The next day for the first time that year, I was thankful for the long hour long drive to school. My mother sat next to me in a stupor. To this day I wonder if she conciousley drove the car, or the immprobale event of the perfect conditions of the car reaching the school and back by itself. I have calculated the probability many times and with many variations, despite the odss I find both possibilities equally as plausible. No words of wisdom and no attempt at advise of how to act issued from my mother's mouth. That in itself was scary. As the familiar building on Severne Avenue approached me, my stomach seemd to wrench up inside of me. I didn't want to leave this car. This veichale of hope. This safehaven. Inside me lay chaos, around me was suspension of chaos, outside lay a greater chaos. I prefered the twighlight.
"Islamalicoom and in God's hand's" I whispered to my mother as I left my mobile sanctuary.
"Walicoomasalam" Came, the automated response.
My eyes followed the cement as I followed the well known path to my homeroom. However when I reached the crowded stairs I was forced to raise my eyes. I was greeted by many emotions on my journey up the stairs. The full range of human emotions was present, it was like a metaphor of what was yet to come. It was like waslking around the color wheel. No matter where you go you will never see a color that isn't on it. Just different combinations and shades of the same-old, same-old.
I saw a kid with pockmarks all over his face and sneering, yellowish eyes, with anger in his face and fear in his eyes. The next had sadness and pitty at the same time, but also in his eyes was fear. I saw another with a good natured smile and large open eyes, also with fear in his eyes. This one managed to give me hope though. I could see his eyes focusing on the "O" monogrammed on my shirt and I knew the words that would issue from his lips before he said them.
"Hey, Osama." The hallway erupted in laughter and I had no doubt that the inscident would be repeated many times. But it gave me great comfort to know that off the three people, that I saw on the stairs, that day, it was the funny one that had chosen to act.
Ido not know how I would have reacted to violence or pity but with ice breaking humor, I could deal with, with reluctant gratitude. I never found out the name of that kid who first gave me the name or for that matter any of the others who used it. Over the next year or so some spit the name at me with hate and others with the same spirit as the first. I am still thankful to that kid, wherever he may be, may God or Allah bless him. He knows who he is.
Luckily, I sat in the back of my homeroom. The view was obstructed by the many computers. I could feel the eyes of my peers boring down on me as the single file line streamed in and the room's seats steadily filled. I was trying to be as unnotticable before prayers started. My homeroom teacher however seemed not to want me hidden. From my backrow hideout, she called my name from in front of the room and motioned for me to come up to her desk. That was the only time that I felt anything but gratitude toward, good old Mrs. Richard.
I had know Mrs. Richard for over a year at the time. The previous year she had been my reading teacher. This year she was my homeroom teacher. I had no doubt that the teacher's had some say in the composition of their classes. She was a grandmother like figure in my life, though I doubt she was that old. She had black hair that framed her face and large glasses. She had a ready smile and a good heart, to good at times. Like today.
I fealt dread in my heart and ice on my skin as I slowly made my way down my row and up the aisle to the front of the room. I had left all of my protection behind. It seemd my soul was drifting, naked throught the dessert. Even as I thought of the metaphaphor the ice on my skin seemed to melt away and the rays issuing from the many pairs of eyes seemed to burn my skin.
"Yes, Mrs. Richard?" I muttered, while starring at the ground. This was one of my traits at that time of my life. I could not look anybody in the eye. One has to understand that this was not due to my shame at myself but to the culutural duality in which I was raised. In the West it is of the greates offense to look away when some one is talking to you. It is akin to ignoring them. Hoever in the East it is quite the opposite. As a child I was told that looking an elder directly in the eye, while they where talking to you was disrespectful. It was seen as starring them down. Many a time, caught between the two I would stare intently into my father's eyes as he spoke to me. In return I would be reprimanded and told(litrally translated); "Don't show me your eyes." But I suspect that my life long obsession with buying shoes was due to my early observations of the many types due to me starring at people's feet. I can only guess at what Mrs. Richard was wearing that day but, her shoes are still vivid in my mind. My memory function seems to be rather mixed up. She was wearing black loafer life moccasins. "Are you allright?" "Yes, ma'm." "Have you had any problems?" "No, ma'm" "Well the day has just began. I f you have any problems, stand up for yourself. And If anything happens you come tell me, all right? Don't be afraid." "Yes, ma'm." After standing there in silence for a few moments, I looked up and saw that she was staring at me. She put her hand on my shoulder and uttered a last piece of advise
"Don't worry." I nodded my head, I think it was the first time in my life I had conciousley lied.