You look at me from across the quiet café
You don’t know what I am, do you?
I can feel that you’re trying to figure me out as you shuffle in your chair
Do I make you uncomfortable, oh wise detective?
I wonder what clues you’re searching for; what’s the mystery this time? My ethnicity perhaps?
Your shallowly inquisitive eyes narrow and I can feel them tracing my every feature like awful, sweaty hands
Yes, that’s what you’re wondering about for now…
If I were just a bit younger, I would be sent fleeing from your gaze but I’m not a child anymore, and I have no intention of leaving until I’ve finished my coffee
I pretend not to notice your confusion but you’re so transparent to me that I almost laugh
I’ve heard it before; I know all too well the argument that you’re engaged in within the confines of your feeble mind
My skin is light but it isn’t ‘normal’ to you, there’s something different about it; I call it ‘olive’ but I don’t know what you call you it
My eyes haven’t really started to bother you just yet; eventually, they will
But what’s with my hair, huh? It’s coarse, right? And curly…
Maybe I’m part black? You shake your head and I can see that this hypothesis has been quickly shattered; my other features don’t fit with what your idea of ‘black’ is
Maybe I’m Italian? This idea, too, is fleeting.
Now my eyes have begun to bother you, not their darkness but their shape, and you decide that there is definitely something ‘not white’ about them and about me
Why do you look this way? I can practically hear a voice shouting from inside of you
Your eyes widen a bit in utter disdain and I try to hide my smirk for I know that you’ve just decided that I’m Muslim, never mind that Muslim isn’t an ethnicity
To you, Arab and Muslim are synonymous
Your born-again body contracts in on itself; you’re afraid of me now, aren’t you?
My bitterness mixes with the obligation I feel to tolerate and pity your weaknesses
To ease the terror you feel, you may decide that I’m Jewish and move on, right?
After all, you can’t worry about this for too long; you’ve got a bigger problem with me, don’t you?
A problem like my gender
Woman or man? You can’t tell and that is driving you crazy
Either way, you decide that there’s something queer about me
I see that you’re trying to get a better view of my chest, and I casually pull my backpack onto my lap as I pack away my books, blocking your view
Are you frustrated yet?
Yeah? Well, what are you gonna do about it?
I see a scowl taking hold of your lips
I feel your invasive, judgmental gaze upon me, mentally stripping me of my clothes and of my dignity
What, you still haven’t figured me out?
I take the last, longing sip of my coffee and the deep chocolate of it washes the filth of your mind from me
It’s time to leave now
This game of yours is boring to me, you know?
“Excuse me!” you exclaim the very moment I stand up
You’re almost panicked, hoping that I won’t leave before you get an answer, hoping that my voice will reveal everything
“Yes?” I ask, feigning obliviousness
Your scowl deepens
What’s the matter? Is my voice too ambiguous for you?
Defeated, you glance around the café as if you’re waiting for someone
“Do you have the time?” I cannot help but smile as I nod
“It’s still early.”