Tuesday, May 17, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 31 "I Spy"


Asalamu Alaykom,





I almost forgot this very strange episode maybe because I would like to forget it.  However, any accurate account of my hijrah needs to include it.

Go back. 

Go back to the week I was getting married.  I had been sick.  Mr. Boo had been sick.  After shots and rest we were both well enough for me to push on ahead.   This was going to be the last attempt Ahmed and I made to climb up that mountain of paperwork in Cairo (being careful of course of the treacherous red tape).  I had some amount of hope still that it would all work out (which we all know that it did).

But right before our final attempt we were a little tense with fear of the unknown.  And what we didn't need to add to the tension was a call from America.  BAD TIMING!  It's X2, a.k.a AbuBoo.  As we were planning our new life, his call reminds us of the old.  I can't get mad because I actually asked him to help me with something for our son.  I had asked him weeks and weeks ago but he's only now able to help me out.  He tells me that this week his brother can come down and register our son in order to get his Egyptian birth certificate.

I would have loved to say, "No, sorry!  I'm supposed to get married this week so I can't!"  I couldn't say that.  Open honesty wasn't going to win me any awards in this moment.

Plus, that birth certificate was something the school needed in order to help process my work permit paperwork.  As the mom of an Egyptian, I could stay in Egypt as long as I was his guardian here.  I knew that my marriage would also secure that right to stay but I was more comfortable in securing my own future. 

I could not register my boy myself.  I had to have a male member of AbuBoo's family do it for me.  The older brother would be the family reprensentative.  He would meet us at the office.  I had to do it in the next few days as there would not be another chance for months.  I couldn't guarantee if the brother would be available another time.

I said "yes" and I prepared myself for a day I didn't want.  It would be during the honeymoon I wished for.  No, we weren't going out of town.  I simply wanted to chill at home and enjoy time together which we'd never had before.  This marriage wasn't going to be like any previous relationship.  This marriage was truly between two people who had been forced to keep their distance.  I knew I'd be going into Cairo to marry and then two days later going again.

I couldn't go alone to this government office.  Even if I had not married Ahmed those days before, he would never have allowed my boy and I to brave the city alone.  He was with us on the bus.  Imagine:  the new bride and groom with their boy going to see the uncle (from the previous marriage).  It was super awkward. 

Somebody should draw a comic book hero named, "Super Awkward."

So, we're a block away from the government office and that's where we have to part.  It wasn't smart to let on to Mr. Boo's uncle that I'd just gotten married.  I went to the front of the building and waited.

That's when the big bear of a brother showed up.  Really, I have nothing against the man.  He never did me any wrong.  Never.  He tried his best (all those years ago) to talk his younger brother out of divorcing me to marry his former wife.  Didn't work.  Can't blame him.

"We're mad at you," were some of the first words out of his mouth.

What?  HUH? 

"You said you would come for a visit and you didn't," he explained. 

I couldn't believe that this was the start of our time together.  It really upset me.  I traveled all those miles alone with their family's namesake and ...

"I didn't have to come see your family at all," I answered.  "I didn't even stay in Cairo for one day.  I came as soon as I could to see your mother and the family.  You can't blame me.  I've been busy working, finding a place to live, getting used to the country, the language, EVERYTHING and I've been sick---we've both been sick.  I wanted to come again but the H1N1 scared me."

He lightened up after that.  He handed the package which his brother's friend had brought over in his suitcase. No one sends anything to Egypt in the mail for fear of it being stolen.  Inside were a couple of books and toys from my mom, a package of Sambucol medicine, my updated driver's license, and the most necessary item:  AbuBoo's Egyptian I.D.

As a man, you can't do anything in Egypt without it.  You can't enter a secure building without leaving it with the guards.  You can't walk in the street for fear of being stopped and not having it (as you could go to jail).  And if you are married, you carry both the I.D. and your marriage certificate to prove that the woman next to you is truly yours.

So I stare at the photo.  It's the man I used to love dearer than God, astragferallah.  I take my camera and take a photo of the front and back.  I do this not because I need to remember his face.  I take it in case I need to persue any legal action to protect my son's rights.  It's come to this.  The man I once loved so much is now the man I don't trust for much.

I had to ask the brother about the past.  It was strange, you know?  We were these people who had spent years within the same family but we never had spoken face-to-face before.  There had always been a lot of family surrounding us and of course a lack of language between us.  Sitting there outside on the bench together we talked for really the first time.

It was as it always is with everyone I talk to:  No one wanted AbuBoo to marry her in the first place.  No one supported their marriage.  Everyone was relieved when they divorced.  Everyone was happy when we married.  No one could believe that we divorced.  Always the same story.  In the end, it doesn't help me one bit.

We went about our business and I almost had to laugh.  The mannerisms of the uncle were the same as his brother.  There was all that quick rushing around, forgetting where you put something, back tracking and laughing it off.  We filled out the forms together then we went from office to office to get the work processed.  I had to trust what he was doing and it occured to me that he could really be screwing me over. 

At one point, I didn't know where my passport was.  The uncle acted like it was no big deal---one of the counter workers had it (though he couldn't remember which).  I nearly clubbed him over the head with my handbag.  Was he insane?  My American passport was no where in sight?!  When I tried to explain how important it was to me, he asked me, "Why are you so nervous?"

Yes, that very much reminded me of AbuBoo.  If I was upset about something that was important to me, then I needed to chill.  It was not that the man needed to find some sympathy for me---oh, no!  Eventually, he asked the right person for the passport and it was handed back to me. 

We waited together while it was processed and I wondered what people thought of us.  Who were we in the eyes of others?  Were we this happy family?  Were they thinking I was married to this gentle giant?  If anyone really knew how I had my new husband waiting for me outside, they would be surprised.

At the end of the process, I had given birth to a healthy 17 kilo, five-year-old Egyptian boy.  I had his birth certificate to prove it.  He now had dual citizenship.  Alhumdulillah.

A lot of people wonder what that means for military service here in Egypt.  As a dual citizen, he does not have to serve in the army.  Alhumdulillah!  Really, I am not interested in having any of my kids experience the military.

We could have parted afterward but instead I was asked for lunch.  I agreed because I was so hungry.  We went into the Felfela and enjoyed some delcious food.  It was terribly expensive but I wasn't paying.  I ate chicken and rice which really hit the spot.  I took some pictures.  We made a call to his town to say "hi' and then it was time to go.

When I left, the thought occured to me that I wasn't sure how to link up with Ahmed again.  I walked away from the restaurant into a crowd of people and my phone rang.  It was my new hub.  He and I met up and boarded a bus. 

He had not eaten.  He was crabby.  The whole time we had been apart, he had been watching us.  Creepy!  But I understood his reasoning.  Really?  He watched the whole time?  I listened to his spying account.  Yes, he did. 

Though Ahmed had loved me from afar, he was distant with me in the same bus row.  I put my head on the window and tried to sleep.  I was exhausted.  I was still recovering.  I was in shock a bit from both being newly married and from revisiting the past.  I felt sick.  I did everything I could to keep that chicken and rice to stay down.

We reached home.  We didn't talk.  We were tired.  Alhumdulillah, we would have other days.


Chapter 32

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