Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Baba Shrimp

A Fiction

He always called the man Baba. It wasn't quite right. The man wasn't his father, but he was at least Arab. He was the second Arab man with whom the little boy had lived, and the two had been together for just over a year; a tough year.

What would make a single man accept a single mother?


It had been love. Love at first sight. Love like an addiction. Love like a tidal wave that is both awesome and terrifying and totally, totally unavoidable.

"Baba not Bubba Shrimp," the little boy spoke out of nowhere, like kids do. The randomness shocked his mother, who had tried not to think of the man who had divorced her.

"Tell Baba. He not Bubba Shrimp," he continued on in a serious tone.

The problem had started when the winsome twosome had been out for a day of fun alone. It was supposed to be a day with Baba, but she had canceled it at the last moment.

"There's nothing good that's going to come out of this. Really! You can't commit to trying again and I can't just be your Islamic girlfriend."

"Habibti, you know that isn't who you are for me," he pleaded over the phone. That phone had been hearing more conversations between the two without ever hearing a resolution.

So, the mother and son navigated the amusement park crowds alone that day. It was then that they passed by the restaurant with Bubba Shrimp.

The funny cartoon of a shrimp wearing a hat had to be explained, but obviously it was not a satisfactory explanation.

When the heavy rains came, no one shielded them. When it was time to eat, no one stood in line for them. They stood waiting behind a large man wearing a rain poncho emblazoned on the back with the smiling shrimp. When the day grew tiring, mother carried sleeping son like trudging through an endurance test.

Though a ridiculous comparison, she felt sudden empathy for those fleeing war zones, with the seemingly endless challenge of continuing onward no matter what. Yet, she had paid money to enter and now would gladly pay money to leave quickly. And they did leave. Bought a T-shirt and left.

The next day was going to be a bit of closure with Baba stopping by in the morning to pick up the TV he had loaned.

"What a jerk! He wants his TV back?" asked her friend.

"No, I want it gone. We aren't watching it and I want as much gone as I can before we leave in a month."

They were headed out of the country; out of his city, and out of his life.

The TV exchange hadn't gone well. There was a hug at the door, which wasn't asked for. The boy hadn't seen that one, as he had still been in bed. After the TV was brought down two flights of stairs, Baba had come back to say goodbye.

He had taken his former wife's face in his hands.

"You look like an angel," he spoke plainly. He wasn't actually a sweet talker. He had never mastered women, the way some men do.

Her hair was covered in modesty and she wasn't asking for the touch. She wasn't. He didn't mean to, but he did.

"Please don't," she said quietly in the hallway. She didn't want others seeing them, that's true, but most of all she didn't want Allah's displeasure.

The kisses landed on her cheeks and her forehead, but not her lips. To kiss her lips and to have her kiss back would mean that the iddah was broken and the divorce revoked.

The little boy broke the moment with his feet loudly plodding across the apartment.

"Hey, Penquenito!" Said Baba, who then scooped up the boy, wearing his new shirt from the day before. Baba read the shirt.

"High in the Sky Trolley," Baba read.

Did it say that? For real? She wondered how she had missed those words. "High in the sky," was the game Baba always played with her son. His amazingly strong arms would lift the toddler up into the air and they would laugh together.


She had hated her ex in that moment. How could he? How could he keep loving them yet not bring them back to his home? He had the house. She had moved out. He had done the divorce on her over small nothings and now everyone was injured from that uttering.

They still loved each other but they could not be together.

He left that day. She called him later to tell him off: He didn't respect hejab. He didn't respect her. He needed to apologize.

"For what? For loving you?" he questioned.

Yes, yes, yes. He loved her. He loved her to the best of his abilities, but he wasn't able to love her well. He was too hard-headed. He wasn't able to apologize.

They went for for days without talking.

Then, came, "Baba is not Bubba Shrimp." That was a fact. It was an important fact and it had to be told to Baba.

Mother made the call, then handed the phone to her son. The boy rambled on about the shrimp and then handed the phone back to his mom. She had to explain. The man laughed. She always made him laugh.

"I dreamt about you," came her ex's voice. "I dreamt that you were leaving and I was helping you move out all your boxes. They wouldn't all fit into your trunk."

He didn't know they were set to leave at the end of the month. She was planning it to be a secret escape. She thought to tell him right then, but decided to try one more time to speak to his heart.

"You know what won't fit? The boxes filled with hurt and misunderstanding. Can't you see that?"

It was a metaphor, sure, but they often spoke this way to each other.

"Wallahi, I'm sorry for any hurt," he offered. It was the most sincere she'd heard him.

"What about when you talked about divorce every weekend?"

"I was wrong." That was the first time he had said that.

"How do you think I felt?" she needed to know.

"Bad." was the too quick answer.

"Tell me more," since she wasn't going to accept that.

"I don't know. You tell me," he really did want to know.

"I felt scared. That's how it felt after I moved everything in my life to be with you. I lost my trust in you. Even now, I would love to trust you again. If only you could appologize for what you did."

"I don't want to stay in the past," he abruptly stated.

"But, those boxes are still sitting there! We can't move them out until we know what is in them! They are ruining any chance for us moving on!" She was desperate to be understood.

"No, no," he dismissed. "I don't want to go through any pain and drama any more. I only want to be happy in the present."

"Shut-up! Shut-up! Just stop doing this! You don't understand! You are losing me! You are losing any chance at being with me! If you really love me; if you really want us to be together, you have to stop denying our problems! Please! Please! Just..."


The conversation ended just like that.

"Then I wish you all the best," she ended it.

"I wish you all the best too," he ended it.

That afternoon, she was out with her son, who didn't know why mom was so sad, when they passed by a display of local attractions.

"Baba Shrimp!" he shouted and pointed to the brochure rack.

It made her laugh. The sadness lifted and she could see the funny shrimp. She called. He didn't answer. Her sadess started to fall down again. It truly was the end.

They grabbed the ad for Bubba Shrimp and walked back to the car.

While driving, she called him again. He didn't answer again.

"Alhumdulillah." She wouldn't drift into depression. She would thank Allah for the plan.

From the backseat she heard, "Give this to Baba!"

Her little guy wasn't going to understand. She could barely understand, so how could he?

He grew louder and more impatient,"MAAAAAMAAAA! GIVE THIS TO BABA!"

The turn-off to his complex was at the next lights. The car knew the way and headed into the turn lane without much thought. She knew now where she was headed, but didn't know exactly for what. There she was with a screaming, demanding boy and one way to cure it.

With the motor running, she walked up the pathway to the door. She wasn't going to knock, she simply bent down and slipped the brochure of Bubba Shrimp under the door. Then, she left, with her son in tow.

On the way home now, from the home they once shared, life began again. It had to. There was no other choice. Not every love continues. She had learned that with the boy's father, and she was learning it for the second time.

The phone rang. It was him.

"Asalamalaykom, Habibti. I was heading out the door and I saw the most amazing coincidence. Do you know what advertisement was delievered today?"

Should she tell him? This wasn't fate.

"It was me. I put it there."

"You put it there?" He sounded incredulous.

"Ya," she knew how silly it was.

He laughed. "Why didn't you knock?"

"I called twice and you didn't answer," she wondered.

"I was in the shower. What do you think? That I was ignoring you?"

"Well..." she didn't really want to bring it up, "this morning..."

"Ah, forget about it. Listen, we need to work on being together."

She countered,"I know you've been saying, 'no,' but would you agree to counseling now?"

"Yes, Habibti, for you: anything. I need to see you. Where are you?"

"I'm coming back to you."

The greeting at the door was public. The door shut and the kiss was private. The feeling wasn't of passion. Maybe passion had ignited their attraction in the beginning, but this was deeper than that. It was a realization that the iddah was over and that life is full of new beginnings.


Lady Nomadica said...

A lovely story of true love and dedication. Seems like that child "knew" more about love and life than they both did together. I wish Bubba and Mumma and boy shrimp the best.

Anonymous said...

Hello Yosra,

I hope you don't consider my entering your garden - which is so of awesome ;) - an intrusion. Please know that I do so only with the best intentions and the highest regard.

It's been a real treat for me to find out what I'd read from you elsewhere was just the tip of a profound, brave, and fascinating iceberg. Your writing is quite wonderful, and the thoughts and feelings you express equally interesting.

I just want to say that given what I've read in your older entries and comments here, I do worry that you might not fully realize that you could get much more traffic than you want - or of a kind you'd prefer to avoid - if the existence of your blog becomes more widely known (though I have no intention of telling anyone of it). I believe (even if you do not) that you can handle whatever comes your way, but wanted to alert you, since I get the impression some of your blossoms here are a little fragile. I'd hate to see them damaged in any way by the thoughtless trespassing of others, even if it's well-meaning.

Yosra said...

Asalamalaykom Lady N.,

I wish the best for you and everyone.

Sometimes...like now...I wonder where the truth lies (funny, how, "truth lies," sits in juxtaposition like that). Sigh...this is a fictional account. Of course, there's some elements from reality, but my reality isn't exactly this. This story is too neatly finished, while my own reality is not. Subhanallah! There's a play called, "On Tidy Endings," and I think we all wish for this exactly.

Asalamlaykom Awesome One,

Thank you for coming by. I think I kind of invited you, didn't I?

I know what you mean.

I used to have a blog...a slightly infamous blog...thousands of hits a month, in which I was exposing my very core and the soul of a disolving marriage. I was very fragile at times. The readers were kind...mostly kind, as nothing is every 100%.

After the storm calmed down, I needed a break from being that open. I'm not going to be that exposed here. I can't be. I'm not even going to be truthful sometimes; such in this story (is it a fictionalized account afterall).

I think I'm rather destined for wider exposure on my life. In many ways, I'm courting this. I believe that my life serves as a good example of the power of God at work in the life of a believer.

You write very softly and sweetly to me and I appreciate your gentle way with me. I will strive to remember that tone as I write.

Feel free to come back. You are welcome here.