immortal
Carried away in the wind of my thoughts, I fall, hard, to the floor
Here. Again.
Buried a mile under the sea of ashes with Fear grabbing for my ankles.
Just one pinch
Focus is my Victory,

I can truly hear myself
Bouncing between Hunger and Heart
I see the pattern
Silence is my solace
“I-a-m-i-m-m-o-r-t-a-l”

“Unknown”, now, “I am”

I am immortal 

…Much is Tested

The scales you polish so much

Have failed you

Consumed by the beauty of the balance

Shifting your weight to keep up

With the glimmer

Dare to scuff

The scale

Wasn’t made to carry you

Shape your soles to bear your heart.

Feet stumble in passion.

She who carries Heart walks with Grace.

FullSizeRender

You are Not What Was Done

I stir

On occasion

Most times

It’s hard to know until I’m already spinning

Kicking and screaming

No! We worked so hard!

My spirit, deaf, dumb, blind

With rage, pain, hunger

Don’t call it Anger

Tearing up the corners of the Earth searching for another angle.

Call it Faithful

What’s faith in the face of hate?

Or Love when love for that hate can’t be denied?

When famine fed by fear finds that second wind

And you’re the tide

When Love’s locked away in perception and you can only see her through the caged hearts of man

Where your heart flutters at the sound of Love’s name but even that is painful

You remember the last time Love was in your lap.

That shit hurts

What did you trade Love for?

Would you remember it on the street?

Would it run to catch you when you fell?

Or was it what had you falling in the first place?