In all objectivity

I tried hard not to laugh. The atmosphere was tense, an old white male had just refuted her understanding of herself. To his question, So, how would you describe yourself if you don’t think you are white, she replied: I am green, olive green. She was serious about it, reminded me we use similar images where I come from. 

The three men I met that day were not white. They also were a split second ahead of me, enough to physically block me from what I had come for. We intersected around something we seemed deeply hungry for, a promise of experience and place. 
I took off my headphone and sounded a polite sigh when they realized I was there. They apologized and made way for me, passively refusing to cede the territory. Like a last place of entitlement, they insisted on more time to examine, read and make sure. I pointed to the shelf appearing ready for a very awkward moment, and stuck behind them to eavesdrop. 

Hey, do you know if they have the laughing cow cheese here? one of them asked. The worry in his voice and accent crossed through my skin, sternum, lungs right into my heart. I smiled internally keeping a hurried look. I tried to gather the courage to tell them that the Portuguese sardines, probably illegally fished off Moroccan coasts, were amazing, that I come all the way from another neighbourhood to buy precisely this brand, that I can’t believe this moment is happening, that I am happy to see them, that I would like to make friends, that I miss home, eat pork and skip Ramadan, also drink, but I don’t. They move on in search of the laughing cow cheese, an inferior experience, but a guaranteed promise of childhood memories where parents afforded something other than plain butter.

I grab as many cans of sardines as I can carry walking home, and followed them inside the store, secretly learning about their lives, relationships and food habits. They don’t care about me. They don’t see me and I know that.

I took one last chance to spend more time with them and offered the woman between them and me my spot in the queue. They did not find the laughing cow cheese, gave up on the sardines and opted out of the non halal cured meats. I was still arranging groceries in my bags when they walked away busy with their phones and conversation about next plans. 

I walked home guiltless and pleased with selfishly relishing the silent connection. Good sardines and laughing cow cheese became evidence of my Moroccanity undeterred by my introverted practice of identity. 

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