Roots

The Jadeed Voices Initiative is a special project by the Muslim Writers Collective which offers a platform to reflect on our faith and the diversity among us by highlighting the exigency of promoting nuanced, multifaceted perspectives. We will be sharing one narrative a day from July 8-19. For more information about this initiative, please visit our author page, and follow the Muslim Writers Collective on Facebook and Twitter.

In Pakistan: I am a slow churn, melting into the Earth.
This life is a lazy Sunday, heat
sticking on spice
sticking on dust
sticking on open doors and big families.

In America: I take a drag of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on my lunch break.
I choke on the smoke--hypocrisy was never my brand of cigarette anyway.
My lungs struggle to sift through the dust that comes with oppression packaged in a crafty headline. The soot of my own breathing threatens to suffocate every time I raise my voice and take to the streets, every time I try to be here.
I have learned to exhale out an American Dream that tastes bittersweet.
Tastes like opportunity with a pinch of "We don't really hire people like you."
Tastes like freedom with a splash of NSA tapped phone lines.
Tastes like justice with a hint of a life sentence in Guantanamo.
This life is a revolving door, one breath catching the other.

In Pakistan: my eyelids always feel heavy with sleep.
Everyone here dreams of something better-
itching to shed that colonized skin, hands hardened, singed by an imperialist history.
In this dreamscape I pretend that I am not the colonizer's mistress, the soft hands, the imperialist's perfect east-meets-west daughter. But I am.
Still. Between the cracks of my eyelids, in that sliver of time before I fall asleep,
I see trembles in these foundations spreading, threatening a revolution sure to shake me awake.

In America: the revolution lives inside the crook of my elbow, hidden until the flex of a muscle. The punch usually comes the other way. I cover up my hurt in favor of keeping my right to be here. I forget what it means to say sorry because after every hit, I'm asked to apologize for bruising. I stay married to this land-
It says that It only paints my knees black and blue because It loves me.
Here, sleep does not come easy.
It is better to spend my time being three times as good--a true product of this environment.
I am brown skin, brown body--a rezoned, restructured, cultural assignment.
In this love affair, I stay wide awake.

In Pakistan: the call to prayer rings out loudly, clearly.
It has the charisma of a small soft sun, sounding syrupy, thick over my ears.
While I am caught in a stand still, the people keep walking. They do not know--trading in tradition for the future that was sold to them.
Out with old, In with the new.
Out with the East, In with the West.
Out with my Being, In with my Soul.
The chasm grows bigger, and I maintain one leg over either side.

In America: the hyphen feels heavy.
My shoulders are sore from carrying the weight of a burden that does not belong to me. I am a balancing act of Muslim, of American, of Pakistani, of Jersey Girl, of Brown Girl, of Ethnic Girl, of Girl Who Has No Home.

In Pakistan: standing in the middle of a market in Karachi,
the crowd parts around me like the Red Sea. In the moment I am Moses, but I am not.
Moses parted waters to find home. The crowd parts because it knows I have not.

In America: they say home is where your heart is.
How do I explain to someone that I've shattered mine into a million pieces and thrown them from Sea to Shining Sea. Hidden some under a sand dune on the Jersey shore, floated a few up the Mississippi river, buried a piece where my father first step foot and never looked back. I've planted pieces of me everywhere, hoping it sticks this time.
How do I explain to someone that I grew out of this ground that did not want me, like a dandelion, like a weed that wishes it was a flower.
How do I explain to someone, that the wind blew my seeds East, but I could not be watered anywhere but here. That I've built an empty house, but the door is locked and the ground has swallowed the key.
How do I explain to someone that I pray my roots stay entrenched, that the soil does reject me when it recognizes my bark as something darker, something different, something damned.

In America: I am a thunderstorm, fast-paced fury, shedding lightning.
This life does not come easy, but it is mine. My fight is belonging, so belong I will.
The smoke will get thicker, the love affair tougher, the chasm wider.
It doesn't matter.
My roots will continue to sink into this Earth, in roaring shades of red, white, and blue. They will curl around edges and learn from a hydra to grow twice as thick when cut. They will feed this ground and they will take from it because that's what it means to make a Home. They will be lovely, they will be linked, they will be light.

In America: I will stay.

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Gia is a 21-year-old student, activist, sister, friend, and food aficionado. She is passionate about discovering the intersections between politics, art, and business. Also, she really likes giraffes.