"Little Pink Box" Part Seven
He stood there silently for a minute, awkwardly peering behind Jaleela in the computer lab and tucked his hands into his jean pockets. He struggled gracelessly, unsuccessfully to tuck in his muffin top but instead his shirt still hung out. "Is that....biochemistry?" he asked, his voice shaking, "Are, are you a medical student, too?"
Jaleela blinked twice at the zinc ion occupying her computer screen and debated whether or not to turn around. She immediately knew that he was Arab from the slight accent he spoke with and she finally flung her wheeling computer chair around--annoyed. There was no time in her life for men--especially so recently after her husband, her love, left her. "Yes, and no," she responded simply, and rolled her chair away from him and back to the computer. She paused for a moment, expecting to hear his chubby legs shuffling away, but she didn't hear anything besides the quiet grumbling of the dozens of computers around her, coupled with a turn of a page here or there. Jaleela had a suspicious feeling that Mr. Un-named was still standing three feet awkwardly behind her.
She peeked over her shoulder, mustering up her best "annoyed" face, and her heart suddenly softened at the pathetic sight of him. He was standing right in the middle of the walk area between the computers, oblivious to the fact that people were trying to pass and were eyeballing him curiously. He seemed frozen in place, sweating, and still staring at her with a determination of sorts--as if he was trying to muster up the courage to strike up a conversation. When his embarrassed gaze met hers a second time, his eyes lifted up hopefully and Jaleela knew enough science to know that by his enlarged pupils in the well-lit room, he was star-struck by her. "I st-studied biochemistry too, back in Morocco," he told her, as if she was supposed to clasp her hands together joyously. "And, and...well, I was wondering if you needed any help at all."
Jaleela decided to cut to the chase. "Listen," she said to this chubby, furry little intruder of whom she still did not know the name, "I just got a divorce. I'm not looking to get help or anything else from men right now." That'll get him, Jaleela thought. No Arab man would want a woman who was used goods, and she didn't need to pretend that she believed his offer for biochemistry help had no alternate intentions behind it. She once again wheeled her little chair back around and lifted up her pen to continue drowning herself in the theoretical pathway of a carbonic anhydrase enzyme.
"I, I, I am sorry to hear about that," he fervently preserved from behind her. By this point, people in the quiet lab were beginning to stare at the graceless, amateurish encounter. "I have never been married." He placed his head down, ever so slowly and slightly, as if he was in fact afraid that she would judge him for not having experience. Nothing in his body language showed that his interest in her had wavered with the understanding that she was divorced, and she felt shocked and a bit intrigued. She wasn't used goods to everyone in the Muslim community, after all?
As Jaleela's thoughts wandered, Mr. Unnamed continued to pant around, trying to get words out. "Actually, ah, I, my biochemistry is a little rusty, and, ah, I was wondering if I could, maybe..." He was clearly doing a poor job striking up conversation, and suddenly he burst out with, "I would like to borrow your book!" Jaleela watched him and noticed that he looked like a little puppy smiling after peeing on a rug--so content with himself for his (non)ingenious request. He turned his puppy eyes to her and removed his hands from his pockets. His plaid shirt was wrinkled and tucked out and he wasn't wearing a belt.
Jaleela couldn't believe herself, but she sighed and asked, simply: "Do you want my contact information?"
And that was how it started. A few days later they would meet to exchange the book.
Haifa giggled and Jaleela squealed and they looked both ways to make sure no one in the popular restaurant chain would overhear.
"And then," Haifa continued, her voice low and playful, "After he emailed my mom rambling about what a 'good Muslim man' he was, my folks forced me to go with him to a theme park to 'get to know him.' And everything went normally well--like, we just talked and walked around, and finally we sat down to eat and he said he wanted to use the bathroom, but he left his iPhone on the table!"
Jaleela could barely swallow--she couldn't imagine where this story would be going.
"And so, you know, I have never owned an iPhone, but dang, those things are very easy to navigate!" Haifa's long, shiny hair fell into her face and she brushed it back in a quick, ruthless gesture and continued. "So, I noticed within like, thirty seconds, that he didn't only have the email address he used to email Mommy with. He had an alternate one--and guess what the email was called?!"
Jaleela's eyes opened wide and she nodded for Haifa to continue.
"Ok..." Haifa said, taking a deep breath as Jaleela dropped her head near the table and drank her diet coke unceremoniously through an oversized straw. "The alternate email address was called 'firstname.lastname@example.org !" Both girls screamed. People at nearby tables turned to see what the shrieking and commotion was about. "And you have no idea what was inside of that thing. Sex videos--and they were clearly of him--with a big, fat, ugly blonde chick!"
"Ewwwww," Jaleela stopped drinking her soda and held her stomach. "That's nasty as hell!"
"--Which was so super insulting to me," Haifa said, "Because, besides the fact that he is a dirty you-know-what...but I couldn't help but thinking, are fat girls his type? And am I his type? So I am fat?! Am I fat, Jaleela?" Haifa rambled into a tangent and Jaleela felt hasty to get the story back on track.
"Of course you're not! Men get whatever they can wherever they can--that's what my ex-husband told me." Jaleela squinted her eyes and held Haifa's hand. "How did you get rid of him?"
"Oh," Haifa laughed, "Well, I never actually told him what I saw. Oh, but there is more that I saw--it's unbelievable! It's like he had two identities, each neatly organized into his little iPhone!"
"Well, how did you end it then?"
"I just screamed hysterically in front of everyone when he came out of the bathroom, and I threw his phone at him and left." Haifa said, in the most matter-of-fact tone possible.
"Nice..." replied Jaleela, trying to picture the situation and thanking God silently that Haifa didn't cover her hair. She could imagine the bad publicity that scene would have had on the Muslim community.
"And then I got home and told my mom everything." Haifa's eyes wandered to the right. "But I will never forget that line of his email to my mom--so respectable. He is just a good Muslim man, right? Right." Both young women rolled their eyes and picked at the burgers and fries on their plates. "Anyways," Haifa said, looking directly into Jaleela's eyes, "I wanted to tell you this story so that you would know what I meant when I said to NEVER marry someone without snooping through their technology. Better to find a deal breaker before you get engaged then after.
Jaleela promised to take this advice to heart and started planning her snoop session for her biochemistry-partner-slash-marriage interest. She knew she wouldn't find anything--Mr. Unnamed turned out to be an upstanding individual who had almost completed memorization of the Quran, and he was as awkwardly gentle and inexperienced as possible. But it never hurts to be safe, she figured, than sorry. Especially because he had a darkness in his eyes that she still couldn't explain. She would see...