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 

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