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In my culture, love is a fairytale.
It exists in Bollywood movies and mothers’ wombs; both places where magic occurs.
So when he tells me we have to talk
I already know the dust has settled and all that glitters is not gold
because despite never saying “you owe me”
the lights in our sky were dim
despite how many tribes we’ve known
my parents only believed in one

I wish I could tell him that I was never taught how to love
So when he tells me about his father coming home and hugging his mother from behind
I listen, I smile
I wonder if this is when I should tell him I’m not sure how my parents love
(I didn’t)
I hug him from behind as he cracks open eggs over easy for breakfast
As if osmosis would tell him I could be like his father

So now as he’s telling me my refusal to communicate has pushed him away
I’m screaming inside that I’ve never known how to share my feelings

My father only tells me he loves me when he boards a plane
Now that I’m older, I just give him a nod, no need for theatrics
Despite the fact that both of us fear the unknown
Sometimes I wonder if the anxiety was nature or nurture?

I’ve never been validated before so what good was it that he wanted to call me his
The last time I belonged to someone, they put me on the shelf
I sat there for years gathering dust, so,
I know not the value of such titles
The tenderness he claimed it held was given to a mind already warped
I should have warned him

My parents are never satisfied.
I learned to settle by myself, for myself
I don’t know how long this resentment will last
They should have prevented the notion that there was such thing as settling for yourself,
why didn’t they do that?

So no matter how much he cares
Inherently I find myself unworthy
So why not demand more?
You really love me, prove it!
Prove it again.
Prove it again.
Prove it again.

How could he love something that which does not love itself?
Didn’t he know better?
I wasn’t loveable
I was a fake

Who knows who I am?
Sometimes I’m Muslim
Sometimes I’m not
Sometimes I’m American
Sometimes I’m an underrepresented South Asian woman of color with enough bitterness to turn mangoes sour

Did he love all these parts of me?
My parents didn’t seem to.
“I don’t know who you are,” my mother says after a night of coming home too late
I secretly ask her, “have you ever asked?”
Anything she does not agree with, she dismisses
Any part of me she does not agree with, she dismisses
As if my parts are worth more than my whole

Men, too
have told me my parts are worth more than my whole
I will not apologize for expecting the world after I have given you all of mine

I eat my tongue
I muster apologies and explanations that both of us don’t want to hear
But if we could do it over again..

One day I pray these words will leap out of my throat instead of this page
But until then
Here are the words I don’t know how to articulate.
Here are the feelings I can’t communicate.
Here is your love poem.

Noureen R. was born and raised in New York City and is currently in her last year of law school. She enjoys slam poetry, soymilk in her chai and 90’s hip hop.

5 Comments on “Hujurat”

  1. TN says:

    this speaks to my heart. As a daughter in a South Asian household in which communication, particularly that involving feelings of love and affection, was strained at best – I, too, have immense difficulty baring my heart even when it counts the most. To this day, as an adult – my tongue almost always betrays my heart. I don’t think parents/South Asian/Muslim communities realize how damaging this kind of environment can be in the long-run.

  2. Nuwaira says:

    Simply Beautiful. Keep writing. I found myself in so many of these lines. It’s scary and at the same time a relief to hear echoes that resonate with my own soul. But all personal thoughts aside, this is really beautiful 🙂

  3. nina says:

    Love it. So beautiful.

  4. burton1j says:

    You, my friend, are a gifted writer. You articulate yourself so well on paper – perhaps this is your medium of choice. I’m not sure. THIS WAS BEAUTIFUL!

  5. Dreamer says:

    Thank you for this! I always thought I was the only one who has such a hard time accepting and expressing love. You articulated the feeling so beautifully. This may be life-changing for me; I’ve always felt like I had an emotional defect, but it’s such a relief to know I’m not alone. MashaAllah you are a gifted writer!