You know when sometimes you dream and get up and it seems so real that it scares you? You can recall the intricate details like the different types of flowers in the flower bed. The posture of how people were sitting; their expressions, body language, thoughts? Only in my case it was all real! I opened Facebook and all the people existed. I was also friends with them.
I have had all those communications and interactions- that was all real! May be I missed it too much, perhaps a pleasant dream is how I want to remember it and don’t want to make it my reality. In reality, things are different- the stakes are high.
The friends, I was going to be friends with for life and it was true, existed. The friends, I was going to be friends for life and it was a lie, existed. The friends who were close to me and seemed like a part of the daily routine but disappeared quickly in the changing time zones and the friends that I saw less often but trusted; distance from them ached more.
I got up to the sound of the cleaning man (why does cleaning man sound so weird, when cleaning lady doesn’t? What is the opposite of cleaning lady anyway?) I made my way to the kitchen and had the old-fashioned mom-approved breakfast – eggs, paratha and a milkshake. The thought of cereal and milk dismissed as quickly as it came. 9 AM and my day had started. My siblings had already started their day and passed smiles as they saw me around. They all had something to do. My mom came and asked me if my jet lag was gone. I was home after two years of studying and living in Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. – a transitional city overflowing with ambitious people, very cut throat yet peaceful, political hub yet clean. I was able to settle in that city- it wasn’t easy mind you. It was nothing like Lahore yet I started calling her my home. I found friends, some found me, in that hustle bustle. The city of opportunities, threw me a few as well. The city of progress, added to my direction too. The city of diversity, took me closer to my Pakistani Muslim roots like never before. The city of inclusion, made me realize how small a piece I was that made the whole universe.
I took time to adjust. But I did adjust. It was fine after a while. Unlike Elsa, the cold bothered me. But snow day, snowing, is the most beautiful sight in the world. Fall is the most beautiful in Washington DC. and unlike spring time, its not crowded with tourists. Tourists? Funny I say that.
I can not believe; I was gone for two years! Nothing here has changed, perhaps not even me. Perhaps I have. The roads, the dust not even the cobbler who sits at the corner of the street and not even his prices. He is an honest man. Sits all day on his table under a tree in extreme weathers fixing things. Asks for little amounts of money that put you to shame. 50 cents, 20 cents, nothing for a few stitches. How can I help him?
In those two years. I was no one, I was myself. I was Miriam. A student. A girl. I was my own identity; my family was not my identity. Anyone well-treated or mistreated me for me. I was exposed to all kinds of people- mean, honest, selfish, selfless, greedy, competitive but fair, competitive but unfair, ambitious but loyal. I dealt with all sorts of people, not just the ones in an academic or professional environment. It was learning; gave me perspective. Interesting word perspective.
Ahh- I also had to once call 911 (I also learned you don’t say nine-eleven but nine-one-one, fun times) to break open a stuck door in our apartment at 3 AM in the morning.
I loved going to Thomas Jefferson memorial. Any given time. Not a time of the day I haven’t been there. It was serene.
Surviving on peanut butter and bread. Still not cooking.
Calling my professors by their first names was weird- talking to them about personal life was even weirder.
The walks. By the Georgetown waterfront. Up to home when it started snowing and we were faster than the bus. DC can not handle snow.
First Fridays. C4. SE.
The road trips. The day trips. Trips.
Vapiano. Nandos. Burger 7. New Dynasty. Café Romeo. Mayor Kabab. Muncheez. Grand Trunk. Ahh- Grand Trunk. Dominos.
Fulbrighters. The not very bright-ers. The desis. The not-so-desis.
Café in glover park.
The summer at Yale.
The sense of knowing, these are the only people you know. The knowing by the people that they are the only ones you have. Dealing with it. Making the best of it. Making it like you wouldn’t want it any other way. With its betrayal, love, loyalty and need.
DC crew. Wesley friends. SIS. Friends.
When friends would visit. When I would visit them.
Knowing this is the last $100 in the account until the end of month. That makes you responsible. Being independent makes you accountable. If you don’t eat, you will not have energy to do anything- no one is going to force you to eat. And you really don’t want to be sick.
That experience made me strong. I formed strong bonds of friendship, I found mentors, I made memories. That dream prepped me; I am ready for reality.
I think I would like to visit sometime. I miss it all.
I am happy I am home, I missed Lahore.
Photo: Cirque du soleil's Believe by Criss Angel