Category Archives: Suckool

3 Beautiful Things, the “We’re in Your Corner” Edition

Sit together in yellow silence; Berkeley, CA, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

[Cross-posted at]


1. SORRY. Recently, I learned a humbling — and very important — lesson from a friend: to apologize for things said or acts committed in anger, even if the anger was justified. There is not much to add to this, but I will say that I — who thought I’d come such a long way since my inability to apologize years ago — still have much to learn. If I have learned in the last several years to listen more to my conscience and refine my sense of compassion and appeasement, I have also learned just how trigger-quickly I can lapse into cold, cutting commentary without regard for how words burn at the other end. I am remembering now other conversations of this past year, and how the outcomes may have been different if I’d been gentler — not only with the person(s) at the other end, but also with myself. In an effort to prove my own strength and independence, my own will and rightness, I do myself a disservice in times like these. There is beauty in humility, and it takes strength to acknowledge (and embrace or amend) one’s weaknesses and shortcomings, and pride is not pretty. (Note to self: Don’t be this guy.)

2. LAUGHTER. No matter the level of stress at work, there is always at least one moment of levity during each day. Sometimes, I find myself twirling ’round and around on the twirly-chair at my desk, lobbing sarcastic and hilarious jabs at my coworkers before throwing my head back in laughter so loud it can be heard all the way down the hall. At such moments, I think to myself, “I would miss this.” Particularly now that we have disbanded a bit. Our organization recently relocated, and my “department” has been displaced from the spacious office we all shared to a building where we each now have our own, separate cubicles. There is more privacy — but also less, at the same time.

AH paused sadly by my desk the other morning and asked with his best hang-dog expression, “Can you move into my cubicle? I miss you.” I laughed at him, of course, but then I realized it’d been far too many days since we exchanged our ubiquitous highfives, and I was tempted to pick up my laptop and go back to a shared workspace. That was, of course, before I remembered how AH borrows my favorite pens to jot down notes whenever he’s on the phone, and then promptly loses them; throws whiteboard markers at me whenever I tease him too much; swipes my food when I’m not looking; makes me re-send him emails he never bothered to open the first time around; and asks rhetorical questions like, “You know what we should do, Yasmine?” and then ignores my cranky, “No, I don’t, tell me,” and launches into grand plans and ambitious projects that we will have time for only in 57 years — and I decided my own quiet little cubicle was probably good enough. I might even be able to finally nap under my desk without anyone noticing.

3. HELLO, I SEE YOU. (i) I stepped out for lunch at one of the local cafes recently, and found that I recognized no one there. This was problematic only because Julie’s used to be such a vibrant source of community for me, not only when my sister was an undergrad at Berkeley and I visited her on campus all the time, but also during all those post-Friday prayer lunches with friends, and during the iftar dinners that Julie’s hosted for Cal students during the month of Ramadan. But the students who frequent the place have changed, and so has the management of the cafe, not to mention part of the menu.

I consoled myself by ordereing my usual chicken-with-basil stirfry (that hasn’t changed), and found a small table in a corner of the courtyard, where I sat quietly, scrolled through my phone, gave every indication of not caring that I knew no one, and wished the afternoon were longer so I wouldn’t have to go back to work so soon. But within just a few minutes, there was F at my side, with a wave and a highfive and a “How are you?” — and even as my eyes lit up in surprise and I smiled back widely, so happy to see him, and even before I could open my mouth to reply with my automatic, “I’m doing lovely! How are you?” — he added after eyeing me during just a minuscule pause, “A little bit stressed?”

“I didn’t realize it was so obvious,” I said, chagrined, and made a mental note to work on my poker face. F pulled up a chair, asked incisive questions, listened patiently as I talked around mouthfuls of food — and offered options that I found myself scribbling down on the closest sheet of paper. I left Julie’s smiling, realizing anew (because I have to be reminded of this over and over) that it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes, to give voice to one’s anxieties, and to discuss strategies with others.

(ii) After missing two separate classes of grad school in two weeks, I dragged myself to campus, sitting silently through most of the discussions (guess who was behind on the readings?) yet inwardly excited to be back in the midst of such thought-provoking conversations. Most of us are working professionals, balancing a full-time graduate program with full-time jobs. We are usually on campus only for classes, and even a month-and-a-half into fall semester, I know that I, at least, have not spent any length of time building meaningful relationships with my classmates outside our weekly gatherings. So, it was all the more touching when, at 930pm as we rose from our chairs and began slinging our bags over our shoulders in preparation for sliding exhaustedly out the door, A turned to me and said simply, “I’m so happy that you’re here. I missed you!” It’s no wonder I texted a friend a month ago with, “Status: I just got out of class. I LOVE school. And I mean that as non-sarcastically as possible.”

Leave your things behind/’cause it’s all going off without you

While sitting in class a few mornings ago, I took one of the ultra-fine-point Sharpies I love using for writing out of my bag and scribbled BALANCE on the back of my hand. Later in the afternoon, I penned just below it the names of four people whose phone calls I needed to return, but those were soon inadvertently washed away with soap and water and I was left wondering who exactly I had been meaning to get in touch with. This speculation and uncertainty were compounded by the fact that I couldn’t remember what the hell the BALANCE was supposed to be about either.

I am so not with the program these days. Over the course of yesterday, a total of five different people said to me, puzzled: “You have a final exam on Friday? I thought all finals were on Thursday,” which ultimately freaked me out enough that I emailed my professor to verify the date. Yes, it’s on Friday, just as I thought, but I really shouldn’t have had to second-guess myself.

The whole thing reminds me of the second round of midterms during spring quarter: I showed up to one class armed with scantrons, expecting a multiple-choice exam, only to find a paralyzing sea of essay-exam blue books awaiting me in the lecture hall. The thoughts racing through my head as I raced across campus to the student store to buy a blue book are not fit to be published here. And, then, there was another class in which I took my sweet time and wasn’t overly worried about the fact that I kept dozing off during the course of the exam, only to realize during the last half-hour that what I had mistakenly recalled as a two-hour class was in reality only one hour long and I didn’t know most of the material we were being tested on. Yeah, it was grand.

Anyway, I’ve just compiled two lists: one of people whom I need to call, and another with names of people I need to email, and soon. What is the world coming to? I’m turning into my father.

BALANCE, you will be pleased to know I remembered later, turned out to be a reminder that I needed to check my bank account and ensure I had enough money for gas before I stopped to fill up the tank on my way home. But because I wrote it with a permanent marker that withstood all attempts at soaping and scrubbing, the word stayed on my hand for the next three days and served as a reminder of everything I need to currently do with my life; namely, browse other peoples’ weblogs less and update my own more often, spend less time on AIM and more time writing cover letters for potential employment opportunities, reply to emails and make phone calls, stop reading three books at once and turn my attention to studying for my neurobiology final exam instead…

Speaking of cars, another thing I need to work on balancing is trying to figure out how to survive ever since my car broke down on Monday afternoon and was towed off to Sacramento for repairs, after which it will most likely be sold, good riddance. Yes, you read that correctly. Yasmine, without a car?! This is anathema to my entire existence as Commuter Child Extraordinaire. But what I am most annoyed at my car about – even more than its lack of cooperation in choosing to die on me – is the fact that I had indeed checked my account balances that day and just filled up the car with a nearly-full tank of gas. Thirty dollars! Think of how much food I could have bought with all that money! [I'm sure that 2Scoops, self-appointed Nutritionist Extraordinaire, would be proud of this line of reasoning.]

Taking over the daddy-o’s SUV yesterday was a grand experience, though, I admit it. Today, since I was off from school, the daddy-o dropped me off at a local coffee shop so I could study all day. When he returned in the evening to pick me up, the first thing he noticed when he stepped inside the coffee shop was the sight of my feet carelessly propped up on the seat of the chair across from mine at the tiny round table I had been sitting at for the greater part of the day. He crossed the room, frowning disapprovingly. “You should learn some manners,” he scolded me sotto voce. I scrunched up my face unrepentantly and retorted, “You know I always have to sit with my feet up.”

So tomorrow is my NPB final. The end is looming near, which is mighty exciting, considering that I’m passing all these “multiple guess” [as my father calls them] exams by a nice margin, even though I still don’t understand parts of it. Stupid fetal blood circulation and your complicated-ness, I hate you. Who told you to bypass the lungs anyway, dammit? I mean, this diagram has roman numerals and plenty of arrows, and I still don’t get it. How hard could it be?

But I’m going to pass the ass out of this class if it’s the last academic thing I ever do, so help me God.

Silly fetuses, thinking you could thwart my plans.

vindication. On the phone with my father, two wee…


On the phone with my father, two weeks ago:

Me: So, guess what, Daddy khana! It turns out I got an A- on my NPB midterm!
Daddy-o: Really! Wow!
Me: Yup. I can’t remember the last time I even passed any sort of bio exam. But now I have to keep studying so I don’t get all arrogant and mess up on the next midterm.
Daddy-o: Well, that’s impressive.
Me: Yeah, I guess I’m not a lost cause after all.
Daddy-o: Is this class with the same professor you had during spring quarter?
Me: No, different guy; he’s with the School of Medicine.
Daddy-o: Oh. Well, you know what you should do? You should take this midterm scantron of yours over to the old professor and wave it in his face.
Me, laughing: Revenge!
Daddy-o: Yeah, like revenge. That would be the true Pukhtun thing to do.

zayn z’al barr: fair is this land

While studying inside Peet’s Coffee&Tea for the first time and loving their tall stools with the slightly-curved backs:

Little Girl: Coffee!
Mother, firmly: No coffee.
Little Girl: Coffee beans!
Mother: No, honey.

A little, fluffy white dog paces to and fro outside in front of the door, wagging its tail. The mother and daughter step outside and the little girl stoops down to hug the dog. While the door is still closing behind them, I hear the little girl ask the dog, “You like coffee beans, don’t you?” The little white dog smiles [there is really no other word for it] and wags its tail, and the little girl looks accusingly at her mother. “See, Mommy! I told you so!”

Page 45 of my NPB notes discusses the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is located in the anterior hypothalamus and is the dominant pacemaker. Something to do with circadian rhythms and internal clocks in one’s body. I cross out suprachiasmatic and write super charismatic above it. Who says neurobiology can’t be fun? I want to be super charismatic. Don’t you?

Two women are sitting outside, at a table right next to the front window. One woman does most of the talking and gesturing, pointing to the stack of photographs at her elbow, picking them out carefully, laying them in rows in front of her, pointing at details, passing them one-by-one to the woman sitting across to her. The other woman nods frequently, taking each photo as it is handed to her, smiling widely in response and asking questions interestedly, while the first lady gives elaborate explanations.

I understand some of what they are saying by watching their lips move in conversation, but mostly I spy on their body language and facial expressions and what I can see of the glossy photographs in their hands. There are imposing cathedrals and ivy-covered brick buildings, seascapes and sandy beaches, and cobblestoned streets, wide and elegant. I wonder if she had traveled to Italy or England, to Boston or DC. Maybe it was Zanzibar. But, somehow, I don’t think Zanzibar has cobblestones. But what do I know?

I go up to the counter to order a slice of cake to go with my blended mocha thingamajig.
“Would you like a broken slice of marble fudge cake for free?” asks the girl at the counter.
I must have hesitated (the idea that anyone could want to give me something for free must have been mind-boggling), because she reassures me, “It’s a whole piece. Just broken up a bit.”
“Sure! Thank you.”

Every time I look up from my notes and directly out the window, I see two men standing outside, just a few feet away from the aforementioned two women. One is middle-aged, the other looks about eighteen or in his early twenties. It’s hard to tell: close-cropped blonde hair, a couple of earrings, t-shirt and cords, an unremarkable face. They’ve been standing there for an hour. I assume they are father and son. The older guy does most of the talking, and very emphatically at that, his words frequently punctuated with forward thrusts of his head. The boy is quieter; he looks steadily at the other man and calmly adds a sentence here and there, but remains impassive for the most part. I recognize that expressionless gaze, because I myself use it quite often whenever I’m being lectured by my father. It’s my “heartless bastard” look, as my friend D calls it, because it conveys an unflinching lack of emotion. It’s the one I use when I really have nothing to say in my defense, or – as usually happens – when I know that saying something is only going to make the whole situation worse.

I feel extremely nosy and embarrassed about continually glancing over them through the window, but I’m a fidgety studier and I have to look around frequently, and they are directly in my line of vision. The photograph ladies are long gone, customers glance momentarily at them while stepping in and out of the coffee shop, and passersby weave their way around them on the sidewalk. Once, I glance up and inadvertently catch the older man’s mouth moving to say, “It’s not gonna happen.”

Finally, they enter the coffee shop, with a minute’s delay in between their entrances. I feel hopeful that everything is alright and perhaps what I misunderstood as an argument was just a heated discussion about sports or politics or the new gym that recently opened next door. The boy approaches the older gentleman, but the latter abruptly turns away. “Have a nice life,” says the older man coldly. He grabs his coffee, shoves his sunglasses down over his eyes, turns on his heel, and harshly adds the painful parting shot while striding away: “Without your daughter.”

The boy sits down at a table, coffee in hand, and picks up the newspaper.