“You did what?” Joe was so stunned, he choked on his orange juice and it came squirting out of his nose.
“I got permission to replace Sara in the contest coz she’s been injured,” I said again.
“You’re gonna be a scout girl? What are you gay now?” Joe asked. “Have the wires in your head gone loose bro?
“Thanks to me, Sara will be lying in bed for the next three weeks. I have to do this. I have to help her win”
“Think of your image Ali. This will totally ruin your reputation!”
“I DON’T CARE” I yelled. “She’s my little sister, Joe! It’s her dream.”
I spent the rest of the day roaming the streets knocking on doors and batting my eyelashes at middle-aged women trying to sell them cookies. Having good genes pays off at times like these. For the older men, I just said I’m working two jobs to put myself through school and was selling cookies for my sister who broke her leg trying to save an orphan puppy. I spiced the story up a bit, but you know, who doesn’t? I sold 128 cookies in one day! Not too shabby, huh?
“OMG, you’re kidding, right? 128 cookies in one day? Are you sure? Five dollars each?” Sara beamed.
“Eat that Tanya! No one messes with Ali’s sister.” I smiled.
“Wait! What? Why? What did Tanya do?” Sara panicked. “Is she winning?”
“I’ll make sure she doesn’t. I promise!”
“Say insh’Allah!” Sara said, with a big grin on her face.
“Insh’Allah,” I said. “Now you rest and let me take care of it, okay?”
“Ali….” Sara called after I left her room.
“Yeah?” I popped my head back in.
“I love you….” She said.
I mumbled some inaudible words like an idiot and ran out. Darn! I think I blushed for a sec. That was awkward.
But totally 100% AWKWARD!
I have six more days of selling cookies and 150 assignments due. Plus a gazillion midterms and projects. I gotta get my act together or Sara might blame herself if I flunk this year. That’ll just ruin everything!
I need a plan. I need a plan like YESTERDAY!
You know, anyone else would have a meltdown right about now. But not me. I’m on maximum overdrive mode. I can totally work under pressure.
I took out my books, assignments and everything else I needed.
I had a couple of free minutes till the computer restarts.
I think I need a ‘pick-me-upper’ to get the ball rolling….
And a game of Black-Ops is just as good as any!
“You’re on fire dude!” Big Al showed up again.
Ughhhhhhhh! Can’t a guy kill some zombies in peace?
“Go bug someone else Big Al” I said, not even bothering to look at him.
“You better make nice with me pal! I’m all you have.” Big Al replied.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I paused the game.
“Sooner or later you’ll have to accept it. I’m your future. You’re stuck with me!”
“Look at you! You’re a sad excuse for a human being! A freak! This is NOT what I’ll be in ten years. DON’T EVER SAY THIS IS MY FUTUREEEEEE!” I yelled so loud I think the wall paint cracked.
“Ali?” Mom walked in totally shocked. “Who were you talking to?”
“No one mom,” I said. “Please leave me alone,” I said.
To be honest, I was sort of mad at her. How can she not see this crap weasel? Can’t she smell him at least? HE STINKS!
“Are you okay Ali? I heard you yell when I walked in. Something about your future?” Mom asked.
“Good luck explaining that.” Big Al laughed.
“SHUT UP!” I snapped at Big Al.
“AAAAAUUUUUUUUHH” Mom gasped.
Uh-oh. Major danger sign!
“No, no, no…. Not you, mom.” I said quickly.
“ALI SALEM YOU ARE IN BIG TROUBLE YOUNG MAN!” Mom yelled. “You get your sister hurt, you never study, you wait till last minute to do your homework; I practically have to beg you to do your chores! Your grades are laughable, and now you’re telling me to shut up! Ya Allah, what did I do to deserve such a difficult son? This time I’m REALLY going to let your dad take over!” Mom was becoming hysterical.
“I swear I didn’t mean you mom,” I said before she slammed the door behind her.
“Yeah, she never forgave you either dude….” Big Al shook his head.
Someone get this nasty piece of garbage out of here coz I’M GONNA KILL HIMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
I gave up….
I didn’t wanna do anything anymore.
I stopped selling cookies. I couldn’t care less about school. I didn’t wanna talk to anyone. I just stayed in bed and listened to Big Al blabber away.
There was no point in trying. I’m never gonna have time to do everything I’m supposed to do anyway….
I’m a procrastinator. That’s just who I am!
My life was a total mess. Mom was mad at me. Dad didn’t even know I existed and Sara was never gonna forgive me… Maybe being a homeless loser was my future after all.
Let’s face it…. I put the ‘DUCT’ in ‘Productive’.
“So the manager was like “if you had started earlier you would have finished washing the dishes by now and I’d be having dinner with my kids instead of waiting for you to lock up!” and I was like “Sir, the best things happen to those who wait. Even the most genius device in the world is called a ‘Calcu-LATER’, not a ‘Calcu-now’!” Big Al laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe.
I didn’t even comment. I just stared at the TV for the next two hours.
“It wasn’t my fault I had no health insurance.” Big Al continued. “My eyes were killing me, man! I’ve been meaning to get them checked at the free clinic but you know, things happen. Anyways, I must have read the addresses wrong or somethin’ coz it took me all day to deliver three bouquets. The owner threw a fit! Apparently, Mothers’ Day is one of the busiest days of the year. She blamed me for all the customers she lost. Chillax woman! They’re just flowerpots! They’ll still be flowerpots TOMORROW!”
Could this guy be any more annoying? He makes me lose the will to live.
You think if I throw a stick he’ll leave?
“So when I was late for Granma’s funeral, Sara was RAGING mad. I didn’t have any clean shirts coz…”
“Wait what? Granma dies?” I suddenly sat up. “When?”
“Oh, that was years ago. Dad had to work and he told me to go shovel the snow at Granma’s. (And by me I mean YOU!) You put it off as usual coz let’s face it, the woman never leaves the house, right? Except she did! That’s when she slipped on the stairs and died.” Big Al said.
“You idiot! Three hours non-stop talking and NOW you’re telling me I killed Granma?” I jumped out of bed, grabbed my phone and flew like the wind to find the shovel. Oh my God! It’s been three days since dad asked me to dig the snow at Granma’s! I didn’t think it was urgent. She only goes out on weekends when Dad picks her up to go grocery shopping. I was gonna do it really early on Saturday! Oh My God! What if she had slipped already? God, please help me!
I could hear ambulance sirens all over the city. Did Granma really have to live 15 minutes away?!! My heart was hammering against my chest as I ran for it. I don’t think I’ve ever been this scared in my whole life.
I tried calling her house a hundred times.
“Pick up! Pick up!” I panted as I raced to her doorstep.
There was no answer! And Granma practically lives her life waiting by the phone.
“Please pick up!” I tried again.
When I finally arrived I started digging in the snow like a maniac, I think I freaked people out.
“Ali?” Granma opened the door.
Weirdest thing ever to be excited about..
But… Oh my God I didn’t kill Granma!
“Granma no! Wait! Don’t move!” I panicked suddenly.
I climbed up and down the front stairs like five times to make sure I didn’t miss a spot.
“What are you doing here dear?” Granma asked. “And why aren’t you wearing a jacket? Do you want to freeze to death? Come inside quickly!”
She made me a cup of ginger tea (gross!) but I had to drink it coz my frozen nose was about to fall off. She got me a warm blanket and a pair of socks, and insisted I wear them coz mine were wet!
How do I tell her I’d rather be sick in bed with the flu for three years than wear an old lady’s fuzzy grey and white socks?
“You must eat something Ali. You look pale.” Granma frowned.
She made me eat a whole chicken, three cups of gooey soup, a full plate of rice and beans, two loafs of bread, 16 oriental cheese puffs, a bowl of Humus, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and eggplant!
Mental note: Always remember to wear sweatpants with elastic waistbands to Granma’s place. Even during emergency, life-saving visits.
“I hope you saved some room for dessert!” Granma said, holding a big platter of golden crispy Konafa drenched in syrup.
Ahhh you gotta be kiddin’?
OF COURSE, I DID!
I dozed off on the couch and woke up an hour later from my food coma, dizzy and confused.
“How are you feeling sweetheart?” Granma asked.
Like a bloated elephant? I could hardly move I was so overtired and sore.
“I’m okay! I should get going I’m so late. Mom has probably called the police by now!” I said.
“Don’t worry. She knows you’re here. I called her” Granma smiled.
“Were you going out?” I suddenly remembered why I was there.
“Yes, I was going to the store when you came to visit. But I thought I would wait until you woke up. You slept so peacefully I didn’t want to disturb you” She continued.
I’m already disturbed beyond your wildest imagination Granma. You have no idea. If only you knew I’m that grandchild who turns into a homeless murderer. Bet you wouldn’t be looking at with so much love like you are now!
“I already knew you were going out. I know a lot of stuff about what happens in the future” I admitted sadly.
“Don’t talk like that Ali! Only God knows the future, not us human beings.” Granma scolded.
“I know it sounds crazy! If I were you I wouldn’t believe me either. But I do know what happens in the future. I swear!” I insisted.
“That’s the devil whispering evil thoughts in your head. Seek Allah’s forgiveness, my child!” Granma shook her head.
How do I tell her about Big Al without sounding like a mental geek from a bad Sci-Fi movie?
“What if I get like signs or see daydreams about future events and they end up coming true?” I asked.
“Well, in that case, you should think of those signs as guidance from God . The positive signs can be glad tidings and the negative ones are warnings to protect you.” Granma explained. “You can never tell the future, Ali, but you can work hard to build it the way you want. Your future is not created by what you think you know or what you might do tomorrow. Your future is created by what you do TODAY.”
Even though she’s like a hundred years old, but what Granma said actually made A LOT of sense. Big Al doesn’t know the future. He barely knows his fat belly from his butt! And everything he said DID NOT come true. Granma didn’t slip on the stairs and die (At least not yet anyway).
I never let Timmy boy do my paper for me like he said. I stayed up all night and wrote it myself. (I fell asleep on the toilet though) but still, I never got suspended like he said I would!
And you know what, Sara did forgive me. And she will be the BEST fashion designer in the world one-day coz I will win that stupid cookie contest. Just watch and see!
“Thank you, Granma.” I suddenly felt alive again. “I gotta go!”
I think that’s the first time in ever I sat with Granma and had a grown-up conversation. Almost 14 years she hardly talked about anything but food. Old people are boring most of the time, and they think they know everything. But today Granma actually made sense… it was kinda cool.
Maybe she does think about other things besides food….
“Wait!” She panicked. “I’ll make you a couple of sandwiches to eat on your walk home. I’m sure you’re hungry by now!”
On second thought…
To be continued….
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