I stood in line, able to get you into the fast pass lane even though you didn’t have the right clearance, because the people who worked at Heathrow security were my family or my friends, the sons of other families like mine. I knew I knew them, so I knew I could get you through, but I didn’t tell you. I wanted to impress you as if I was a diplomat or a Vegas high roller or a mobster in an Armani suit with connections. I wanted you to be able to tell that I was your prince made from a pumpkin. I wanted to be sure you considered us possible. So I didn’t tell you that I knew they would know me, my Pakistani brothers.
Also, I neglected to mention that I am a fundamentalist Muslim even though I kissed you on the first date which I should have indicated wasn’t a date because I am a Muslim, and you are a Jew. When you called me from Boston I forgot to say, “That was fun, and please don’t call me again, because we are not an option. I will be married, as all my family will, through arrangement. Also, I have to go first, because I am the oldest boy. Likely she will be sent from Pakistan directly through the fast lane at Heathrow.”
When you asked me if I wanted a personal or professional relationship with you, and you told me I couldn’t have both, I didn’t tell you professional. I was proud of you for making me make the choice, but what I didn’t tell you is that I was going to try a little experiment, an experiment we’ll call “Living My Own Life.” I pretended, years ago now, 90 days in the States, 90 days in the UK, avoiding the specter of immigration and of telling my family that I loved a single mother Jew and her son too. I never told you I wouldn’t go through with it. And when they called you from Customs to verify my identity and your intentions to marry me, and you were waiting for me at your mother’s birthday party with the Hallal-just-for-me takeout Chinese food, I didn’t tell you the fear I experienced. I told you I was used to it – being brown – it happens every time. I didn’t tell you that I was surprised, and then angry, that you didn’t know brown was a race. You just saw me, you said. I should not have had to tell you. Brown is its own color.
I left you standing in the jewelry store. I didn’t tell you I was going to get cash out of the family’s account to buy you a ring. I didn’t tell you that the account was practically empty because we lived in government funded housing, like slums, but it’s England, so it’s nicer than the States. I didn’t tell you where I was going when I went to the ATM, so you left the jewelry store, humiliated as if you had been left at the altar, though a Mosque doesn’t have an altar. By the way, it dawns on me, I might have forgotten to tell you that I am first generation Pakistani born in England. My parents are very traditional. I would lose my family if they knew about you, and my family is first. I might have left that out when I asked if I could see you again. To be clear when you said yes, I didn’t tell you then that I would stay.
When you learned to pray with me, murmuring Hebrew yet mirroring my movements, I didn’t tell you that would never be enough of a conversion. Loving G*d, being kind, making a family, having a passion, would not be enough to keep me with you. And when it finally ended, after so many tears and transatlantic calls, layovers in London to have just one more whiff, I didn’t tell you then…that it was over. My sister did. I heard her: “Darling, this man is a Muslim. His children will be Muslim. That is just how it is.”
©Gabriella Strecker, 2016
photo courtesy of www.visitlondon.com