This Girl Wants To Know If I Grew Up Speaking Pakistanian

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Tina is a little late. I am glad we decided to meet at Lucky Lounge instead of a corner at umpteenth and what’s it called. While I wait to catch the bartender’s eye, I notice an attractive brunette with an alluring tan walk up to the bar and inquire if the seat next to me is taken.

It isn’t. I invite her to have a seat, and after thanking me she sits down.
 
I finally get the bartender’s attention and order an iced Coke with lemon. The brunette orders an apple martini. She lights a menthol cigarette and glances around the bar.

Tina calls to say she is running late. Tina is my friend Jason’s new girlfriend, and I am not sure how I feel about her just yet. The females in our group of friends have already cancelled her out, but I think she deserves more of a chance, for Jason’s sake. So when Tina called to ask if I would like to go shopping with her and help plan a surprise party for Jason’s 23rd birthday, I agreed.

As I sip on my Coke, the brunette next to me leans over and tells me she is glad that Washington DC hasn’t banned smoking from bars and clubs like New York. I agree with a nod and a smile.

She asks me if am waiting for a girlfriend, and I tell her I am waiting for a friend before correcting myself—actually, just an acquaintance.  

She tells me she is waiting for a blind date from the Internet.

I wish her luck. She asks me my name.

“Yasir,” I say.

“Yasir, as in Yasir Arafat?” she giggles. “That’s kinda scary.”

I nod, but without smiling this time. She tells me her name is Laura. I am tempted to ask her if it is Laura, as in the woman married to President Bush. That’s even scarier. But I decide to shake her hand instead.

She then inquires as to what I do with my life. “I’m a senior in college,” I tell her. With a “wow” she exclaims that she is also in college, pursuing a journalism career.  

“That’s nice,” I reply.

She aspires to be a columnist in New York, writing about sex and singles in an urban environment, living in a chic apartment in Manhattan. She grew up in suburban Pennsylvania and asks me if I grew up here.

I inform her that I am originally from Pakistan and am studying in the United States.

“Wow, really?” she asks. “That place is going through some tough times right now, isn’t it?”

“Well, it’s had tough times for a while.” (But it’s never too late to notice.)
 
“But… you speak really good English. Didn’t you grow up speaking Pakistanian?”
 
“Sure.” (But I learned Americanian at a young age.)
 
“Hey, actually, my dentist is from Pakistan, Masood … you wouldn’t happen to know him?”

“You know what, the name sounds familiar,” I joke before I wonder aloud if Laura knows a Paul someone I once met from Pennsylvania.

She tells me I am funny. Then, with a more serious expression, she reveals that she once saw a documentary on television about women in Pakistan. It said women were locked up in houses and were not allowed to step out of their rooms all day. Some were even made to sleep with their faces veiled at night. She saw it on TV.

Trying hard to keep my own expression serious, I disclose that I saw a Jerry Springer episode earlier in the day about women who were fed up with their kinky husbands. They loved their husbands but no longer wanted to go shopping with them with a leash around their necks. I saw it on TV also, I say.

She tells me I am funny, again. “Oh my God. I am getting a little tipsy," she chuckles. "So… umm… Do you, like, know Osama?” She adds hastily, “I am just kidding.”

“Only if you know Timothy McVeigh.”
 
I silently curse Tina for being late.

Finally the familiar face of my acquaintance walks inside the bar, tucking her ID back in her purse. Her eyes search for me across the lounge. She finds me and smiles. A smile of apology.

Once the two girls are introduced, they kiss each other on the cheeks with a delicacy that resembles hesitance, and each agrees that it’s nice to meet the other. We all make small talk for a few minutes before Tina and I head outside.

“So who was she?” Tina asks.

“Oh, just someone who struck up a conversation with me while I was waiting.”

“She was cute.”

“Nah… not really my type.” I dismiss the brunette’s blue eyes, great tan, and perfect teeth.

“Yeah. She seemed kind of dumb. I mean, she just came across as a little clueless.”

I think about the conversation I just had. It seemed to be the embodiment of all the questions I have been asked on an almost daily basis during my stay here in the United States. While Laura exemplified the worst extreme, for some reason, so many Americans I’ve met just don't know much about what goes on in other parts of the world.

“Not clueless,” I say. I pause. “Just… uninformed.”

Tina nods and we cross the street, maneuvering through the tail end of rush hour traffic. Suddenly, I decide that I like Tina, and I can’t wait to tell Jason that.

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Posted on 7/14/2009 by

Shireen Lakhani

Shireen Lakhani

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