“Shahz, how could you not tell me your thyroid is down again?!?”
I sigh. Wednesday 2:30ish- I just got out of Microbio and I see I have 15 texts…but 2 missed calls from my dad. It’s a busy day of Microbio, a speech to public school teachers, and volunteering. I figure most of the texts are from my board anyway and decide not to touch it until I talk to my dad.
“I don’t know dad! I just figured you knew already. Why did you think I was so depressed, sleepy, and acting so strange over break?” I ask rushing to my meeting with the CPS teachers.
“I don’t know Shahz, but you can’t expect someone to know how you are feeling. Even your father!” he says. “Boarding has started for my plane. I have to go. Give me updates on how you’re feeling. At all times”.
I shake my head. This is why I didn’t tell him. I knew he would be worried. I also knew he’d probably make me stay in Texas or something. I tell him I will and begin scrolling through my texts as I walk into the meeting area. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. 4/5 of the texts are from the board and “Z” checking up on how I’m feeling.
The other 1/5? Holy. Crap. It was from “Prince Player”. I open his immediately. Oh my god. Three- gigantic- long texts. His message starts with, “Look” and ends with “…and I say this out of love for you as a person”.
Oh god. I read between the lines.
“You cannot expect a person, especially a good friend, to know how you’re feeling” Isn’t that what my dad just said? :(Good grief, if he and my family says it- I have a problem.
“Oh hey! There you are! We’ve been trying to find you!” Mr. Photography dude says from behind me.
I look back and quickly read some more. “You call yourself a princess, and frankly, you’re acting like one”.
Oh my god. I feel like all the air got sucked out of me. I hear a giant crowd in the meeting room, but I am outside- ready to fall. My chest is tight, my heart is beating fast, I feel suffocated. Everything is spinning. I sit on a chair. And take fast deep breaths.
Mr. Photography dude comes to me, “Shaz! What?! What is it?!?” He looks at my phone, “What? Did he say something? Don’t look at that now!”
I continue breathing fast. “There’s no way I can give this presentation. I feel sick.”
“Mariam, sit with Shaz. I’ll be right back” Mr. Photography dude says. Mariam, President of our partnering organization and good friend of mine sits next to me. She knows I have anxiety and probably thought I was just nervous about the speech I was going to give. She rubs my shoulders and hugs me.
Mr. Photography dude comes back with water and fruits. “Go stall Harris” he tells Mariam. “Eat” he says to me.
I take a few bites. “I can’t do this. I forgot everything I’m going to say” I say holding back tears (because I know my mascara will run- and hell, that would not be a good look).
“Just improv. Speak from your heart” he says.
Harris comes out, “Shoownak?! (what’s up?) Everybody’s waiting for you!” he says to me.
I shake my head. “I can’t. You give the speech.”
“Le (no). This is your initiative, they want you to talk about it. You’re the princess!” he says smiling.
My heart stops beating and I stand up.
“Don’t you ever call me that again” I say heading towards the meeting room.
I quickly text player saying he’s right and that I’m sorry.
“Shaz, wait, you don’t have to-” I hear Mr. Photography dude yelling behind me. “What’s gotten into her?” I hear Harris asking them.
But I’m already inside the meeting room. Everyone’s eyes are on me.
Breathe Shaz. Smile Shaz. Breathe Shaz. Smile Shaz. I keep telling myself as I walk up to the front.
Oh but I’m just a pathetic Princess…I think to myself as I slowly reach the podium. I quickly shake it off.
I stare at the crowd in front of me. Will they think I’m a “princess” as “Prince Player” calls me? The comment hurts so bad.
“I am a good person and I’m not gonna let you or anyone else take that away from me again.”
That was also something “Prince Player” said in the text. Hell, I feel the same exact way towards him. But what have I ever taken from him? I have stood by him as everyone we knew told me bad things about him. As he manipulated me. As he played me (he can say he didn’t all he wants to). I gave him my loyalty and trust. And I’m a princess for that?? If he thinks I act like a princess, I might as well act like a smart one.
Harris and “Mr. Photography dude” have piled in. I forgot everything I’m supposed to say, but I was told to say it “from the heart”. It’s show time.
“Marhaban (welcome/hello). I want to start by saying how privileged I am to have been asked to collaborate with you all. To be a teacher, is not an easy job. And when you teach a subject like Arabic or you teach Arab students, it is even harder. Growing up, I thought no one understands what it’s like to be Arab in America. I was tan, had very strict rules from my parents, and had a beautiful name that sadly no one can pronounce” *laughter from the audience* I continue.
“I know you guys are laughing because, you know in our language that my name means Princess. But nobody else knows that. And the worst part of it was, growing up- I was never treated like one. Life was no fairytale. I became aware of my identity very quickly. My family just immigrated from Oman, before that my parents had lived in India. My dad was the first one to come to the U.S and he literally came here with just the clothes he was wearing and a suitcase with $200. That was all. We didn’t have anything. And the most hardest was probably the fact we didn’t know English. We had to learn. I was so sick when I was a child, I often had to be rushed to the hospital but my dad was always working and my mom didn’t know how to drive. She would have someone call a taxi for her. When it came down to lunchtime, my mom had no idea what to pack us. Because god forbid if I show up to school with pita bread and hummus-” *more laughter* I continue.
“The kids would probably laugh at me. All I wanted was to have a PB&J sandwich like little Ashley sitting next to me! As I grew older, the hardest part was learning how to deal with heartache. No love is permitted before marriage in our culture so who was I supposed to talk to when my heart got broken over and over again? And worse- when my parents didn’t love each other as much as they once did anymore, how was I supposed to explain my “Daddy issues” to our community?” I pause as my eyes well up. I look at the audience. A few teachers are wiping their eyes. I continue.
“My friends will all be drinking and partying this weekend. But not me. And I’m okay with that. Because of teachers like you. Teachers that make us feel safe, smart, and not like an outsider. Teachers that teach students about our language, culture, and history. Teachers that teach us that we can overcome any obstacle. Teachers that inspire us daily. My parents and my teachers raised me to love everyone, smother people I don’t like with nothing but kindness, and most importantly- to never give up on education. I agreed to this initiative because I am passionate about education, I want to teach like all of you when I grow up. I can’t wait to see all of your students perform at our event, thank you for everything all of you do. If you have any questions, Harris will stick around” I conclude.
Harris gives me the death stare. Oh well. But every teacher is beaming with applause. I smile politely and quickly get out of the room.
I wipe my eyes as I continue reading “Prince Player’s” text.
“Damn! I don’t know what “Prince Player” said but if it makes you give a speech like that- I’m good with that!” Mr. Photography dude says.
“Do you think I act like a princess?” I ask Mr. Photography dude trying not to let the tears in my eyes fall down my face.
“Uh hello! Did you not just hear your own speech? No you don’t!” he says.
“Be honest. You’re my best friend” I say. He shakes his head.
But I am too focused on “Prince Player’s” texts. Hell if I’ve been acting like a princess, I want to change that. That’s not what I want to be known as…whether my name means it or not. I really don’t want to respond, as I had decided a few days ago that I will never talk to him again, but seeing that he is saying I can’t expect him to know how I feel- I must. I tell Mr. Photography dude I gotta get to volunteering so he can swing by if later if he has anything to share with me about the meeting.
I take “Prince Player’s” message piece by piece. He says he won’t apologize for what he said, but he’ll apologize for how I feel. My eyes water. I remember what my mom said a few weeks ago, “I’m sorry that you are feeling like this”. He’s not the only one that feels that way.
And then he says the princess comment.
And then he tells me that I can be upset but I can NOT (yes with a capital n-o-t) blame him or say that he played me.
And then the good person comment.
And so I tell player. I first tell player that I definitely did not mean to call player a “player”. I don’t remember the last time I called him a “player”. Unless it is on this blog because that is his code name… But either way, I respect him too much to call him that and mean it.
And then I tell player that he doesn’t have to apologize. And that he most definitely does not have to say I’m acting like a princess (I will need an explanation on this from him).
And that I do tell him how I feel, and I would tell him more, but I don’t because he won’t understand and it won’t make a difference.
And finally, I tell player that yea he is right- I actually do keep a lot of feelings to myself as he (and my dad) pointed out. And that I will work on it.
After all was said, I pressed “send” and I went to volunteer. I was so happy to see my kids and they were even more excited to see me. For once this week, I was able to spend two hours without my mind being clogged about thought of “Prince Player” and other girls.
When I sit in the classroom, I remember what the teacher told me when a student told her I have “two boyfriends” :0 “Do the guys know?” she asked me. “I mean yea, they’re the ones that started it. Neither want a relationship and that’s fine” I remember saying. And so she responded, “But why would you do that to yourself? Don’t you think you deserve way better than that?”
I come back into present time. Yea, I think I do. And I quickly remember that I broke the two rules I left for myself on Sunday, “don’t text player even if he texts you” and “don’t apologize”.
Oy ve. I did both.
Mr. Photography dude swings by after I’m done volunteering to give me evaluations of what the teachers said about me.
“When have I ever said ‘Prince Player’ played me?” I ask him. “Besides freshmen year when I was stupid of course….”
“Hmmmm. Oh um. You may have said it in your post last night” he says. My jaw drops. Of course. “Prince Player” must have read it.
“Holy shit I didn’t say it! I was quoting what our friends said, good grief!” I say.
“You see. Both of you get each others words mixed up. Tell him that…” he says.
When he leaves, I call Mariam to thank her for her kindness during the day. Somehow we get into the conversation of how I keep a lot to myself and people don’t like me for it.
“Who said that Shaz?” she asks.
“On no one. Just people” I say.
“Well why don’t they like you for it? Do you just hold it all in and eventually blow up?” she asks. Holy crap. Yes, that’s exactly what I do! I tell her.
“Ohhh I see. But you know Shaz, I don’t think that’s a problem like that. My little sister is 17 and she keeps to herself too. But damn when she talks she is so smart and amazing in every way. And yea, when she keeps things inside too much- she blows up eventually. Everyone has a problem with her being like that. But you know what, I just learned how to deal with that. And I love her”.
Suddenly. I felt like a huge dark cloud passed. Mariam was right, we can’t change anybody…but we can certainly change the way we react to their behaviors.
But what if we don’t agree with their behavior? As I talk with Mariam, I get a response from “Prince Player”. He apologizes and says he just had a bad day and wanted to take it out on someone. Christ why did it have to be me 😦 And that he was just so tired of the many women who have “burned” him in the past. Yikes. And finally that he didn’t 100% mean everything he said. Grammar is everything. Does he mean he didn’t mean anything he said or that he didn’t fully mean everything he said? Mr. Photography dude reminds me again that this all a sign I need to communicate better with him. Meanwhile, all I can hope was the ‘princess’ comment wasn’t included in the list of things he meant to say… As I read further, it says he just didn’t want me to be sad and he said he thought everything was mutual. Well, I got confused. I thought everything shifted over winter break </3 I wish he told me upfront like he’s done before.
“If he told you upfront, you would have started crying and you two wouldn’t have spent all that nice together. Telling you after was smart” Mr. Photography dude says. Oh. Well this is true. And so I tell “Prince Player” not to worry about me being sad. I get sad and then I get over it. Maybe not this week. Maybe not by next month. But sometime soon.
After this long, stressful day. I help my mom with an essay. My mom has gone back to college! She told me a few weeks ago that she wants to get a college degree and so I helped her look for a few and we found some close to home 🙂 And so tonight, even as my eyes were closing- I helped her with her essay because I am so proud of her.
I wish “Prince Player” could see that I’m a good person too. That there is a part of me he doesn’t see often because I am so focused on the hurt. The good me. The real me.