I fell in love many years ago with the man of my dreams. My handsome prince, my knight in shining armor, my true love. He will have brown hair that shines in the light. His eyes will be hazel, almost green in the sunlight. His eyes will never lie to me; they will tell me what he’s feeling and what he’s been through just moments before. He will be tall enough so that I can wear heels, but short enough that I won’t ever have to stand on my tippy toes. He will be strong enough to lift me off my feet but not strong enough to crush me within his arms. He will have a beautiful smile. When he smiles, I’ll be able to see his one crooked tooth to the right of his mouth. He will play soccer like any Egyptian-rough and competitive. He will miss more than he’ll score. He won’t be perfect. He will battle the world for me. He will be studying for his Masters while helping his father at work. I will meet him there, and 50 years after we’re married we’ll go back and remember that this, this is where we first met. He will be romantic. He’ll remember my birthday, our anniversaries, and all our first times. He will bring me purple tulips and Lindor chocolate because he knows they are my favorite. He will be sensitive, forgiving and passionate. He will be religious and kind. He will always believe in love. He will sit through chick flicks with me and I’ll be laughing as I watch him trying not to drown in his sorrow. He will be funny; he’ll make me laugh so hard I’ll start to cry. He will be smart and creative; an engineer and a writer. He will be like me and not like me. He will be the first to send me a love letter. He will be my first everything. He will hold my hand always. We will travel and see the world. Then, time will stop and he will lean in, and whisper the words every girl waits her whole life to hear. The three magic words: “I love you.” Then I will wake up and it will be all a dream.
A dream that leaves a smile on my face even when I wake up to a rainy day like today. Every night it’s the same dream, and every morning it’s the same rain. The 28th of April, the day where all hell comes to an end, the day of my last final exam. After today I’ll finish my second year of engineering and enjoy four months of summer vacation. Well, only weekends because I’m working as an intern in a company but what the heck, it’s summer vacation all the same. It’s 7 o’clock now, two more hours till the exam, so down to breakfast I go. By the way, the name is Reem, Reem Nour El-Deen.
I am studying engineering, I am 19 years old, turning 20 in September and I go to Mac. Oh yeah a macmillon, the best kids in town. I know it’s cheesy but it’s something my friends and I do for fun. I live with my family, two parents, and two sisters. You may think it’s un-cool, but when you get into university you will wish you had my life where someone cooks, cleans, and takes care of you.
Getting ready in the morning has been always one of life’s greatest challenges in my house. It requires picking out the top, then finding my jeans that I could have sworn I just saw five minutes ago. Then, hunting down my sister for the hijab (headscarf) she borrowed from me last night, etc, etc, etc...
**The hijab is a headscarf that Muslim Girls are asked to wear by their God--Allah. We wear it to obey our God, we wear it to show modesty in our attire and actions, we wear it to preserve dignity and self esteem, and we wear it to make a statement. It’s always been a choice for me, for my sisters, and for all hijabies. **
I tell you, it’s the battle of the hijabies every single morning. Today, it takes me 25 minutes to get ready--that’s a personal best. I look in the mirror one last time.
I was very average looking. The definition of Egyptian with my light olive skin tone, my thick eyebrows and wide brown eyes. I had inherited my mother’s petite nose and her small mouth. I had taken after my father in height so I was taller than my sisters. My body was not fat but I had curves that could be way too noticeable if my clothes weren’t modest. But out of all my features, my hair was my favourite. It was waist-length and pitch black. It was natural wavy and thick thanks to endless nights of oiling it. I was proud of it and I loved it because I had gotten this particular feature from my maternal grandmother. I remember those long nights where she would tell me stories while braiding it. She loved long hair and made me swear never to cut it. And since then I haven’t, except for the usual trims. I miss her constantly and I pray Allah grants her paradise.
I fix my hijab, apply some lip balm and then I go downstairs to have breakfast with my family. Baba just placed down the plate when Mama turns me around and tells me that I am not going anywhere until I do the dishes today.
“But Mama, I have my exam today I can’t be late,”
“Your exam is in 2 hours, you have plenty of time.”
Of course, the one time she remembers the time of my exam is when it’s my turn to do the dishes.
“But Mama...” I start to say but Baba gives me the look as my sisters come down to join us.
I groan, “Fine, but after breakfast.”
Baba—Jalal Nour El-Deen was tall and according to all our friends he was very handsome. I agreed to disagree, it was weird for me to think of my Baba as handsome but I would say he was professional. Baba like me was the very definition of Egyptian with his big nose, black hair that was now striped with gray, and the olive skin tone. His eyes were small for the average Egyptian and his lips were well-shaped and his jaw was now covered with a light beard of both gray and black hair. You could see the faint lines around his eyes when he smiled and the years taking a toll on him when he worries.
Mama—Fareeda Ali on the other hand was pale for an Egyptian, she was fairly white and her hair was a medium brown. She kept it short and in a bob. She had a small nose and her lips were plump and full. She was short compared to my father but together they made the perfect couple.
My two sisters: Yasmeen and Yara were the best and worst part of my life. Yasmeen was the eldest and she was a graduate of McMaster after having completed life sciences. She is now working on her masters while studying the history of Islam on the side. She is three years older than me in age but in my mind I’m older. People normally assume that I’m the older at first because of how I present myself compared to her. It’s weird but I have gotten used to it. She looks mostly like me except for her nose, lips, and hair. She takes after my father’s side of the family in all three aspects. She has their long nose, well-shaped lips and curly short hair. I think she looks cute with curly hair but she wouldn’t go a day without straightening it.
Next is Yara, she is two years younger than me and except for our hair we look nothing alike. She has light brown eyes that turn caramel in the sun. Her eyes were wide and she always kept them lined with kohl. She had a straight nose and her lips were unusually plump and the colour of pink lipstick. She was curvy in all the right places which was a constant problem for her because clothes were always too tight. Her skin was a medium olive skin that left her without any trace of acne or pimples. I envied her beauty at times but then I would remember how Allah made each of us special and I would thank Him for being healthy and alive.
As they came down I noticed Yara was already dressed for school while Yasmeen was still in her pj’s. I guess she is not going to university to work on her masters today. We all gather around the table and take our usual seats. It’s a tradition that we have our meals together, even when everyone is really busy. It makes my mom feel that the family is close, united, and happy. I try to eat slowly to waste some time before I had to do the dishes, but Baba catches me with one of his snide Egyptian call outs.
“Fine. I’m going, I’m going.”
It’s true that dishes don’t take long, and actually out of all the chores I enjoy them second best after cleaning the bathroom but still, a chore is a chore. I know it’s weird to like cleaning the bathroom but something about seeing everything sparkling makes me satisfied. Especially after I see my mother’s smile, and watch her as she makes duaa (prayer chants) for me. It’s at that moment that I would be willing to do any chore just to see her happy. I love both of my parents but sometimes, just sometimes I favour Baba a little bit more. He knows I do but I don’t show my favouritism that often. Instead I’m on Mama’s side in any argument. But don’t tell her that little piece of information because she means the world to me, and I hate seeing her upset. Anyway, even though dishes don’t take long I was just feeling lazy today so it took me twice as long. After finishing the dishes and helping my mom I still had an hour left so I decide to pray a little bit. I am religious, I have strong political views and I am 100% Egyptian. Meaning that I have too much pride and I’m strong willed.
With only half an hour left on the clock, my friend Jena sends me a text to tell me that she’s 5 minutes away. I grab a sweater and wait outside. The weather was still gloomy and the sky was still grey after hours of crying, but I felt good and nervous. Right on time, Jena rolls into our driveway and I hop right in. I got my driver’s license a year ago; I know what you are going to say ‘wait you were 18 when you got your driver’s license, you’re joking right?’ But no, it’s true, I just took the full G test last winter. I am a late bloomer. What other teens find exciting, I find unnecessary. But my dad couldn’t it take it anymore--always having to drive me around--So he paid the full price of my everlasting driving lessons until I was confident that I wouldn’t just pass the test, I would ace it. As Jena drives away I start to think about the final and everything that is going to be on it.
“Hey, what are you thinking about?” Jena asks, interrupting my train of thoughts.
“Nothing, just trying to recall all the thermo laws.” I reply as my leg starts to shake out of nerves.
Jena notices my shaking and she groans, “Oh my god Reem, you are going to ace the exam. Don’t sweat it.”
“I feel like I forgot everything that I studied.”
“You say that all the time and then, bibbidy bobbidy boo you get 100%.”
“Hey don’t jinx me like that, say MashAllah (A term used by Muslims to acknowledge something amazing and protect it from the evil eye by remembering Allah) please and thank you.”
“Ok MashAllah, and besides the Prof loves you. Wasn’t he the one who recommended you for the internship?”
“Yeah he did, he’s really amazing. I hope I get him for next year’s course too. He is just the kind of person you would want to have every year.”
“Honey you are the only one who thinks so. Everyone else couldn’t wait for all of it to be over, myself included. It’s just your ‘teacher pet mechanism’ that makes you like him so much.”
“You did not just say ‘teacher pet mechanism’ and you call me the nerd, yeah right.”
“Hey, it takes one to know one Ms. Teacher’s pet, or should I say Professor’s pet.”
Jena and I became friends last year after completing our first lab together. That lab was a disaster; but from its exploded little pieces of glass emerged a beautiful friendship. We have been friends ever since that moment, cheesy but I couldn’t ask for a better friend. She was shorter than me by an inch or so. She was thin and had a petite figure that contrasted her loud and big personality. She was light skinned and had freckles which was weird for an Egyptian but made sense when it linked back to her grandparents heritage (her grandmother was white but she converted later on). She has a flat, short nose, and pouty lips. I can tell her everything and know she will understand. We have had our dramas, but those are the moments that make us laugh every now and then. Jena is the kind of friend you meet but feel like you’ve known your whole entire life. Although we are so different we still have so many similarities. I can’t keep anything from her even though I’ve only known her for two years now. She just knows when I’, trying to be secretive. It’s creepy and weird!
She parks her car in front of our engineering building.
“Here we are, let’s go finish that exam and then meet the others. Where are we supposed to meet them anyway?”
“They said they will meet us at Tim Horton’s and then we’ll drive downtown and catch a movie at Jackson’s cinema.”
“Are all three of them coming? Did they really finish their exams that early?”
“Yes Amira, Marwa and Sara are all coming. They were done Tuesday; they said they would be here no matter what.”
“When did they get back?”
“Marwa says they rode the bus Tuesday afternoon back here. She is really excited to see us, according to her texts and emoticons.”
Sara, Marwa and Amira are my friends from high school, we go way back. They go to Western University in London so I haven’t seen them in a while.
“How were their exams?” Jena asks as we walk in. “Sara and Amira insist you don’t pop that question.” I reply back.
“That bad huh.”
“Pretty much,” I reply.
We both turn to look around; more than three quarters of the seats have been filled so there isn’t really room for options.
“Where do you want to sit?” I ask.
“I’ll take the left, you take the right.” She replies back.
Jena and I have a system. We sit on opposite sides of the lecture hall at all times to avoid distractions, and to cover ground for good connections and social updates. But during exam it’s mostly to avoid making the other one nervous. “Good luck,” we both say hoping that this exam is easy so that we can truly start a happy and fun summer. As I sit down, I stare ahead of me. I see the exam paper folded down and I swear I’m sure my heart is going to jump out of its cage. Tick tock, tick tock, the mouse ran up the clock.
“It is now 9 o’clock, you may start your exam now. I wish you all the best of luck. It’s been a pleasure teaching you this semester.” Professor Brown--our Thermodynamic professor--says.
And that does it; I flip the exam paper over, write my student number, my name and await my destiny as I flip the next page over. I start to look over the questions and thank Allah mentally. Alhamdulillah (Thank God), all the questions are from his lectures and the last few tutorials. Thank you Allah, this exam should be a breeze. I start answering and my hand moves at the speed of lightning.
“One hour left.” Professor Brown calls out.
Okay, one hour left, so 45 minutes left for answering questions and 15 for review. Think, write, punch in the calculator and Boom the answer. Over and over, think, calculate and write. Finally, last question. Oh damn it. I did not see that one coming. Out of all the questions, it had to be the one that I always got the wrong answer for. Oh God, please help me. C’mon Reem, remember Baba explained this question? He said to just follow the equation, then follow the units and see where they take you. C’mon, C’mon, there. DONE!
“10 minutes left.”
Ok, review, recalculate, ok, there we go. That’s good. That was okay. I have to fix this one. “The exam is now over, please put your pens down.” And Done, I AM DONE!!!! As of 12:00 PM on April 28 I HAVE OFFICIALLY COMPLETED MY SECOND YEAR OF ENGINEERING. WOOOHOOOO!!!!!!!!! Done, Done and Done.
“Please Exit quietly and allow the T.A.s to pick up your exam. Have a good summer.” Professor Brown calls out.
Buzz, Buzz, that’s probably the girls, which means I’ve got to get out of here. C’mon people, can’t you move a little faster.
“Excuse me, Excuse me.” Stomp. Great ,that’s all I needed.
I look up and oh my god, it had to be a good looking guy, and at this time. I have to leave.
“Sorry.” I try to leave.
“It’s ok, don’t worry about it. I just need a block of ice, maybe two.” Seriously, as if I have time to joke.
“Look, I’m really sorry but I have to leave.” I tell him as I try to rush but he just smirks.
“So you don’t even have a minute to check the damage you’ve created.” Oh my Allah I may have to push past him to leave.
Buzz, Buzz. And there goes my phone again.
I plaster a polite smile and say, “I have to go. Once again I’m sorry and just get some ice and you should be fine.”
This time I just brush past him and hurry on my way out. I don’t look back as I try to run to Jena before she comes and hunts me down. But luck wasn’t on my side because Professor Brown just had to stop me.
“How do you think you did Reem?”
“I think I did well sir. I just want to thank you for a really great semester; this course has become a favorite of mine.” I say in a rushed but polite manner.
“Well I am glad you liked it. I really did enjoy teaching you. Good luck on your internship this summer. When do you start?” Please Allah let me get out of here soon.
“Monday of next week sir. I am really nervous.”
Buzz, Buzzzz, Buzzzzzz.
Crap, that’s a call. Meaning Jena is going to leave without me if I don’t get the hell out of here.
“I am really sorry sir, but I have to go. Thank you once again and have a good summer.”
I nod at my head at the Prof since I don’t shake hands because of the fact that Muslims can’t touch people from the opposite gender. As I start to leave I notice the guy coming closer to talk to the professor,
“Goodbye Sir.” I tell him one last time.
I practically start running at that moment. I am at the door when I can’t help glancing back to see if he’s still there. I find him not just standing but looking directly at me, with a small smile and I think a slight chuckle as he recalls our previous encounter. I roll my eyes, open the door and I lead myself out of Second Year Engineering and to a great movie with my friends.
“Hey, what took you so long? The others have been waiting for 15 minutes.” Jena asks, impatiently I might add as I climb in beside her. She hates being late because of someone else.
“Professor Brown stopped me at the door and you won’t believe what happened before that.” I reply as I buckle my own seat belt.
“Tell me when we’re with the others, we have to hurry or we’ll be late for the movie.” Jena professionally pulls out of the parking space and heads for Tim Hortons (Timmies). Jena is an excellent driver. Although she is can be careless at times, when it comes to driving, she is the best driver I know.
“Please tell me that you told them to grab an Ice Capp for me.” I tell her.
“Done, they said you owe them double for the Ice Capp though.”
I shake her comment off, “Fine, let’s just get there and then we’ll handle money issues.”
As she turns a corner she glances at me before asking, “Why did Professor Brown stop you anyway?”
“He wanted to know how I did on the exam and to wish me luck on my summer intern.”
“Of course, his favourite student what else would he want to ask her? Did he also wish you a happy summer and tell you how much he enjoyed teaching you this semester.”
“That’s exactly it Miss Smarty Pants, I really should stop telling you everything you know.”
“Oh Darling, you say that so many times but we both know you can’t resist my charm.” Wait for it, Whoosh, Jena’s famous hijab flip.
“You’re right, whatever can I do?” I say as she pulls into Timmies’ parking lot.
Tim Horton’s practically owns me. I am there night and day for donuts, Ice Capps, French Vanillas, you name it. I have loved Timmies since I was a little girl from the first time I tasted their double chocolate donut in grade 4. But till this day I haven’t had a single drop of its coffee. One thing everyone should know about me is that I hate and despise coffee. It disgusts me, that’s all, no room for discussion.
“There they are.” Jena points out as we enter Timmies.
“HEY,” The three shout.
Like I mentioned before, I have been friends with Amira, Sara, and Marwa since high school. We shared everything, our moments, our food, our taste in movies, everything. I met Amira in grade 9, she was in my science class and I didn’t know anyone. She was braver than I ever was because even though we had never seen one another, she was the one who came up to my seat and asked if we could have lunch together the next day. I have admired her since that moment. Amira is very tall, and very thin which doesn’t explain the amount of junk food she eats. She has full lips and a cute button nose. Her eyes were wide and the colour of hazel. Her skin was a dark olive skin tone and she had shoulder-length dark brown hair that was straight and thick. She kept it covered with a hijab like Jena and I so I only saw it on special occasions, or whenever I would go to her house.
Then, the second semester hit in and Sara joined us. She was so outspoken, so different, so weird. She really brought our group to a whole new level. She was also a pain in the back sometimes. She totally ruined our reputation as good, pure intelligent beings. She’s really something. She had beautiful blue eyes that changed colours so that they were sometimes green, sometimes grey, and on special days it was different tints of blue. She was tall like Amira but her body was a little curvier. Her hair was short and a light brown that she usually kept with blonde highlights. She was also a hijabi.
As for Marwa, well, she joined us in grade 10. Marwa is probably the closest to me in the whole group. She is the only person whom I have poured my heart out to. She is so tender, so sweet, so caring and kind. I have told her my worst nightmares, my greatest dreams, my past and present crushes. I have also managed to overwhelm her with my everlasting list of troubles. But she has never stopped listening and that is the best thing about her. Marwa is similar to me in height and body shape. Her skin was darker than mine and she had big dark-brown eyes. She had a long straight nose and thin lips. And her hair was thick, black and wavy. Like the rest of us, she was a hijabi.
The three are amazing friends, each being different and unique in her own kind of way. They are really something. I will be honest; there were many times where I was ready to leave them for some weird, dramatic stuff that I can’t remember. But I am really happy I didn’t, never left them I mean. Who knows what the outcome would have been. All I know is that it would have been disastrous.
“We have to get going, there is like 15 minutes left” Amira is the first to speak after we all share hugs and hellos.
“20 actually, but Amira’s right. We’re going to need time to grab food before the movie starts.” Marwa right on schedule is the second to speak.
“Then what are we waiting for?” And I am the one to finish off our one minute conversation before we head out to Jena’s car.
“By the way where is my Ice Cap?” I ask when I remember.
“I think I left it inside.” Of course, just like Sara to forget other people’s stuff. “I’ll be right back.”
“Hurry, we’ll wait in the car, Ok?”
“Yeah, I’ll meet you there.”
We all walk to the car and it reminds me of old times. Good times. We hop in- I sit in the front, next to Jena and the two girls climb in back and two seconds later Sara joins them.
“You’re welcome.” Sara says as she hops in the car with us holding my Ice Capp.
“Thanks.” I reply back.
“Sara please buckle your seat belt, you know how I feel about that stuff.” Jena tells Sara.
“Seriously Jena, you never change.”
“Like they say ‘Old habits die hard.’” Jena replies back.
We drive in silence for about a minute when Marwa breaks the silence.
“How was your exam?” She asks Jena and I.
“It was awful, I hated that last question.” Jena answers.
“I actually found it pretty good, all the questions were stuff we had seen before but just slightly altered. But I agree that last question was a pain.”
“So you’re saying it was easy?” Amira jumps in.
“I am not saying it was easy, but it was not hard. It was a fair test.” I do think it was easy but I am not going to get Jena worried.
“Of course she would think so; she is the professor’s favorite student. He practically loves her. Anyway, change of topic. Didn’t you have something to say to us Reem?”
I am confused for a second before I register what Jena is talking about. I relay exactly what happened and Marwa looks at me and I know she’s ready to scold me.
“You could have been nicer Reem.” She says and I suddenly feel guilty.
“I was in a rush and you know how Jena gets if someone makes her late.” I reply.
“Still, you’re a Muslim, and you should always model after Islam. You should’ve been calmer, more patient, and a lot more polite.” She says back and I feel really bad now. Oh Allah, I’m so sorry for being rude to the man.
“Anyway, it’s too late now.” Jena says.
“What did he look like?” Amira inquires.
“He was actually very ordinary you know brown hair that was messed to give it the casual feel. He was tall and built but not like gigantic built, just enough to give him the hot appeal. His face was oval like, straight nose, wide eyes, and a nice jaw; but something about him just made him totally attractive. I think it was his eyes. They were hazel.”
“You got all that while being in a rush.” Sara teases.
I groan, “Shut Up!”
“And seriously Reem, hazel? You have a hazel eye fetish.” She says back.
“Says the girl with the cologne fetish.” I retort.
“Hey we all share that fetish, what girl doesn’t like a guy who smells good. It’s the first thing you notice.” She argues.
“I think he likes you.” Jena lets a low whistle.
“And I think you’re crazy.” I tell her and Sara agrees with me.
“Is he a student?“Amira joins in.
“I don’t think so, I mean he was dressed in jeans and a collar shirt but I am pretty sure he had an ID on.”
“Did you find out his name?” Amira keeps interrogating.
“No. As if I had time to look at that.”
“But you had time to look at his eyes?” Back to Sara.
“Whatever it’s not like I’m ever going to see him again.” I say.
“That’s true and by the way girls, we’re here. Now where the hell are we going to park?” Jena looks around and as always there is no parking space because Jackson Square--where we’re going to watch the movie-- is not only a mall but it’s connected to a library and several gyms.
“Wait there is one right there, up ahead to your left. The guy is pulling his own car out right now so you might want to hurry up before anyone else catches sight of it.” Amira is the one who caught the parking space. She’s got a good eye.
“Good eye Amira, thanks.” Jena replies back as she parallel parks like a pro.
“Guys, you might want to hurry there is like 5 minutes left.” Marwa is the one to mention this as she is always keeping an eye on the clock.
“Race you in.” I say as I hop out of the car.
“Right behind you.” Sara calls out.
We all run inside, we separate to buy our movie necessities and agree to meet in 4 minutes outside the theater. It takes actually about 7 minutes to meet up but we really don’t worry about it. There are ads to account for about 10 minutes of the time so we were right on schedule, sort of.
“You’ve all got what you need?” Marwa asks. She is pretty much the most responsible one in our group.
“Yes, Mom.” We all respond in unison.
“5 tickets to see Captain America 2 please.” I ask the young girl behind the glass.
“Same bill?” She asks back.
“No, separate please.” I reply back.
We each pay and then head in and the theater is as empty as ever. This is pretty usual in Jackson’s theater and it’s just the way we like it. It makes me feel like we own the theater. We each grab a seat, get the food out, lie back, prop our feet up and it’s just like old times.
“I am really excited, I love Captain America.” I am the first to speak as we watch the ads.
“I know. Chris Evans looks so good in this movie.” Marwa tells me as we look at the movies coming up.
“Hey, we should see “The Amazing Spider-Man 2" next month, Andrew Garfield is so cute.” Jena suggests.
“I like Amazing Spider Man but I really think Andrew looks like a kid now that I have watched “Divergent”. I mean Tobias is so hot. I loved his romance and his maturity, and when he said ‘I’m still working on kind’ Oh god I was ready to melt in his arms.” I reply back.
I comment on my favourite movie. It was a really good movie; it was not a disappointment compared to the book. It was actually so different that you couldn’t compare it to the novel at all. I love reading and Veronica Roth has become one of my favourite authors. Her books really emphasize ideas that our generation seems to have forgotten which helps me with my own writing.
“And anyway, I am starting co-op (internship) next week so I’ll be really busy.” I remind Jena.
“You are so lucky, to land a summer intern job is amazing, especially that you are still a second year student. You must have had a great recommendation.” Marwa points out.
“Connections Darling. I told you Prof Brown loves her, he got her the job. She applied and everything but he put in a good word for her. So there you go.” Jena remarks.
“Shush the movie’s starting.” Sara and Amira say as the theater goes black.
We sit in silence as we watch “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” We talk a little between every other scene. We sigh at his looks every few minutes and we hold hands through the intense moments, well actually it’s just Sara that holds hands. She may be brave other times but when it comes to movies she gets really intense. We stay like this for the two hours and fifteen minutes of the movie. All the while, I am happy. I am with my close friends watching a great movie, eating, laughing and being young. Thank you Captain America for giving me time to see my friends and to be with them.