Monday, November 8, 2010
Aarifa: A Short Story
So this is a new venture for me. I have never just published a short story on this before, but just as I have seen the field of writing, I want my blog to bend and flex with all areas of writing. I do not want to be confined to just one style of writing on this blog. I know that I have many readers who expect the same thing with every post. To you I apologize for this post, but at the same time, I would say look deep into the story. I think if you look hard enough you can see the message I am trying to send through the story.
Now heres a disclaimer, in this story I am not bashing any set religion. I more or less am just writing a story that has heart. I enjoyed getting lost in this story for 2 hours, and I hope that you enjoy it as well. Thanks for reading guys! Enjoy Aarifa.
“Class this is our new student, Aarifa.”
Mrs. Clarring holds her hand on my shoulders as she tries desperately to pronounce my name, but as expected, she slaughters it. But what can you expect? With American names having simplicity to the fullest, in some of the most common names: Bob, Rob, Dave, Mike, Clair, Sue. Anytime an American has to do a little more work than belch out the one syllable names they assign to each other, there is a struggle.
“Hello, Aaarrrriiii..... fffa.”
Mrs. Clarring glares down at me, her face is scrunched up, she knows that the introduction into her 8th grade classroom wasn’t the smoothest of all introductions. The room stays quiet for a second as she glares at me and then tries to smile. After a couple passing seconds I smile at her and then turned to the rest of the class. “You guys can call me Ari for short.”
Mrs. Clarring smiled, “Well done class, Ari why don’t you take a seat right next to Jessica. She somehow says the three syllable name with the greatest of ease. There must be an American sitcom with a character with that name. America’s greatest tool for enunciation, television. Too bad theres no television shows here with the most common of Islamic names.
I take my seat, and look around the room. All the children are facing the front of the room as Mrs. Clarring readies her lesson for the day. I can’t help but stare into all of these blank faces. Most don’t make eye contact back as I scour the room. Some do but then quickly look away. This is my purgatory.
The Catholics I know always speak of this waiting room. This place that just sounds utterly dreadful. I’ve been in waiting rooms, and I hate them. Its like a mind numbing holding cell where people of all sorts sit and wait for someone to call out their name. But in my current purgatory, nobody knows how to say my name, so my guess is that I will be here quite a long time.
“Ok class, everyone pull out your Bible and Bible workbooks and turn to page 302 in your work books.”
I should have known they were going to start off this day this way. I look into my desk to see all of my new textbooks all nicely stacked into two piles. On the top of the left pile is a brown book with gold embroidered letters that read, “The Bible.” I roll my eyes grab it and the blue book under it that is clearly my Bible workbook. The ship with animals pouring out of it next to a crucifix, kind of gave away that it must have some Christian relevance. I can’t believe out of all the places in this world, I’ve ended up here. A Christian school in the middle of nowhere, ‘Minnesoda.’
Me and my parents just moved here from Turkey. My father requested a relocation to the states long before I was born, but somehow last year we were chosen and allowed to leave our home of Turkey. My father always spoke of the endless opportunities in America. My father has always had a love affair America. He learned of the America culture while he was working for the Turkish Guard. Although most of the men in his brigade hated Americans for their greed, and their intolerance, my father grew to love all the Americans he came in contact with. His job required him to transport American citizens from the American embassies in the country to the neighboring country of Istanbul. He grew to love the intelligence that he said just poured out of these travelers mouths. All their talk of democracy and freedom only stirred excitement in his stomach.
After a few years of duty, and more than a few talks with Americans he told my mother that they would one day move to America. Over the years my father learned how to speak English and required both me and my sister to learn it with him. He would say, “My sweet Aarifa, you have to learn English so that you will be able to speak with the other American girls when we enter our better life.” It wasn’t my need for future acceptance that drove me to learn the English language, it was the look in my fathers eyes when he said it.
Fifteen years, 2 children, and a heart surgery later, my father finally was granted to exit the country with his family. I remember the day my father ran into the house with tears in his eyes to tell us that we would be leaving for America in 2 days. My mother wrapped her arms around my father and we all embraced in our living room. My fathers embrace around our family was so tight, and his sobs were so hard that we all shook in our huddle. This would be the better life. “ ‘Minesoda’ is where we would meet all of our dreams,” he said.
Yeah, a little Christian school in the middle of the American woods was not my dream, but it does nothing but bring joy to my fathers face, what more could a Muslim girl ask for?
“Today class we will be talking about salvation.” The whole class moans.
“I know its early, and you’re all still tired, but that does not change anything. Page 302.”
We all turn in our colorless text book. You’d think with all the money that my father is paying for me to go to this school, they could at least invest into a book with colored pictures instead of black and white doodlings. But at the same time, its not like anyone has a photograph of Jesus, or Moses, so I guess the black and white doodles are fine.
I reach page 302 to find an image of a man with his arms cast towards the sky. Probably begging his God to help him make more money. I swear most of these Christians probably do not know what a struggle truly is. Their biggest struggle is probably the day they realize their blessed, McRib is out of stock.
I glance down at the bottom right of the page to see a blue box with a bunch of words and pictures of men being tortured. It read:
Martyr: is somebody who suffers persecution and death for the people, a country or an organization; or refusing to renounce a belief, usually religious, political or rights.
Below this definition there is 3 images of men being tortured. One was of a man named Peter, showing him hanging upside down on a cross. The next was of a man named Stephen and a group of men were throwing stones at him. The last of them was of a man being burned alive.
Ok, maybe the McRib statement was a little much...
“Ok, I know you’ve all talked about this before, so I expect class participation, Who knows what salvation is?” Mrs. Clarring scans the room looking for a hand to suddenly go up. But she’s met with disappointment. She looks across the room, “Thomas, what is Salvation?”
Thomas looks down at his book and places his finger on one of the lines and begins to read, “deliverance from the power and effects of sin.” He looks up to see Mrs. Clarring staring at him. He gives her a smile in return for her glance.
“Thank you Thomas for doing exactly what everyone else in this room is fully capable of... reading.”
Thomas replies all too honestly, “You’re welcome.”
She just looks at him and shakes her head. “Ok does anybody else have an answer that is not straight out of the textbook?”
The girl sitting right next to me raises her hand.
“Yes, Jessica,” Mrs. Clarring happily says.
“Salvation is when you are saved. When you and God become one. You accept him into your heart and accept him as your personal savior.”
“Very good Jessica,” Mrs. Clarring said. “Does everyone agree with Jessica’s statement?”
The class just sits very unamused by the early morning lesson. Everyone just nods their head. I just keep my mouth shut, just as my father had told me.
My father enrolled me and my sister in the private christian school because he was worried about me and my sister’s safety in the public school. A man that my father worked with told my father of his families adaptation into America. He said that it was very hard on his girls in the public school system. They were not easily accepted into the public school system. He said one of his girls actually started receiving racist notes in her locker every day that would say things like, “Go home terrorist.” “We don’t want you sand niggers here .” The day my father was told this, he made up his mind that he would not let his pride and joy be put through that same abuse. So he told my mother that he would enroll us in the Christian school. My mother was not keen on the idea at first, but once she heard of the abuse she agreed that it was the right decision. But not all good decisions are easy.
My father told me and my sister many times before our first day, “Girls you need to know, there are not many people in this area who believe the same things as us.” We would just nod and tell our dad that we knew. But this morning my dad told me something he had not told me sister.
“Aarifa, you need to know that you may face something that you haven’t had to face before. At the Christian school, they teach many different things, but the one that may bother you the most is on Salvation.” He took a deep breath as he was telling me this in the car. “Christians believe that if you are not a Christian that you can not go to heaven.”
I looked at my father a little confused and said, “But we all believe in Allah. Everyone who believes in Allah will go to heaven.” My father nodded his head. “Yes, this is true, but it is not the same belief as Christians. So if you hear them say that if you are not a Christian you will go to hell, do not be shocked, do not be offended.” My father then smiled and kissed me on the forehead.
I now find myself, Day 1 at the Christian school, facing exactly what he was speaking about. With all these familiar terms: salvation, sin, resurrection, flying through the air, I knew it was only a matter of time before it would come up.
“So class why would anyone want to get saved?” Mrs. Clarring looks back at Thomas. He doesn’t even bother to raise his hand, he knows she expects an answer out of him.
“So we don’t go to hell?” Thomas asks.
“Yes, precisely Thomas. So we don’t go to Hell. That is why we all believe in Christ and not in Buddah, Allah, or any other false gods.”
When she mentioned Allah, I couldn’t help but grip my fist tight. I could see that the girl next to me saw me close my fist and was now staring at me. Although my father had told me to keep my mouth shut, I had to open my mouth. After so many talks and discussions with my mom and dad about Allah, and this Christ, I couldn’t let her just step over me like another one of these door mats that American’s put in front of their doors.
“So what you are saying is that anyone who is not a Christian will go to hell?”
Mrs. Clarring smiles at her and cocks her head to the side. It is pretty clear that she didn’t get the memo. More than likely my dad did not give anyone the memo that holds that “M” word. Muslim.
“Yes, dear that is correct.”
“So basically heaven is this club that only certain people can get into?”
“Well, no dear, heaven is no club, it is a place. And there are just requirements that have to be met to get into heaven.”
“How do you know? Has God told you this?”
“Well, yes, He has. John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth and the light, and no man may see the Father, except through me.”
“So what you are saying is that I am going to hell for being Muslim?” When the words leave my lips, its as if time slows down. I feel every fiber in my body tense up. I am now naked before everyone in this room. I am not of this world. I am not of this Christian realm. I am Muslim.
“Ari, I had no idea that you are muslim.”
“Well, now you know. So am I going to hell or not?”
The rest of the class is now looking directly at me with their jaws dropped. I can hear some whispering to each other. “Yes, that would mean she goes to hell.” “Yes.” “Duh.” I can’ t stop hearing all of their views on my eternal damnation, but I’m not asking them, I’m asking the now dumbfounded, Mrs. Clarring.
I stand my ground and keep staring into Mrs. Clarring’s now watering eyes. “Ari,” she says and then coughs as if to gather herself. “I don’t know what you are doing, and I do not find it funny. We hear at the CHRISTIAN school believe in Jesus Christ, and His teachings, if you do not agree or want to hear them then you have the choice to leave this school at any time. But while you are hear you will adhere to our beliefs.”
I look at her and then slowly begin to nod. “I am sorry, Mrs. Clarring. But I have to ask, I am I going to hell? Am I going to spend my afterlife burning in hell?” Tears begin to swell in my eyes. I know her answer and it hurts. It burns like the heat of my supposed afterlife.
Mrs. Clarring stared at me for a very long time. I could do nothing more than to stare back at her. After about what felt like 10 minutes, I couldn’t help but scream at her, “AM I?! IS THAT WHERE I AM GOING?! AM I GOING TO HELL?” Even in my screaming I know it is in vane. I know that this little woman does not have the stomach to tell me to my face just what she believes. She will only ask me to go to the office. So before she can sentence me to my punishment, I escort myself to my eventual doom.
The world is so blurry as I stand and walk past the students and then Mrs. Clarring. Through the tears though, I can see I am not the only one crying. Mrs. Clarring has rivers running from her eyes as well. It was as if the Tigris was flowing from my eyes, and the Euphrates from her. But yet this Paradise separates us.
I walked out of the room and shut the door behind me. I stood at the door for a few seconds and then started to head towards the office. As I was walking away, I couldn’t help but hear someone from inside the room asking, “Is Ari going to hell, Mrs. Clarring?” I stopped where I was standing to hear Mrs. Clarrings answer. I stood there quietly for a few seconds and then heard an answer. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
I couldn’t help but just fall to my knees in this hallway. I started to just sob harder and harder. Why? Why would anyone say that I, Aarifa Khahid, would be cast into hell? Why wouldn’t she answer me? The tears just streamed down my face, tear after tear.
Just as I went to stand up and head to the office to call my dad, I felt two hands wrap around my body and hug me. I looked up to see Mrs. Clarring just holding me in her arms. She was still crying and just squeezed me tight in her arms. With all of my might, I wanted to push away from her and her opinions, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t break that embrace. The warmth of her embrace as she held me was just so powerful. After a few seconds of her holding me in her arms, she wiped the tears from her eyes and then reached down and wiped my tears.
“Ari, I’m sorry.”
I just looked at her and then started crying harder into her bosom. She held me close to her chest and continued to stroke my long black hair. For being the woman who has driven me to tears, she also has to be the most caring and loving person I have met beside my parents.
That night I went home and told my father about the whole discussion. He was driven to tears. He started to scream at me for not keeping my mouth shut. But then he stopped and he looked at me. He started to cry, and sat down onto the living room sofa. Through his sobs he looked up at me and started to smile.
“Aarifa, do you know what your name means?”
I shook my head and sat next to my father.
“You’re name means someone who is, Learned, an Expert, and Authority. How could I be so mad at you for being just what we have named you? I can not be ashamed of my daughter for standing up for exactly what she believed in. Aarifa, I am so proud of you.” He held me close in his arms just as Mrs. Clarring had done earlier that day.
After my father and I finished our conversation in the living room, I excused myself and went to bed. But as I lied there in my bed, I couldn’t help but shake the thought that I had earlier that day.
“How could it be that we as people are no different, yet we are separated. Just as the Tigris and the Euphrates are separated, so are we. A piece of land, a paradise, stays between all of us. Wars will be fought over this land, blood will be spilled for it. Millions will discuss over this Paradise, this heaven, and someone will always be left out. Whether I am Muslim, or I am Christian, someone will be left out of Paradise. But I am ok with that. I will believe in what I have been taught. I will search deep into my faith and really know what I believe in. But there is one thing that I will not do. I will not, willfully put down anyone and tell them about my beliefs on their eternal damnation. Because nobody likes that. Nobody likes being told they are destined to burn in Hell. No person in 8th grade or older, should be told they are going to hell. So what I am going to do is just teach. I will teach and speak what I believe so that you will believe in what I believe. I will not use fear to get you to believe, I will use logic, and research to back up what I believe. I will live out my name, I will be Aarifa, till the day that I die. Till the day that I will hopefully enter paradise. I will always and hopefully forever be... Aaifa."
I hope you enjoyed the story!
I also hoped I didn't step on any toes!
Media Associated With This Post:
Song: First Breath After Coma
Artist: Explosions in the Sky
Album: Explosions in the Sky