Category Archives: Suckool

3 Beautiful Things, the “We’re in Your Corner” Edition

Sit together in yellow silence; Berkeley, CA, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

[Cross-posted at]


1. SORRY. Recently, I learned a humbling — and very important — lesson from a friend: to apologize for things said or acts committed in anger, even if the anger was justified. There is not much to add to this, but I will say that I — who thought I’d come such a long way since my inability to apologize years ago — still have much to learn. If I have learned in the last several years to listen more to my conscience and refine my sense of compassion and appeasement, I have also learned just how trigger-quickly I can lapse into cold, cutting commentary without regard for how words burn at the other end. I am remembering now other conversations of this past year, and how the outcomes may have been different if I’d been gentler — not only with the person(s) at the other end, but also with myself. In an effort to prove my own strength and independence, my own will and rightness, I do myself a disservice in times like these. There is beauty in humility, and it takes strength to acknowledge (and embrace or amend) one’s weaknesses and shortcomings, and pride is not pretty. (Note to self: Don’t be this guy.)

2. LAUGHTER. No matter the level of stress at work, there is always at least one moment of levity during each day. Sometimes, I find myself twirling ’round and around on the twirly-chair at my desk, lobbing sarcastic and hilarious jabs at my coworkers before throwing my head back in laughter so loud it can be heard all the way down the hall. At such moments, I think to myself, “I would miss this.” Particularly now that we have disbanded a bit. Our organization recently relocated, and my “department” has been displaced from the spacious office we all shared to a building where we each now have our own, separate cubicles. There is more privacy — but also less, at the same time.

AH paused sadly by my desk the other morning and asked with his best hang-dog expression, “Can you move into my cubicle? I miss you.” I laughed at him, of course, but then I realized it’d been far too many days since we exchanged our ubiquitous highfives, and I was tempted to pick up my laptop and go back to a shared workspace. That was, of course, before I remembered how AH borrows my favorite pens to jot down notes whenever he’s on the phone, and then promptly loses them; throws whiteboard markers at me whenever I tease him too much; swipes my food when I’m not looking; makes me re-send him emails he never bothered to open the first time around; and asks rhetorical questions like, “You know what we should do, Yasmine?” and then ignores my cranky, “No, I don’t, tell me,” and launches into grand plans and ambitious projects that we will have time for only in 57 years — and I decided my own quiet little cubicle was probably good enough. I might even be able to finally nap under my desk without anyone noticing.

3. HELLO, I SEE YOU. (i) I stepped out for lunch at one of the local cafes recently, and found that I recognized no one there. This was problematic only because Julie’s used to be such a vibrant source of community for me, not only when my sister was an undergrad at Berkeley and I visited her on campus all the time, but also during all those post-Friday prayer lunches with friends, and during the iftar dinners that Julie’s hosted for Cal students during the month of Ramadan. But the students who frequent the place have changed, and so has the management of the cafe, not to mention part of the menu.

I consoled myself by ordereing my usual chicken-with-basil stirfry (that hasn’t changed), and found a small table in a corner of the courtyard, where I sat quietly, scrolled through my phone, gave every indication of not caring that I knew no one, and wished the afternoon were longer so I wouldn’t have to go back to work so soon. But within just a few minutes, there was F at my side, with a wave and a highfive and a “How are you?” — and even as my eyes lit up in surprise and I smiled back widely, so happy to see him, and even before I could open my mouth to reply with my automatic, “I’m doing lovely! How are you?” — he added after eyeing me during just a minuscule pause, “A little bit stressed?”

“I didn’t realize it was so obvious,” I said, chagrined, and made a mental note to work on my poker face. F pulled up a chair, asked incisive questions, listened patiently as I talked around mouthfuls of food — and offered options that I found myself scribbling down on the closest sheet of paper. I left Julie’s smiling, realizing anew (because I have to be reminded of this over and over) that it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes, to give voice to one’s anxieties, and to discuss strategies with others.

(ii) After missing two separate classes of grad school in two weeks, I dragged myself to campus, sitting silently through most of the discussions (guess who was behind on the readings?) yet inwardly excited to be back in the midst of such thought-provoking conversations. Most of us are working professionals, balancing a full-time graduate program with full-time jobs. We are usually on campus only for classes, and even a month-and-a-half into fall semester, I know that I, at least, have not spent any length of time building meaningful relationships with my classmates outside our weekly gatherings. So, it was all the more touching when, at 930pm as we rose from our chairs and began slinging our bags over our shoulders in preparation for sliding exhaustedly out the door, A turned to me and said simply, “I’m so happy that you’re here. I missed you!” It’s no wonder I texted a friend a month ago with, “Status: I just got out of class. I LOVE school. And I mean that as non-sarcastically as possible.”

Leave your things behind/’cause it’s all going off without you

While sitting in class a few mornings ago, I took one of the ultra-fine-point Sharpies I love using for writing out of my bag and scribbled BALANCE on the back of my hand. Later in the afternoon, I penned just below it the names of four people whose phone calls I needed to return, but those were soon inadvertently washed away with soap and water and I was left wondering who exactly I had been meaning to get in touch with. This speculation and uncertainty were compounded by the fact that I couldn’t remember what the hell the BALANCE was supposed to be about either.

I am so not with the program these days. Over the course of yesterday, a total of five different people said to me, puzzled: “You have a final exam on Friday? I thought all finals were on Thursday,” which ultimately freaked me out enough that I emailed my professor to verify the date. Yes, it’s on Friday, just as I thought, but I really shouldn’t have had to second-guess myself.

The whole thing reminds me of the second round of midterms during spring quarter: I showed up to one class armed with scantrons, expecting a multiple-choice exam, only to find a paralyzing sea of essay-exam blue books awaiting me in the lecture hall. The thoughts racing through my head as I raced across campus to the student store to buy a blue book are not fit to be published here. And, then, there was another class in which I took my sweet time and wasn’t overly worried about the fact that I kept dozing off during the course of the exam, only to realize during the last half-hour that what I had mistakenly recalled as a two-hour class was in reality only one hour long and I didn’t know most of the material we were being tested on. Yeah, it was grand.

Anyway, I’ve just compiled two lists: one of people whom I need to call, and another with names of people I need to email, and soon. What is the world coming to? I’m turning into my father.

BALANCE, you will be pleased to know I remembered later, turned out to be a reminder that I needed to check my bank account and ensure I had enough money for gas before I stopped to fill up the tank on my way home. But because I wrote it with a permanent marker that withstood all attempts at soaping and scrubbing, the word stayed on my hand for the next three days and served as a reminder of everything I need to currently do with my life; namely, browse other peoples’ weblogs less and update my own more often, spend less time on AIM and more time writing cover letters for potential employment opportunities, reply to emails and make phone calls, stop reading three books at once and turn my attention to studying for my neurobiology final exam instead…

Speaking of cars, another thing I need to work on balancing is trying to figure out how to survive ever since my car broke down on Monday afternoon and was towed off to Sacramento for repairs, after which it will most likely be sold, good riddance. Yes, you read that correctly. Yasmine, without a car?! This is anathema to my entire existence as Commuter Child Extraordinaire. But what I am most annoyed at my car about – even more than its lack of cooperation in choosing to die on me – is the fact that I had indeed checked my account balances that day and just filled up the car with a nearly-full tank of gas. Thirty dollars! Think of how much food I could have bought with all that money! [I’m sure that 2Scoops, self-appointed Nutritionist Extraordinaire, would be proud of this line of reasoning.]

Taking over the daddy-o’s SUV yesterday was a grand experience, though, I admit it. Today, since I was off from school, the daddy-o dropped me off at a local coffee shop so I could study all day. When he returned in the evening to pick me up, the first thing he noticed when he stepped inside the coffee shop was the sight of my feet carelessly propped up on the seat of the chair across from mine at the tiny round table I had been sitting at for the greater part of the day. He crossed the room, frowning disapprovingly. “You should learn some manners,” he scolded me sotto voce. I scrunched up my face unrepentantly and retorted, “You know I always have to sit with my feet up.”

So tomorrow is my NPB final. The end is looming near, which is mighty exciting, considering that I’m passing all these “multiple guess” [as my father calls them] exams by a nice margin, even though I still don’t understand parts of it. Stupid fetal blood circulation and your complicated-ness, I hate you. Who told you to bypass the lungs anyway, dammit? I mean, this diagram has roman numerals and plenty of arrows, and I still don’t get it. How hard could it be?

But I’m going to pass the ass out of this class if it’s the last academic thing I ever do, so help me God.

Silly fetuses, thinking you could thwart my plans.

vindication. On the phone with my father, two wee…


On the phone with my father, two weeks ago:

Me: So, guess what, Daddy khana! It turns out I got an A- on my NPB midterm!
Daddy-o: Really! Wow!
Me: Yup. I can’t remember the last time I even passed any sort of bio exam. But now I have to keep studying so I don’t get all arrogant and mess up on the next midterm.
Daddy-o: Well, that’s impressive.
Me: Yeah, I guess I’m not a lost cause after all.
Daddy-o: Is this class with the same professor you had during spring quarter?
Me: No, different guy; he’s with the School of Medicine.
Daddy-o: Oh. Well, you know what you should do? You should take this midterm scantron of yours over to the old professor and wave it in his face.
Me, laughing: Revenge!
Daddy-o: Yeah, like revenge. That would be the true Pukhtun thing to do.

zayn z’al barr: fair is this land

While studying inside Peet’s Coffee&Tea for the first time and loving their tall stools with the slightly-curved backs:

Little Girl: Coffee!
Mother, firmly: No coffee.
Little Girl: Coffee beans!
Mother: No, honey.

A little, fluffy white dog paces to and fro outside in front of the door, wagging its tail. The mother and daughter step outside and the little girl stoops down to hug the dog. While the door is still closing behind them, I hear the little girl ask the dog, “You like coffee beans, don’t you?” The little white dog smiles [there is really no other word for it] and wags its tail, and the little girl looks accusingly at her mother. “See, Mommy! I told you so!”

Page 45 of my NPB notes discusses the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is located in the anterior hypothalamus and is the dominant pacemaker. Something to do with circadian rhythms and internal clocks in one’s body. I cross out suprachiasmatic and write super charismatic above it. Who says neurobiology can’t be fun? I want to be super charismatic. Don’t you?

Two women are sitting outside, at a table right next to the front window. One woman does most of the talking and gesturing, pointing to the stack of photographs at her elbow, picking them out carefully, laying them in rows in front of her, pointing at details, passing them one-by-one to the woman sitting across to her. The other woman nods frequently, taking each photo as it is handed to her, smiling widely in response and asking questions interestedly, while the first lady gives elaborate explanations.

I understand some of what they are saying by watching their lips move in conversation, but mostly I spy on their body language and facial expressions and what I can see of the glossy photographs in their hands. There are imposing cathedrals and ivy-covered brick buildings, seascapes and sandy beaches, and cobblestoned streets, wide and elegant. I wonder if she had traveled to Italy or England, to Boston or DC. Maybe it was Zanzibar. But, somehow, I don’t think Zanzibar has cobblestones. But what do I know?

I go up to the counter to order a slice of cake to go with my blended mocha thingamajig.
“Would you like a broken slice of marble fudge cake for free?” asks the girl at the counter.
I must have hesitated (the idea that anyone could want to give me something for free must have been mind-boggling), because she reassures me, “It’s a whole piece. Just broken up a bit.”
“Sure! Thank you.”

Every time I look up from my notes and directly out the window, I see two men standing outside, just a few feet away from the aforementioned two women. One is middle-aged, the other looks about eighteen or in his early twenties. It’s hard to tell: close-cropped blonde hair, a couple of earrings, t-shirt and cords, an unremarkable face. They’ve been standing there for an hour. I assume they are father and son. The older guy does most of the talking, and very emphatically at that, his words frequently punctuated with forward thrusts of his head. The boy is quieter; he looks steadily at the other man and calmly adds a sentence here and there, but remains impassive for the most part. I recognize that expressionless gaze, because I myself use it quite often whenever I’m being lectured by my father. It’s my “heartless bastard” look, as my friend D calls it, because it conveys an unflinching lack of emotion. It’s the one I use when I really have nothing to say in my defense, or – as usually happens – when I know that saying something is only going to make the whole situation worse.

I feel extremely nosy and embarrassed about continually glancing over them through the window, but I’m a fidgety studier and I have to look around frequently, and they are directly in my line of vision. The photograph ladies are long gone, customers glance momentarily at them while stepping in and out of the coffee shop, and passersby weave their way around them on the sidewalk. Once, I glance up and inadvertently catch the older man’s mouth moving to say, “It’s not gonna happen.”

Finally, they enter the coffee shop, with a minute’s delay in between their entrances. I feel hopeful that everything is alright and perhaps what I misunderstood as an argument was just a heated discussion about sports or politics or the new gym that recently opened next door. The boy approaches the older gentleman, but the latter abruptly turns away. “Have a nice life,” says the older man coldly. He grabs his coffee, shoves his sunglasses down over his eyes, turns on his heel, and harshly adds the painful parting shot while striding away: “Without your daughter.”

The boy sits down at a table, coffee in hand, and picks up the newspaper.

birthday in berzerkeley.

birthday in berzerkeley.

[So this was almost a month ago. June 24th, to be exact. So? I’m trying to update you on my life here. Get used to it.]

When you’re a recent college graduate and you feel like you can finally start doing exactly what you used to brusquely tell people you’d be doing when they repeatedly inquired about your post-graduation plans (i.e. “Sleep”), it’s slightly annoying to be awoken at 8 a.m. every morning by your father shaking you and helping you up to a sitting position and telling you, with effusive cheerfulness, to “Look out the window, Yasmine! See my little fig tree in the courtyard? It’s growing up! And did you see those bushes I planted yesterday? You didn’t? Oh, you have to go take a walk outside and check them out. Come on, go wash your face.”

But then you realize your father and his good-intentioned wake-up endeavors are endearing in comparison to checking your emails and finding out that you actually didn’t pass your neurobiology, physiology, and behavior (NPB) class and guess who’s going to have to take summer school? (Yeah, just say it with me: Freakin’ hell.)

So you spend half the day exchanging emails with a multitude of advisors, and, if you weren’t so stressed and annoyed, you’d find the ever-lengthening subject line of the emails almost comical – Re: Re: FWD: Re: FWD: Re: HDE major requirement. The whole ordeal just reinforces your view that advisors are useless, which is, you tell yourself, exactly why you’ve never consulted people for advice and always went ahead and did things on your own. That way, if you mess everything up – which, let’s face it, you just did – then fine, at least it’s only your own fault.

(Little do you realize that this little drama is going to go on for the next three weeks, by the end of which time you’ve mentally cursed your multitude of advisors to no end, especially your useless faculty advisor who is on vacation and your master advisor who is currently conducting research in China but who honors your request for a meeting in person by asking about your availability and then never responds back. Why does he even bother to ask, if, as it turns out, he’s going to be in China for the rest of the summer? Good lord, what a waste of time.)

So what’s a girl to do?

The best option is to salvage the rest of a lovely day by driving to Berkeley and spending the afternoon with Somayya and the lovely L lady (Birthday Girl Extraordinaire), who is taking an Arabic course at Cal.

So, I did.

I got a phone call from my good ol’ ex-co-worker H#3 as I was passing through the Caldecott Tunnel. “So how’s work without me and Somayya around?” I asked. “I bet it’s all sad and boring, huh?”
“That’s what you think,” he replied smugly. “Actually, we’ve been getting a lot more work done without you guys here.”
“Right,” I said skeptically. “And that means, what? You now play online poker even more often than you ever did before?”

Somayya called me just as I walked down to the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph. “Where you at? W is here, too, but he’s about to leave.” My favorite Afghan!
“No! Tell him not to move! I’ll be right there in a second.”
“Alright, but hurry up.”

I reunited with W, Somayya, and L on the sidewalk in front of Amoeba Records, and the first thing on the list was to belatedly convey my condolences for W’s grandfather’s recent death. “Well, he lived a long and fulfilling life, and passed away in his sleep, you know. So, alhamdulillah,” said W.
“InshaAllah, may it be that easy for all of us, when our time comes” I said, and asked about his sister: “How’s F doing?”
“I guess she’s okay.”
I arched an eyebrow. “You only guess?”
“I don’t know, every time I see her, she’s annoying.”
You’re annoying!” said Somayya, and tried to kick him in the shins, just as he deftly sidestepped.

W soon left, and, as Somayya, L, and I turned around to walk back towards campus, I recounted the AIM exchange I had had with H#3 earlier in the day:
“So I IMed him this morning and asked for K’s number, ’cause you know how I smashed my phone into pieces at Commencement and lost a bajillion numbers, right? Literally three hours later, he comes back with, ‘Hola, what you up to?’ and then disappears again. The kid never gives me the information I’m requesting. It’s so bothersome.”
“Wait, he said what?” asked Somayya.
“‘Hola.’ ”
Somayya started laughing, and L joined in. “It’s pronounced without the ‘h’: ola! You don’t say the ‘h’ part. Yazzo, I don’t ever want to hear you say ‘hola’ in public again.”
“Well, how was I supposed to know that? I took German, remember?”

I can use suitably impressive English words like juxtaposition and connoisseur and supercalifrajilisticexpialidocious, and I can rattle off the names of some of my favorite desserts at the Austrian bakery (topfenstrudel, palatschinken, zwetschgenflek) with an almost-straight face, thanks to six years of German education, but simple, four-letter Spanish words are beyond me. Clearly, I am not that smart, and it’s no wonder I failed NPB.

We sat on the steps outside the MLK building and gleefully presented L with her birthday gift: a new cell phone to replace the one she had lost a couple of weeks before. Although she had been temporarily using an extra phone of Somayya’s since, we were tired of waiting for her to replace her phone and knew the whole situation had been stressful on her as well. The expression on L’s face – a cross between surprise, gratitude, and outrage – was priceless. Especially when she realized it was the latest model, whereupon she tried to convince us that if she went into the store personally, she could get her phone replaced at a fraction of the amount we had spent.

“Exactly how much did this cost?” she kept demanding.
“We’re not telling you!”
She shook her head disapprovingly. “You kids are out of control. Out of CONTROL.
“You know you love it!”
“This is the freakin’ latest model! I had insurance on mine, so I could have gotten a replacement for $30!”
“Well, you were taking your damn time about it,” I said snidely, “so we took care of it for you. Stop being a nerd about it.”
“I’m going to return this tomorrow, and you’re getting all your money back!”
“Nooo, you can’t do that!” I protested. “This is our present to you!”
“Fine, return it then!” said Somayya. “But you’re keeping all the damn money.”
“Fine. Give me the receipt.”
I took it out of my bag and handed it over. A split second later, I realized my mistake: “Wait, I don’t trust you. You’re going to look at the price and start screaming and then you’ll refuse to keep the money.”
Somayya wrestled the receipt out of L’s hand, L tried to grab it back, and I laughed hysterically while watching the entire tussle. “You don’t get the receipt until you sign a freakin’ contract! Hold on, I need some paper.” I felt around in my handbag for a piece of paper, but only managed to come up with my paycheck envelope. “Alright, hold on.” I scribbled a few lines on the back of the envelope and handed it over. “Sign it!”

I, LAR, do hereby agree to keep all the cash I get refunded from the returning of my birthday gift phone to T-Mobile and I cannot give the money back to any of my friends no matter how much it is because I have to keep it and spend it for my own upkeep and general happiness and birthday gratitude for as long as it takes to spend it all.

The end.

x _____________________________
24 June 2005
Berkeley/Davis, California

She frowned, shook her head, and signed, I laughed my head off, we duly handed the receipt over, she looked at the amount and shrieked, “I hate you!” as expected for a few minutes, then pocketed the receipt, and all was well with the world.

We wandered around Bancroft and took some hilarious photos at the photo booth (something we had been planning to do every time we were in Berkeley, but somehow never got around to doing). 2Scoops called, and we commiserated about stupid NPB (me) and the bar exam (him), and how driving one’s friends crazy is an essential part of every friendship (“Yeah, I think she totally hates us now,” I said, as L looked over and mouthed, “Out of control!”). We also discussed how cool Baji is, and L, overhearing this, remarked gleefully, “Baji sent me a postcard from Costa Rica!” We all agreed that Baji is a rockstar. I know you all know this already, but it must be said again.

Then we made a beeline for the elevators in the MLK lobby, only to encounter issues when we attempted to go up to the third floor. We pressed “3,” and the elevator kept opening and closing its doors on the first floor. I laughed, remembering the last time something like that had happened. (Is it just me, or does my life really go around in circles?) After the fifth or so try, we gave up and headed back outside, sitting on the grass bordering Sproul Plaza. L let me listen to HijabMan’s “happy birthday song” voicemail, and then I busied myself with re-acquiring lost phone numbers with Somayya’s help.

She scrolled through her entire cell phone, reading off names from A-Z, no less. “What about ___? How ’bout ___?”
“Nah, don’t need that one. I probably won’t ever call him/her.”
L laughed at my nonchalance, but I figured, there are very few people I actually make the effort to call semi-regularly, so why bother with everyone else? I’m not much of a phone person.

This reminded us that we missed our friend H, who is notorious for never returning phone calls.
“Let’s try a new strategy,” said Somayya dryly. She called him and left the following voicemessage: “H, this is Somayya. I’m dying. Call me back.”

We decided we were hungry, so we high-tailed it down to Naan ‘n’ Curry, where we scarfed down some aloo parathhas and chicken. Amazingly enough, H returned Somayya’s phone call, and good times were had by all as we mercilessly guilt-tripped him for “calling only when Somayya is dying.”

As I was walking back to my car, a grizzled old street vendor called out, “Assalamu alaikum!” Surprised, I grinned back and responded to his greeting.

On the way home, I stopped for gas. The turbaned Sikh gentleman at the gas station took one look at my jeans, hijab, and purple kameez and enquired, “Punjabi?”
I smiled. “No, Pukhtun.”
He looked confused, so I amended, “Pakistani.”
He smiled back. “Have a nice day.”
“Thank you, you too.”

Back home, I had to explain my NPB drama to the daddy-o. Surprisingly, he only laughed. “Didn’t you used to be an NPB major?”
“Yes,” I said wryly. “And I didn’t stick with it for obvious reasons.”

Later that evening, I stopped by his room. “Daddy khana, I need a check for my tuition and registration fees.”
“You know where the checkbook is.” [This is Daddy-o Speak for ‘Get the checkbook and make out the check yourself, you lazy bum.’]
I dutifully retrieved his checkbook and filled out the amount, then handed it to him to sign.
“How much is it for?” He glanced at it and sucked in a breath, then released it in a whoosh. “Yours is going to be the most expensive education ever.”
Before I even had time to wince, he added, “But it’s all worth it.”

I’m blessed to have a father who thinks money is never wasted if it’s spend on books and education. Alhamdulillah.

When I ran into my friend S a few days later, I apologized for forgetting to return his phone call from the week before.
“No,” he said, “you did call me back.”
“Oh, I did?” I said in surprise. “I totally don’t remember.”
“Yeah, you called me the same day. And you were hella pissed off.”
I laughed. “It was about having to retake that damn NPB class, I bet. Yeah, I was really annoyed about all that drama.”
He smirked knowingly. “It was all those naps you took last quarter, wasn’t it? Maybe you shouldn’t have slept so much.”
“Shut up.”

[Okay, the end. Really.]

this season is cold. I have to write one paper by…

this season is cold.

I have to write one paper by 10 a.m. and edit a second one and finish writing a third one by 6 p.m. And in between all that, I need to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be saying while MCing this little diversity program at noon. Why I agreed to do this is beyond me, except that when we realized we still needed an MC and the ensuing silence, hesitation, and lack of eye contact in the room became unbearable, I impatiently raised an eyebrow and snapped, “I’ll do it.” Not only that, I somehow agreed to present something of my own, in addition to doing the introductions for everyone else. Jesus Christ, peace be upon him. So now I have to go write a poem or flow or rhyme or spoken word piece or whatever you choose to call it, when really all I want to do is take a nap. Everything in my life is such a last-minute effort.

Also, I’ve got graduation on my mind, and I’m running low on sleep here, so the most amusing thing in the world to me at 3:30 a.m. is that “alma mater” sounds like “aloo tamatar.” Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all night.

"autochthonous" looks like a reptile, and "schwarm…

“autochthonous” looks like a reptile, and “schwarmerei” sounds like shawarma.

So I’m sitting here in the computer lab at school, because this is where I spend my days ostensibly writing papers when I’m not skipping class and sleeping out in the university library courtyard or up on the third floor in what I call “the wine room” or on the comfy couch upstairs in the Graduate School of Management or in the study lounge or in my (parked) car. Or, basically, when I’m not sleeping anywhere and everywhere. You get the idea, I’m sure.

Anyway, the guy at the computer next to me just leaned over and asked – while I was typing out my last post, imagine that – “How do you spell ‘professor’?”

“P-r-o-f-e-s-s-o-r,” I rattled off without missing a beat. Hey, I was in the spelling bee in the third, fourth, and fifth grades, okay.

“Thanks,” he said, visibly relieved. “I wasn’t sure if there were two Rs or one.”

He printed his paper and left, but I’m still scratching my head over that one.

so you think you can hold the world up by a string…

so you think you can hold the world up by a string.

You’re a tough crowd, Blogistan. I recently update this joint after a three weeks’ hiatus, and I get complaints that the post isn’t sufficiently about me. Not to mention the fact that every time I write about male friends/acquaintances/nice guys at Borders/old men at the post office and at cafes, my audience (that would be you) invariably articulates their suspicion that said male figure is hitting on me. JESUS. Peace be upon him.

Lucky for you, I have a love affair with post-it pads (and, more recently, pocket-sized Moleskine notebooks, discovered while shopping for birthday presents for my brother), and carry one (or two or three) around with me wherever I go. The end result? Three weeks’ worth of words, phrases, experiences, snippets of conversation, lines randomly recalled and quickly scribbled down in the midst of lectures and discussion sections, just so I could share them with you all on the weblog. That hiatus turned out to be a but more extensive than I had anticipated. I need to get all this stuff out of my head, and, although I could probably make individual weblog entries out of each of these, I’m far too lazy to even attempt such an endeavor. For your edification and amusement, then, I present an update almost entirely about me, list-style based off my post-it notes, and with minimal references to guys. Imagine that.

– The past month’s conversations included such highlights on my part as:

“Hi, I’m calling to check on the status of that tow truck I called in for, about forty minutes ago… What? No, I’m not in Southern California!”


“I’ve taken almost enough English classes at this campus to declare a minor in it, if I wanted. What do you mean I still need to take English 101?!”

Between these and a host of other disagreeable experiences, I’m sure you’re starting to see why I mentally referred to these as my What the French-Connection-UK! weeks. They were filled mainly with thoughts of homicide, and attempts to squash an ever-present rising surge of profanity in my head, and made me feel, by turns, like crying or smashing something. And since I’m not much of a crier, being a lean, mean, green smashing machine felt like a good option. Except I think Najm already has first dibs on being the Incredible Hulk. It felt like one really, really long day, the kind you’re just itching to use the “fast forward” button on.

– Let me tell you about my major advisor. My major advisor has the expressionless, dead stare down to an art. It’s highly disconcerting to be confronted with that blank look when I’m stopping by to get some questions answered and to ask for advice. Because she’s an advisor, no? No, apparently not. My advisor is not supposed to make me do a teeth-gritting, fist-clenching, sidewalk-stomping dance of annoyance in downtown Sacramento while trying not to shout on the phone at her that, “No, my minor is from the College of Letters & Science! So my minor petition is not supposed to go to the Dean’s office at Ag&ES; it’s supposed to go to the Dean’s office at Letters & Science, even though my major is at Ag&ES!” My advisor is also not supposed to ask in response to this, “Are you sure?” Yes, I’m sure, dammit, because I’ve made phone calls and tracked people down and verified everything I needed to know and even everything I didn’t need to know. Why are you not sure, is the question.

My major advisor also has a deplorable habit of answering one single freakin’ question of mine, then getting up and crossing the room to stand by the door while I’m still sitting next to her desk, mouth half-open to launch into my next question. Apparently, this is her signal that my time is up. No “Do you have any further questions?” No “Is there anything else I could help you with today?” Not even an “Okay, bye.” As I mentioned to my sister once, “I want closure, dammit!” The last time I was there, my advisor pulled the same “getting-up-and-heading-for-the-door” maneuver. I rolled my eyes and followed, accustomed to this by now. At the door, she flicked her finger against the stack of papers I held in my hand and asked, “What are these?”
“These,” I replied coldly, “concern other questions I wanted to ask you, but apparently you don’t have time for them today.”

My major advisor is an incompetent buffoon, my minor advisor is never available and should thus never have been granted that position, and how come I have a faculty advisor I never even knew about? No one tells me these things. Also, people who are getting paid to supposedly make my life easier should be doing exactly that. But, no, I am surrounded by morons.

Yes, I’m kind of bitter. I’m almost over it, don’t worry. Like I said, it’s been a long few weeks.

– H#4 (I have too many friends with “H” and “S” names. I swear I’m going to start numbering them like this) tried to talk me out of skipping class one day by grimly informing me that, based on her calculations, each time I skip one lecture, I am wasting $25 of that quarter’s tuition. My friends are such engineering nerds, can you tell?

– My new favorite word to use in everyday conversation is “periodically.” I do a lot of things periodically. Like skip breakfast, skip class, and not study.

– The last two movies I watched were Fida and The Notebook. I know, I know, I can’t believe I watched the latter either. If I could, I would surgically remove the memory from my mind. The best part about both movies was that everyone dies in the end. There, I gave it all away. Anyway, The Notebook was horrifically sleep-inducing, and I can’t believe all the girls I know kept recommending it to me. Geez louise. My sister and I were not impressed. Bean summed up our disappointment and disgust by pointing out, “Maybe it’s just that we’ve lost our sense of subtle details. We’ve gotten so used to the desi films that we can’t handle stuff like The Notebook anymore, because we’re just waiting for a full-out brawl.” Besides, that night I had a nightmare related to the movie. I swear. And I don’t usually even have nightmares.

– Somayya and I saw a Hummer limousine in Sacramento a couple of weeks ago.

– The first day of NPB lecture, having come to class unprepared, I asked the girl next to me, “Can I borrow a coupla sheets of paper off you?” Yeah, I know, how do you borrow paper? I guess I should have said, “Would you mind if I asked you for a few sheets of paper?” Not that it matters anyway, because I only took about two lines worth of notes and then ended up sleeping through most of the lecture, and the girl gave me a cold stare on my way out. I’m sorry I wasted your paper that I borrowed, geez freakin’ louise. Would you like it back now that I’m done borrowing it?

– My new favorite poem is T.S. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday. Deja vu when I got to the lines, Teach us to care and not to care/Teach us to sit still. I have read those somewhere before, a decade ago in a book I can’t recall.

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us


Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.

– I am taking two science courses this quarter – NPB (neurobiology, physiology, and behavior) and MCB (molecular and cellular biology). Yes, gross, I know. God knows why I felt the need to put these off until now, seeing as how I’m not a science person, except for the fact that I used to be really good at physics. But as long as they don’t start talking about cellular respiration and the Krebs Cycle and all that drama, I should be okay. Taking classes with freshmen and sophomores is always amusing, though. They’re the ones who show up to line outside the lecture hall twenty minutes before class even begins. But it’s okay, because I keep getting mistaken for a seventeen year old anyway, so I blend in just fine. Plus, I’m still perpetually dazed and confused all the time, and I rarely look both ways before crossing the street.

– The first day of class, a guy in my MCB lecture leaned over to ask, “Excuse me, you’re not Fatima, are you?”
Who is Fatima and why does she look like me, is what I want to know.

– I’m officially losing my mind. The following three conversations are all the proof you need:

1) In a phone conversation a couple of weeks ago, Somayya and I were bemoaning the fact that we rarely see each other this quarter. “I know!” I said, “and we don’t even do our regular family weekend visits to see you all anymore.” Except I accidentally said “weekend wisits,” and Somayya and I both dissolved in laughter. It’s over, kids. I am officially a fob.

2) Last week at work, my co-worker K kept urging me to hurry up and finish the stuff I was working on, so that we could have our meeting. “We need to meet before 12!” he kept repeating, “because at 12, I’m leaving to go skiing in Lake Tahoe.”
“Stop trying to rush me,” I finally snapped. “Just because you’re going snowing does not mean our work schedules have to revolve around you and your stupid Lake Tahoe trip.”
“Snowing?” asked Somayya innocently. “What’s that?”
“I meant, skiiing. Or snowboarding. Or whatever the hell he’s planning on doing up there.”

3) “Tuesday Morning’s having a sale,” remarked my dad over dinner the other night. We love Tuesday Morning. How can you not be in love with a place that has everything 50-80% off?
We peered at the ads together.
“I don’t get this one,” I said. “They’re selling watches. Why are there random sunflowers in the picture?”
“You know,” said my dad. “Sunflowers? The sun? Time? Watches? See?”
I continued looking blank. “I still don’t get it.”
My dad gave me a pitying look and rolled his eyes, which is always hilarious to watch, because he absolutely does not know how to roll his eyes, so he always rolls his head around instead. “Okay,” he said. “You know how you can tell the time based on the position of the sun?”
“Ohh…” [pause] “Wait, why are the sunflowers there though?”
“Because sunflowers always face in the direction of the sun. Duh.” Except my dad doesn’t know how to say “duh” either, so it always comes out sounding like “daa.”
“Oh yeah. I think I used to know this, a long time ago.”
In the next life, I am going to be blonde.

– My NPB teaching assistant pronounces the word “iron” exactly the way it’s spelled: eye-ron. [I say “eye-yern.” How do you pronounce “iron”?] This was in reference to the structure of hemoglobin, or something. Clearly, I do not know anything about hemoglobin. Or anything about science at all, for that matter. Biology is bidah. The end.

That was a joke, by the way. I mentioned in an email to a friend the other day: “As one of my favorite Bay Area scholars/students of knowledge said in a speech recently, re. the Muslim community’s tendency to point fingers at one another and obsessively label things as haraam/bidah: ‘Well, you know what, YOU’RE HARAAM!’ “

– I’ve also recently realized that I never pronounce the “d” in “fundraiser”: Funraiser.

– Halaqa outing: As we were driving up Mt. Diablo, I remarked in reference to the hardcore bicyclists who were pedaling up the mountain: “Man, that’s hella exertion.”
My sister: “You just used ‘hella’ and ‘exertion’ in the same sentence. There’s something wrong with you.”
Me: “Hey, I’m a California girl with vocabulary, what can I say.”

– Yesterday, my right eye finally stopped twitching after three weeks. That’s an indicator of stress and exhaustion, someone once told me during freshman year. Some things just never change.

– Not to say that there weren’t good things about the past few weeks either. Like the Friday that was filled with rockstar friends, two (count ’em, TWO!) real meals, ice cream, offers to race down the stairs, jokes about the FBI watch list, and hilarious white-girl renditions of “I love you, 50 Cent! Holler!” And the officially labeled Tuesday From Hell, when I decided to “screw it all” (one of many such decisions in recent history) and finally escaped to the public park and sat on a sunny hill, eating french fries and watching the elementary school team play softball. And…well, I know there have been more memorable (in a good way) moments like that. It’s just difficult to be suitably grateful sometimes, and to keep track adequately. I think this post is an attempt at that. Sort of.

– The funniest thing to happen this week was when I set off the alarm at work. Apparently, you still need to have the security guard swipe you on your way out the main doors after 6pm, regardless of whether you have your employee ID card on you. I, inefficient multitasker that I am, dialed a friend’s number on my cell phone just as I was about to leave the building. At the exit doors, I swiped my ID card, heard a beep, and watched the little red light turn to green. At the exact moment my friend answered the phone, I pushed open the door and the alarms started blaring. It was great stuff, and I think the friend at the other end of the line was just as amused by the whole thing as I was. Luckily, the security guard was, too.

– Does your father call you on his rainy drive home to leave voicemessages in which he sings, “Raindrops are falling on my head! La la la la la lalala”? No? I thought not.

– I’m not a big fan of grape-flavored anything. Except real grapes, and sour green ones at that. But someone’s gotta finish all the popsicles I bought back when I was getting my wisdom teeth pulled. All those mornings of grabbing a red/green/orange popsicle out of the freezer for breakfast on my way out the door to school are over, and the purples ones are the only ones left. Six whole purple popsicles. Not so bad after all, actually, although I’m still not really a fan. But it leaves your tongue looking so dark purple, it’s almost black, which is pretty slick.

– I attended the Birth of a Prophet event at UC Berkeley a couple of weeks ago. It was even more beautiful and spiritually uplifting than I had hoped it would be, and you can keep your outcries of “Bidah!” to yourself, please. Amusingly enough, the event coincided with Cal Day, so I was bombarded with ads and posters and pamphlets and “Hi, do you have any questions?” while making my way through Sproul Plaza. Listen, I know I look like a seventeen year old, but no, I’m not a prospective incoming freshman, okay? I have enough issues being a prospective graduating senior, as it is, thanks.

– Every morning on my way to school, about forty miles from home, I pass a huge yellow/orange billboard advertisement for San Diego, advising, “CHANGE VIEWS, NOT CHANNELS.” 2Scoops, I’m looking right at you: Stop trying to infiltrate Northern California.

– The best way to make yourself feel better about an MCB midterm you more likely failed the hell out of is to sit in the sunshine and drink a medium-size hot chocolate with whipped cream. When the girl making your drink notices your drawn face and bleary eyes and turns around from the machine to ask kindly, “Would you like extra whipped cream on that?” just answer, “Yes, please.” There are few things in life that sunshine, hot chocolate, and extra whipped cream cannot make you feel better about.

– Also, strawberry ice cream with chunks of cheesecake is hella good stuff. Add that to the list. And blue raspberry jolly ranchers, especially when they’re vindictively grabbed by the handful from the candy jar of my major advisor who is a moron.

– As of yesterday, I have officially canceled my minor. Indecisions and revisions indeed. I thought it was going to hurt – and it did hurt for the past three weeks I spent agonizing over it – but, surprisingly, I’m more at peace with the final decision than I thought I would be. So, instead of seven classes (yes, I was somehow registered for seven classes, the seventh one being a microbiology class my advisor thought I needed – which I didn’t, but she’s a moron, as we have already established – and which I had forgotten I was even enrolled in) and twenty-seven units, which is absolutely insane for a quarter system (nine weeks of instruction, tenth week is final exams) if not even otherwise, I am now down to four classes and sixteen units. Much more manageable.

“Pay attention!” I crowed yesterday afternoon to my office colleagues at large, whatever of them remained past 5pm. “This is a monumental occasion!” I typed the “permission to drop” numbers that the Dean’s Office had given me into their respective fields on the computer, then theatrically wiggled my fingers above the keyboard in my best “spirit fingers” imitation.

“What are you doing?” asked K, looking up from his computer.
“I’m saying ‘eff it all’ to the program.”
“What program?”
“The ‘Yasmine wants to graduate with this Social & Ethnic Relations minor that she’s absolutely in love with’ program.”

Thank you to all you rockstars who offered their input in regards to my “How useful/useless/irrelevant is a minor?” questions. If I didn’t ask you, I’m sorry, I love you, I was lazy, and you’re a rockstar, too.

– That said, this “screw the minor” deal only serves to reinforce my feeling that I’m one of those total slackers who diligently pursues something almost to the end, only to give it up in the last five seconds. This is a recurring theme in my life. Like last week, when I was up until 3am studying for an MCB quiz, only to be late to class the next morning because I couldn’t find parking. So, instead, I skipped class (and the quiz) and slept in my car for an hour, then woke up and, instead of heading over to my next class, I walked over to the student union and took another 2-hour nap in the study lounge. This nap-taking business is outta control.

– This morning, I used the carpool lane to pass a slow bus. I’m pretty sure this is highly illegal maneuver, but, what can I say, I love living life on the edge.

– I’m typing this out at work. K just stalked past me to get to his desk, a grim expression on his face. He pulled out his top desk drawer with a deafening bang, muttering, “I’m so hungry!”
“Yeah, me too,” I said sympathetically.
“And there’s nothing to eat around here,” he continued, fishing around in the drawer.
“Are you looking for your topsecret candy stash?”
“No,” he replied, pulling out a handful of what looked like condiment packets.
“Is that mustard?” I asked, spying a yellow packet.
“No, this calls for honey.”
“Dude. Are you seriously going to eat honey out of the packet like that?”
“Yeah. It’s soo good. See?”
“Good lord. Here, eat some Reese’s,” I offered, shoving my bag of miniature peanut butter cups his way.
“No way, honey is so much healthier.”

– My co-worker B just walked by. He stopped long enough to ask, “Have you ever seen a chicken with its head cut off?”
“Yes,” I replied, “several times,” thinking of all those months in Pakistan.
“Oh. Well, I never have.”
“It’s okay, you’re not really missing out.”
“Oh, okay. Just making sure.”

Why do I work with the weirdest people in the world?

– Yes, I still like Maroon 5, but I have a short attention span and I get highly annoyed when songs I once liked are constantly played over and over on the radio. Therefore, Maroon 5 is not as cool as Keane, whom no one except I seems to have heard of. Besides, how could you not like a band who’s British and therefore sings “cahn’t stop now,” which, to my ears, accustomed as they are to American pronunciation, sounds absolutely hilarious and cool. My lovely L lady, after looking at the cover of Keane’s album, wondered quite disparagingly why rock musicians never have much in the way of looks. Somayya and I contended that it’s because rockstars are more concerned with how good their music is rather than with how good they themselves look. So there, take that!

Yes, I admit it, I have fairly mainstream taste in music. I don’t really know obscure bands. All the obscure bands I do know start becoming rich and famous and everyone else knows who they are, too, and that just ruins the whole thing.

Speaking of music, no song has ever made me grin so widely as Coldplay’s “Yellow.” Perhaps I haven’t heard it often enough, so that explains why I’m not tired of it yet. Which reminds me – Gavin DeGraw, you’re a hella slick singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist and all that, but I enjoy your music more when I’m listening to it off my discman and less when it plays on repeat on the radio. Stop it. Also, new favorite musicians, discovered while browsing at Borders when I should have been in class, include: Amos Lee, Ari Hest, Joss Stone, and Rachel Yamagata. I think. I’m not sure, since I haven’t listened to everything yet. But still, links are fun. Go explore.

– I need to edit my template. I need to edit the sidebar with the Gavin DeGraw lyrics, because I love that song but not when it plays on the radio. I need to edit my blogroll. I need to edit my life. Lemme know if you have any suggestions. Meanwhile, much love, have beautiful days, all that good stuff.

>continue reading

and i will never learn to say goodbye to yesterday…

and i will never learn to say goodbye to yesterday.

“Are you still sick from, like, 5 weeks ago?” L’s roommate (“the other Yasmine”) exclaimed when she heard me speak a few days ago, and all I could do was shrug helplessly and nod. I remember when I came down with the flu a year ago, how helpless and annoyed and exhausted it made me feel. Then, at least, I was able to take two weeks off from school and lie around the house, napping my days away. This year, I am not blessed with such an opportunity. I have a job, and a time-consuming internship that is another job even if it’s not as well-paid as the other, and four classes, each of which I’m two or three weeks behind in. How did I let it get to such a point that I have four papers I’m desperately trying to finish by Monday otherwise I might as well just shoot myself?

I’ve given up on energy drinks for now, and I’ve stashed all the cough syrup and maximum strength sinus/allergy pills and codeine and sore throat spray and pain relief medication back in the cabinet, and I try to eat (at least two) real meals everyday, and I sleep every single night instead of pulling my usual vampire child hours, but none of it has really been doing any good.

I still recall Tuesday the 8th as the worst day ever. Work, then lectures, then a class presentation for which I could barely speak because my voice was almost gone, then another class, then facilitating discussion at the women of color circle when, again, I could barely speak myself, then, at the end of the day, walking out and checking my voicemessages, only to find that damn T-Mobile had gone and changed the voicemail set-up, which meant the only way I could access my new voicemessages was to re-setup my voicemail settings and create a new greeting right then and there. I struggled not to cry. All day long, I had been walking back and forth across campus, the cold making my already-sore throat hurt so badly that I was constantly blinking back tears from the pain of it all.

I stood there by the MU, my throat burning from breathing in the cold air, and, after multiple attempts, managed to croak out a sufficiently coherent voicemail greeting. It sent all four of us into gales of hysterical laughter when I reenacted it for Somayya and our co-workers as we went out on a car-moving break two days later, but at the time all I wanted to do was cry. Or smash my phone against a bike or throw it onto the roof or kick it across the street and then maybe cry some more. I’ve re-played it just now, to make myself laugh: “This is Yasmine. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you.” The “please” is muffled and the rest of it degenerates into a hoarse whisper. Perhaps I should change it, but it seems to be providing some much-needed comic relief during these days when I could definitely use the laughs.

The past month or so has consisted of an interfaith memorial service on the one-month anniversary of the Asian tsunami, numerous workshops and forums, presentations, discussion circles, a tsunami relief charity dinner, the Student Leadership Development conference, more workshops, and, in the past two days alone, the winter Dialogue with the Chancellor and the Women on the Verge conference – all of them events at which I had to present something, facilitate discussion, or at the very least offer some semblance of articulate input. And this is all stuff that is scheduled around my work and classes. I leave home at seven every morning, and it’s rare for me to get home before ten p.m.

The scribbled notes in my planner for the upcoming week make me wince: a class presentation, two cultural programs (I will be presenting at one and co-MCing for the other), and four workshops. Oh yeah, and did I mention those four papers I need to finish pretty damn soon? The week after that, there’s a workshop and a discussion circle. The week after that, final exams begin. It’s enough to make a rockstar cry. Or go take a nap. Because no matter how much sleep I get, I’m always tired.

I do all this extra stuff because I genuinely love it and believe in it and because it allows me to meet beautiful people who are equally passionate about such issues. But, yes, it tires me out and it means I’ve been spending more time on campus and less time at home recuperating and seeing my family which means I’m behind in my schoolwork because I’m still sick and if I can’t stay on top of things now then what the hell am I thinking by registering for five freaking classes (twenty units) next quarter? Oh wait, that’s because I need to graduate and get this drama over with already. Yeah, that would be a good idea.

This past Tuesday put things into perspective and reminded me that when I graduate and leave college, what I’ll look back and remember will be not the endless papers and all-nighters and energy drinks and my grade point average which is not even average but just simply atrocious by anyone’s standards (seriously, it is), but, rather, the memories involving the people I love.

H called me that morning while I was at work. I called him back on my way from Sacramento to campus, even though he hadn’t left a message and I usually have a policy of not returning phone calls if people don’t leave messages. But H is, well, H, even though he returns phone calls a week late, or, when he does answer his phone, he’ll hurriedly say, “Hey, let me call you back in two minutes, okay?” and then he never does. But he’s engaged to be married soon, and making plans for umrah, and still as much my hero as ever. Talking to H always serves to remind me of how much I don’t know, and gives me that extra inspirational push I need to better myself. How could I not love this kid?

When I called him back that Tuesday, he was walking to work in LA, buzzing with excitement at the books he’s reading these days. “Have you read these already?” he asked, rattling off the titles. “I wasn’t sure, so I wrote down the ISBNs for you, but I’m just going to send them to you with R when he comes up to Nor-Cal.”

I asked what the books are about, and he said, “Here, let me read some of it to you.” I could hear the wind in the background, and the sound of rustling pages being hurriedly flipped through, and H rapidly muttering into the phone, “Hold on, hold on, hold on… Hold on, okay?”

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said, amused. I got out of my car and stood with the sun in my eyes, listening to him reading to me over the phone. Later, when he had run out of breath long enough to pause and I had a chance to get in a word edgewise, I said cautiously, “Hey, last time we talked, you were all stressed about stuff, and I’m sorry I had to go in the middle of our conversation. How’re you doing these days, and how’s everything for you?”

“ALHAMDULILLAHHHH!” he exclaimed, and I could hear the smile in his voice. “Everything is fine!” I honestly don’t know anyone else with the gift of imbuing the word “ALHAMDULILLAH” [all praise is for God] with as much heartfelt joy and contentment as H does. Just hearing him drawl out the word with such genuine happiness was enough to make smile as well. I sank down onto the curb in front of GAP, laughing with relief, absently studying the patterns of sunshine and shadows on the sidewalk as he updated me on his life.

Four p.m. found me sitting next to Somayya in a two-hour-long human development seminar, where we made faces at each other and rolled our eyes at how bored we were. I scribbled funny little notes to her and struggled not to laugh out loud at how amusing I thought I was, while she played the role of good student and constantly raised her hand to answer questions I hadn’t even been pretending to pay attention to. Half an hour into lecture, she mouthed, “I’m leaving at five.”

“I think that’s a great idea.”

“You should come with me.”

“Sure, why not.”

“Which door should we use?”

Struck by a sense of déjà vu, I clamped down on a wave of laughter, remembering the afternoon we had left an anthropology lab early: “Which way should we go now?” “How ‘bout that way?” Was that really almost a year-and-a-half ago? Some things just never change.

We had two hours with nothing to do, which sounded wonderful until we realized there really was nothing to do. We drove around town in Somayya’s car, checking out both movie theaters three times and realizing that nothing was playing at a time that we could watch it. Neither of us was hungry. Funds were low, so a shopping spree was out of question. “Who are our friends, and where are they?!” I exclaimed. “No idea,” said Somayya. We ran through the list of core people: D was at work, L was at home but napping, HA has been missing-in-action lately, H graduated and went back to LA, H#2 was around somewhere or maybe in class or at work, who knows… So much for our friends. Useless!

“Okay, so what are our options? Sleeping in your car. Hanging out at Borders. Maybe if we had friends, we could have rented a movie and watched it at their place,” I said glumly, “but nooo…” We laughed. “I gotta yell at H for abandoning us, cuz as soon as he left us, everything fell apart. We don’t have friends anymore. What is this!”

A few minutes later, back on the main street and stopped at a red light, I caught a glimpse of the red double-decker bus in front of us out of the corner of my eye, and said idly, “You know what, I miss A.”

“I saw him the other day,” said Somayya.

“Oh yeah?” I said with interest. “Did he see you?”

A split second later, we both looked straight ahead through the windshield of her car to find a grinning A waving frantically at us from the back of the double-decker bus, where he stood as conductor. “Oh my God,” I laughed, “well, look who it is.” We tried to make out his gesturing. “What’s he saying?” I asked Somayya. “Three? C? What?”

“W,” she said. “WC. WC?” she mouthed. He nodded back rapidly, grinning.

“What are you doing with your life?” I pantomimed. He pointed at the bus. I shook my head. “Oh man, it never ends, huh?”

He drew his cell phone out of his pocket, held it up to his ear, and mouthed, “Call me!” just as the light turned green and we continued through the intersection. The bus went straight while we turned right into a gas station, all of us waving goodbye. Somayya stepped out to pump gas while I called A. “Dude, I was just talking about you! What are you up to these days?”

“Oh, nothing much. Graduating in June, then joining my girlfriend in DC.”

“Aww man, that’s hella far. What do you have to do that for? Geez.”

“Well, it’s only for a year,” he said consolingly. “And, hey, we need to hang out before graduation. You up for a Konditerei run?”

“Always,” I said, cheering up. “We’ll coordinate. And, dude, you still haven’t tried the desserts at Little Prague. We gotta go there, too, okay? They have hella good strawberry napoleans and chocolate tortes and stuff.”

“Sounds good to me. We’ll do both then.”

“Good stuff. And you can help me remember all the German I’ve forgotten.”

As we were hanging up, I distinctly heard him say, “Bye, Yasmine,” startling me. In all the years I’ve known A, and this is the sixth, I’ve always been Yaz or Yazzie to him, and he passed the habit along to AS as well, much as it sometimes frustrated me that my closest friends were far too enamored of the nickname to use my real name in conversation and even in introductions to strangers. We’ve come a long way, it seems. There are very few high school friends, and friends in general, that I’ve kept in touch with this long. I’m glad he’s one of them.

Somayya and I ended the evening on a good note: sitting down to eat ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s and reminiscing about our freshman year of college, followed by an impromptu and swift run-through of GAP, followed by a session of talking as we sat in her car at the parking structure, waiting for H#2 to show up. If you ignore the part where she (almost) lost her cell phone and we had to go back to Ben & Jerry’s even though it wasn’t there and the kid behind the counter seemed to find us entertaining but weird, then it was a good evening. Anything is worth giving up those two hours of human development seminar, because, ohmygod Becky, that class is so damn boring, you don’t even know.

Two nights ago, I came out of the Dialogue with the Chancellor to find a voicemessage from Somayya, saying, “I’m going home right now and I just thought of you cuz that one Matchbox Twenty song was playing on the radio, you know the one: I wanna push you around, well I will, well I will, I wanna take you for granted, well I will, well I will… And I can’t remember what it’s called, but I just thought I would let you know. Okay, bye!” I laughed, singing along to her message as I started my car and prepared to head home myself.

I called her back. “IT’S CALLED ‘PUSH’!” I shouted as soon as she answered.

She laughed. “Oh yeah! I thought of you cuz it always reminds me of that one day when I was pushing you on the swing.”

I smiled. “Yeah, me too.”

“This is the sort of the stuff we’re gonna be telling our kids about someday.”

“Yeah,” I said, assuming a wry tone of voice, “It’s gonna be like, ‘Remember that time we walked into class late? Remember that time we passed notes to each other instead of paying attention? Remember that time we left class in the middle of lecture, ninety minutes early?’”

She laughed. “‘Remember that time we didn’t go to class?’”

“How could I forget that. That’s like, what, every other day or something? ‘Remember how we were joined at the hip? Remember how we were so bad at writing papers? Remember that time we went to watch a movie instead of studying for our midterms?’”

It has always been the people who have made college worthwhile and memorable for me. My history of friendships hasn’t been very stellar – I’m the one who hates to call or neglects to reply to emails, the one who doesn’t make much of an effort to seek out friends and remain in touch with them, no matter how much they mean to me. Not that I have an excuse. I’m lazy, but I don’t think that counts. I suppose it’s a remnant of that self-defense mechanism I unconsciously honed while moving a lot as I was growing up. College made it easy on me, because there was always the chance that I would run into friends while walking across campus, or could at least stay updated on their lives via mutual friends. But graduation looms, and I’m wondering, Do I love my friends enough to start making effort of my own? Good thing I’ve got Somayya – cousin by default, friend by choice. We’re related, so I couldn’t escape her even if I wanted, and Lord knows I don’t want to anyway.

While I was writing this entry, H called. I laughed out loud at the coincidence, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. H has always had perfect timing like that, and I’ve learned to count on his brainwaves. Six minutes into the conversation, he said quickly, “Hang on, my battery’s dying. Let me plug in my phone and I’ll call you right back, okay?” But did he? Some things just never change. But how could I not love a kid who addresses me as “Ya Yasminay”?

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