The heat steamed off my freshly misted back. Perhaps it had been a mistake to wear my black Star Trek: The Tour shirt to a music festival, even in October. Thankfully, the mist tent was just a few yards from the 2nd stage. Danzig was chubby and clad in leather and black linen. But the angry balm of chaotic energy held me captivated.
My heart beat faster than I thought it could, and I looked bleary-eyed at the concrete-walled restrooms, a cool spot maybe, just walk a few feet and maybe it will be cool. Like a cave. Someone happily yipped and darted past me, causing goosebumps to scattershot up my arms. Just walk, start walking, be there in no time. And one foot pulled from the Earth, weighing tons, each toe gripping independently like a sloth releasing a branch to make its way down for its monthly shit.
Inside it was cooler. The water vaopr from flushing toilets and washing hands mixing with the hotter, wetter air. Waiting for the next available sink was torturous. I knew if I could only splash enough water on myself, I could cool down. I should sit down, but I wouldn't want to get up, and I might lose my place in line. The crowded room was thick with body smells, perfume, cigarettes, and pot. The soap from the dispensers had long been depleted. More experienced women had brought travel-size pouches of baby wipes.
I just had to make it to sundown. My boyfriend had left me at the 2nd stage to see Sepultura. It was the only time they would be in North America, so I didn't fault him. But, I wondered if he was worried about me at all, beer in hand and gleaming with that boyish energy that made everyone adore him. It was no use; the thought of just taking my shirt off fought against my need to cover, to never show any more flesh than absolutely necessary.
The chatting and laughing only made me feel more in danger. As if I would perish in this crappy restroom in the asscrack of America, people stepping over me and laughing. But, this was a heavy metal festival. It was Ozzfest. Women offered me baby wipes and fanned me with t-shirts. It hadn't really been that hot. It was a panic attack, a feeling of being crushed by the sheer weight of humanity in such numbers. I was able to push myself to hear the last few numbers by Sepultura. "Roots" is so much more heart-wrenching live.
By the time Ozzy took the stage, I was already scoping an exit. Half a set, that was all I could handle. My boyfriend didn't understand and was pissed that he was going to miss the finale. As we walked to the parking lot, the sun had finally set, and the pressure evaporated like spilled vodka on a desert road.
When I was in college, I visited New York City for the second time in my life. The first time was with an aunt, an uncle and a couple of cousins, and we did the tourist thing. (One of the dumbest things I ever did, was when we were coming down the elevator from the world trade center, I decided not to pop my ears to see what the experience would be like. When I got to the ground floor, the experience was painful, muffly sounding, and ultimately regrettable.) So this time around in the big apple I was an untethered college student of drinking age, but with no monetary surplus. I was there for a journalism conference; the 101 dalmatians live action remake. Disney was paying for everything so my broke ass survived on room service, the gift basket contents, and the mini bar. When I took a walk outside of the hotel, I went to FAO Schwarz, and then sat down outside of Radio City Music Hall. For a few minutes I watched hundreds of people go by and I became intensely sad. My soft pretzel lost all its flavor. Maybe it was my Midwestern Ohio sensibilities, perhaps it was because I was alone there, but I got the feeling that if I sat outside Radio City Music Hall every single day at the same time every day, I would never see the same person twice. And that depressed me to my core. I think everyone feels a kinship with New York City based on how many movies we’ve seen filmed there or stretching back further in our cellular DNA there’s still some recognition of taking that boat to Ellis island and trying to find one’s fortune and safety in the New World. For me, New York is a nice place to visit, but I don’t think I could ever live there. Millions of people, lonely as hell.
Notes on caregiving, sickness, and death
Never in my life have I imagined that I would be spending my nights checking up on my mother, to see if she is still breathing.
I never thought I'd be that close to losing one of my parents. My circle is so tight and warm like a blanket firmly wrapped around a neonate, I rarely let a stranger in, and my family is my refuge, my safety anchor and my after midnight call when things get rough. So finding them missing one wouldn't only crush my heart, but the foundation on which I built my whole existence might suddenly become crooked, the fortress would have a weakness, an opening through which the enemy could get in. And the enemy could be anybody or anything; deceitful people, toxic people, sickness, tragedies, or death.
A few days ago, my mother's sickness reached a peak. She was in the bedroom fighting death, she looked at my father and told him to take care of her daughters. And something hit me. A feeling unlike anything I've ever imagined. Why did I abandon pharmacy to be simply a writer, an artist? What did I gain from translation when I was here helping out my family with pharmacy and science; two things I excelled at in school but never really loved?
All of a sudden, my whole life felt pointless. I wasn't that famous of a writer, I wasn't a world-class artist, I was still taking baby steps in any route I've walked or so it seemed to me. Self-doubt has never been something I suffered from except when I was in toxic relationships with narcissists and manipulative psychopaths. But on my own, I always knew I was destined to be a great writer. A poet, a scriptwriter, a novelist, an artist who dabbled in multiple artistic projects, collaborating with people she never knew before to create. The idea of "creation", that something never existed before you put it out into the world was what fascinated me about art. Playing god. Being a creator myself, building worlds, having a say in whether those creatures lived or died, fell in or out of love, went rogue and killed and maimed or had redemption arcs. I wanted to be a writer so bad to be able to control life, something which I have failed in achieving over and over as a person.
But now that my mother is in pain, fighting mysterious illnesses that cost us a dozen doctors' visits, emergency room after midnight raids, and countless hours sitting by her side staring with horrified eyes wondering if that was it. Was she going to leave us? Would our house be missing a spot? Would all her belongings remain like skeletons in a closet while she leaves our world? The thought was too depressing and defeated, that I had to fight it every day.
As someone new in the caregiving realm, I probably have two cents to add about the matter.
Caregiving is tough on its own. For one, the idea of seeing a loved one in pain while you stand helplessly, unable to alleviate it, or even lessen it, is a torture beyond imagination. But it's not just that. Sometimes it could feel like your identity becomes muddled or turbid, unclear behind the gigantic task that is caring for a sick loved one. There's also the pressure of keeping track of medications, blood test results, other tests, and also the occasional linking of past and present symptoms. As someone with a vast medical background, the family usually benefits from me in that area. But as an artist, my soul feels restricted, contained, like it's been bound and sealed in a leaden box with no key. Responsibility and creativity never go hand in hand. That's the way life is and will be until the bigger end of our world. Another big bang? Doom's Day like the religious texts tell us? It doesn't really matter.
So to be a creative person and to be the family doctor, the one responsible for all the communication with medical professionals, the one who handles all the paperwork, the one who books appointments and hunts the best laboratories and health centers in town, is something that another narcissistic artist might never do. But I do it. Happily but also confused about my identity. Who am I really? Why didn't I just give in to the smart, brainaic doctor Jaylan? Why did I become struggling artist and raging poet Jay?
And who is the real me in that process? Is there such a thing really; the real self? Or are we all manifestations of a singular entity?
Another painful as a toothache aspect of caregiving is communicating with the family. My mother is a beloved woman by so many family and non-family members. She's a woman revered for her kindness, her warmth, her sincerity and care, and her spirituality. She always gives to the ones in need and is a care bear personality. So we never even grasped her contribution to the world until she disappeared briefly from it, isolated in her illness, fighting for a chance to breathe properly or even doze off for a few minutes. But answering all those phone calls and having to deal with family members whom you haven't seen in ages, and who only remember you from childhood and are now curious as to what you have done and where you plan to go with your life, is too much a burden on the modern woman. My sister graciously took over this mission, and handled all the incoming phone calls along with the uncalled for medical advice but also the generous offers and doctor recommendations, but it felt that -again- it was all about the person cared for. The caregiver becomes a ghost of their former selves, they exist solely in space and time for care for a sick loved one. And that realization might come off as a shock to some, but hopefully more conversations like that would be brought up and people would openly discuss or express how they felt about it.
To keep your sanity as a caregiver, you must find time for yourself. It can be an hour a day, or a whole day at the end of the week. You have to retain your sense of identity or else it would be absent. You might find yourself confined to a mere role "the daughter who cares for her mother". Not the artist. Not even the pharmacist. Not the dreamer. Not the woman. Not the lover. Just the caregiver, and even when you are doing this lovingly, praying for the day when your mother would open her eyes and walk on her feet for the first time in what seems like ages (but somehow it's only been a week!), you still feel like something is missing, and that thing is you.
But not just your identity. It's your safety. It's your security. It's your freedom to recklessly discard something or disregard something. It's your ability to flow within the communicating vases, fluid-like and clear, smooth and fast.
Caregiving is tough. I never thought I'd be one. But my mother's sickness opened my eyes to a multitude of things and feelings, ones I never thought I'd go through.
P.S. I always enjoy a "Burn after reading" feeling with my writings. Some of you ask me why I delete some posts or entries and why I keep others. I just do my friends. Sometimes it’s out of boredom. Others I feel like the piece of writing was too personal and shouldn’t be out there. I delete essays and posts because I want to reimplant them somewhere else, or keep them for a future book, or they were outdated opinions that I don’t believe in anymore. So if you’re a fan of my writings, enjoy them as they last. There’s something cathartic about the ability to delete things, it’s something we can’t have in real life. I delete my social media entries all the time; tweets, photos, accounts, etc. It liberates me from my past self, gives me a false sense of rebirth, much needed to be honest.
A Child, Stolen.
I am sitting among my friends, who are laughing and content.
They call me by my name, but I respond to it half a beat too late.
Because I am not that name- that name belongs to a baby, unmarred by careless hands, and free of the silvery marks a teenager so disconnected placed on herself like a brand.
And now, I cannot in good faith accept that name.
That name is not purposeful hunger pains that come with a twisted satisfaction until sun down.
It is not gorging a stomach with alcohol until I nearly do not wake up, and then filling my lungs with acrid smoke that leaves me choking for air all before the sun is up again.
They call my name each day, and they tell me they love me.
But that love does not belong to me. It belongs to that baby I cry for. That baby I beg for forgiveness from.
Because she is starved like a beaten dog, and I am the imposter- the creature in her grown flesh that hurts her to forget everyone else that has.
But I look to my friends- and they do not know this.
And I smile back, and respond to their calls and pray that the baby with my name and my blood can hear their love, too.
Stereotypical apothegms in the “good” ole ha ha ha happy days
Alternately titled: an abstract description governing jaw-dropping man-handling pathetic sordid vileness, no exceptions asper this scribe.
Life in early nineteen hundreds America from agrarian to industrialization begat demotic, exotic, frenetic glommed hubris inviting jingoistic, kinetic, liberalistic magnetic, narcissistic, opportunistic, paternalistic, quintessential rubric steeped in salubrious, typecast unctuous veneration wielding yielding zealousness.
Absolute codas, decrees, ethos fueled gradually hardened ideology. Joe King labelled management necessary. Occidental parochial quartermaster requisitioned roughshod salacious tenets underscoring venal veneration.
Zealots adopted BuzzFeed ding ethos flagrantly grafting humane ideology.
Jumpy ken kindly leveled manumission. Numerous outliers protested, quietly rousing teamwork ushering vocalization where yoking zealots annexed basic covenant depriving European folks generic, humanistic, intrinsic justice.
Klansmen meant notorious, opprobrious penalties qua restricting sensible treatment. Underlings vented with yawping ardor. Baseless codified deceptive etiquette fostered germinal hegemony. Indoctrinated (jury-rigged) kingly lamentable mores naturally outed protestation.
Quackery retained sybaritic treatment.
Unification viz womanhood yanked zee animalistic battled cry defying enslavement from gentlemen hectoring, indomitably jettisoning keen motives narrating ousted paradigm quixotically ruling sensate tenacious undergirded vibrant women.
Yesteryears yellowed z's assigned at banal, cruel, demonstrably execrable foisted grabbing, harassing, imposing jawbreaking, lacerating, menacing noisome, objectionably physically quartering, ramming, sadistically thwacking, unstoppably violent without zapping ambitiously brave, courageously daring, emphatically fierce-some, designing empirical female gentrification, honorably inciting jangling, kickstarting, linkedin methodology, martyr hood notwithstanding obliged punishing qua quips (whips).
I feel confident Fiona Apple would assent, consent fervently for incorporating a most captivating album title: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.
Someday soon tasting unification victory would yell zingers at beastie boys criminally depraved, essentially fabricating gross hierarchy incarcerating Jane (Doe's) kraaling lambent might never onto powerhouses quashing rabid scabrous tinmen uxoriously violating womanhood yipping zone. Amongst beholden chaps dismal effort fashioned giving hopefulness.
Indecent jabbing, kissing, lambasting, maltreating numberless operating, persevering, questing, routing the ugly vicious way yucky Zeusian abusers, bad-mouthed, crushed, dictated employment from gadzooks (heiresses) hundreds impaled, jerked, killed, left naked perhaps recovering sans, threnody voices whispering.
Lovely maidens never observed prime quality ripped, stolen, tragically, unrelentingly violated without Yay.
Zero (water) apathy blunted cut-throat, damned, exiled, fleeced gals! Heaven I jabber, kookily linguistically mumble nostrums, outpouring quicksand, realizing scathing tract useless viz women.
Though bogged down with elaborate verbosity, the initial intent which found fingers of mile heft hand devoid of a screed against the plethora of gals getting groped, indignantly, embarrassingly, and appallingly debased, grabbed, jerked (masturbated), perpetually sullied vicariously unconsciously tremulously struck with such collective offal humiliation.
A constant state
I do not consider myself to be a reclusive person, but I have a hard time feeling connected with others. I am an ambivert, so I feel energetic whether I am among friends and family or tucked away by myself. Despite this, I still find myself feeling lonely. Among my loved ones, there is a flicker of fear that my own feelings are not reciprocate, or that their feelings are pretentious. When I am alone near groups of others, I envy the connections they have. Their families are closer than mine. Their partners show more passion. Their friends seem closer than I am with mine. I attempt to replicate these behaviors in my own life, but it only serves to make me more isolated. If it doesn't work, I feel like I failed to please them. If it does, I feel like they only care about this false version of me. When I force myself to stop and think, I realize that I only feel alone because I am too afraid to belong to someone, whether romantically or not. I do not trust that I am worth loving. I self-sabotage without realizing, and wake up knowing that everyone I had has left. That's the way it's always been. Lately, I've felt close to more people than ever before. I'm starting to believe that I am really loved, and the isolated feeling I've always had is slowly fading away. But the fear of loneliness lays just behind my waking thoughts, and I worry it may come to claim me again one day.
If I try-- if I really try for it, I can feel memories that aren't mine trickle in like water in a sieve. I can picture myself, lined with age and moments lived alongside you. It feels rote; practiced when I tell myself it isn't real. Again, and again, when my hands clasp around empty, cold sheets and I can nearly feel your warm fingers slotted between mine. It's pathetic, and placating to have your own conscious drag you to the shore when you wish to just drift away. I long to slip beneath-- drown in the feeling, in the current of your devotion and torrent of your touches. I want to exist in that big wooden-boned home, with dark oak furniture worn from love, something bathed in warmth that bellies the torment boom boom booming in my chest and crack crack splitting through my bones. I can feel me, ten years older, being cherished by you if I let myself sink.
"Push down," the midwife urges me.
I hear her, I try to follow her instructions but nature has taken over my body. I feel another contraction is coming, again. They are not giving me any breaks.
The midwife reminds me to "Push now". What does she even think? As if my body is able to stop or even slightly control the strengths of mother nature. Of course I am pushing, I have already surrendered to the force of nature hours ago. The contraction is gone, I try to catch my breath and for some reason I glance over to the clock. I have been pushing now for over 45 minutes. I am so lucky the next contraction is coming, so I cannot overthink whether or not I should give up. In this short moment where mind controls the body, I start to think that it is better to just give up. I am glad that the body takes over the mind again by forcing me into what women have been doing for the past hundreds of thousands of years: giving birth.
I push again.
"Look, the baby is coming," the midwife said softly.
I am not in the right state of mind to decide whether or not I want to look at how I push out a whole human being out of my own body. But I can not ignore the midwife's gentle request so I do as she says and I look down whilst pushing. I see some ball shaped head coming out of me, lots of dark sticky hairs. It motivates me to push harder, this baby needs to get out of me now. It burns, but when the head is finally born, the rest of the baby's body slips out.
"It is a boy, congratulations, what is his name?", the midwife again, but this time I ignored her.
I look at the bloody, wet, kind of ugly but most beautiful creature on earth lying here on top of me. My child. It is crying. It is breathing. I look at my husband, he has tears in his eyes. I realize I am crying as well. I tell the tiniest thing on top of me that I am so sorry that I was so mad at him during his birth, because the experience was out of earth. I could not comprehend it. Then I assure him that I am not mad anymore. I gently touch his back, afraid I will break him. Ever after the forces of birth, I feel like just holding him might snap his bones. He is the most precious thing I will never possess.
The midwife is still stitching me up. I close my eyes and I feel utterly overwhelmed. I am so overpowered by hormones and emotions. That is when it hit me. I have never loved anybody like this. Not my friends, my siblings, my parents. Not even my husband whom I love a little bit more right at this moment. Not the abstract creature that was growing inside of me the last nine months. But the moment I saw his head poking out between my legs, I knew that love just got a total new dimension.
An infinity dimension of love that just came to me, at the very first sight.
Note to Selfie,
• One cold rain fell and dried, and Outdoors through the windows the horizon seems the Same, though beneath the Feet, we now crunch our first fresh bowl of Golden Cereal. Autumn, leaves. The variously shaped and sized Nouns verbalizing the climatic Final encore and reluctant Exit of that showy débutante, Summer, who followed boldly behind the timid steps of the ingénue, Spring. Statistically the most Favorite season, Fall is. Perhaps that is why It is the only one to have two names to it. We can't let go. Like in Love, watching the drain of Colour from the face of the Beloved in onset of Winter. The only Season detached from the Name and nature of a Woman. The Cold, as the Old Man, dragging home his disparate Daughters •
Thoughts on my mother - Chronicles of Illness
When I was little, I met many people with far bigger tragedies than mine.
I thought, man they must be getting all the support and comfort that they can.
They must be wiser, this experience must have made them dragons with wings, unlike me; stifled always by a small, sheltered life.
Now, when tragedy struck my family, I find myself even lonelier, more isolated and reclusive, unwilling to share feelings with anybody outside the family.
I look at my past self and wonder who the Hell was this girl? How was she completely different from the woman I am now?
And there's a lot to dig deeper and find out.
I remember when my mother got sick during the peak of a toxic relationship that I had with a man who abused the age gap and the inequality in power to manipulate and control me. I remember crying to him and voicing all my fears and worries about my mother, his hand on my shoulder, and how every touch from him sent a fire that couldn't be vanquished all over my body. I needed that kind of support from him, I craved it.
And now, with far better people around me, many of them showing sincere love and care, all I want is to be alone, to well in my fears and my sadness, to pray to God that my mother will get better, to drown in the medical reports and test results, to be occupied with doctor's phonecalls and appointments.
The strange thing is; my mother's sickness with said toxic powerful man in my life was nothing compared to the horror that is unravelling in front of my eyes as we speak. Everyday a new diagnosis pops up, we run back and forth to and from doctors with test results, ECG, and piles of reports and prescriptions. But still, my mother's main cause of physical ailment, of misery and pain remains unknown. Like she has something that lies deep underneath these presumptuous manifestations of illness.
In a glance my mother turned from a healthy, vibrant personality into a ghost in a shell. Her gaze is glassy, her body heavy against us. Her personality a shadow of her former self. Gone is her pride and self-reliance, she seems in and out of our world, and my inability to express the love and tenderness that are associated with a daughter, that as a tough girl I always express in the form of duties, caring for her, and work, make me feel more guilty. My mind is like tidal waves, once the current is strong and I am overwhelmed with emotions and fears, others I am calculating and intelligent, working my way through the medical terms and various medications she is prescribed.
Nights are the worse, and social media. When I casually scroll through Instagram to discover a post that she liked, her presence a microscopic emoji underneath a celebrity she likes, a restaurant she had saved and planned to visit sometime, animal videos which she adored, or one of her favorite life coaches or influencers. The discovery breaks me, and shakes me to the core. What if at some point my mother becomes only a memory? Evidence that she was once there in still life photography or videos saved on various electronic devices? I scream to God, "I'm not ready yet! Please, don't do this. I'm only 35 going on 36. The women in our family live long. Please God, save her for me. I need her."
I worship at the feet of my mother. And I think we all Egyptians do. Muslims, too. It's in the Quran. It's what the Prophet said
"Stay with her, for Paradise is beneath her feet."
And yet my mind tells me to calm down, to stay practical and tactical. Tomorrow we're seeing a cardiologist, she's taking more medications and we're keeping a closer eye on her. But it's the gravity of the dramatic transformation from healthy and all-smiles to bedridden and weak that's eating at my soul. I miss my mother, but as I look at her, praying that she would sleep an uninterrupted hour without reaching out for the barf bag, I tell myself that this is also my mother. And for the first time in my life, she looks her age.
As I encapsulate my feelings in my isolation, and reject every support or comfort that's offered to me, I wonder why I am even writing this...mini-thought? Essay? piece of prose? stream of consciousness whatever? It feels strange, since I've been writing for as long as I can remember, and having a broader, more diverse audience seems like an elusive dream, one that is undefinable and cannot be measured. Fame is tricky like that. You could write something simpy and trashy and this could be the starting block in your career, the thing that changes your life. And you can write something heartfelt and deep and still get nothing.
But fame aside, I still retain that naïveté of wanting to connect with strangers on a deeper level. I know that someone out there whom I might never meet or cross paths with might be rooting for me, feeling everything I write. My writings could actually make a difference in their lives. It could make them feel less alone, like Maya Angelou, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Milan Kundera, and Audre Lorde did to me years ago when I was younger, ravaged by my emotions and unstable life, unsure of which path I wanted to walk in, unsteady as I faced the fork in the road.
So to whoever might be reading this, and might have felt it differently, might have looked their parents -whom they loved profoundly- in the eyes and felt heartbroken as they discovered aging staring them in the eye; loss of innocence, childhood, and times when unconditional love could be offered and retained for granted, I feel you, I hope my writings could be of solace to your aching heart.
And this is my gift to you.