Khalil does The Act

قصة قصيرة بالإنجليزية،كتبتها منذ فترة، وعنوانها: خليل يؤدي الدور.

Khalil does The Act

by M. Salama

"…one of the best schools in the area. I'm sure you'll make new friends in no time"
I was so deep into my thoughts that I missed the first part of his sentence.
Looking at him, I couldn't help but smile. He looked very much like a big black Sumo wrestler, If there is such a thing.
I struggled to hide my facial expression. After all, it wouldn't be wise to upset anyone on my first day.
We continued walking. Long corridor. The doors looked clean. The floor too.
A picture of my old school flashed in my mind. I sighed.

He took a bite of a generously-made meat sandwich.
Ah.. Eating meat. Another thing I'll have to figure out while living here. It could be pork.. It could have been slaughtered against Islamic law.. too many possibilities. I'll have to be extra careful about what I eat, and make sure it is (Halal).
Sacrificing my normal diet.. CHECK.

"…and don't ever feel awkward about where you came from", He stopped talking for a second then muttered "but do not walk around shouting about it either. Most people here don't even know where Egypt is! Asia is too far away, my boy"
"North Africa, actually" I said in an indifferent tone.
"Well.. still Arabs.. and Muslims. Although your English will help you break the ice"
Silence fell. I took a deep breath preparing myself for The Act.
"But the accent is.. Never mind.. We are a tolerant country as you will see.. Best people in the world, not to brag or anything.. hehehe. I even have Muslim friends. Well, a friend to be honest. Not even a friend per sé but..."
He abruptly ran out of words.
I was too busy getting into (the acting mode) to care about that.

You see.. If I learned one thing from watching American movies on Egypt's "Channel 2" while I was younger, it would be this fact. New kids get bullied in the schools of America. More if they like to read stuff. I'm a New Arab Nerdy Reader. Do the math!
And If I learned anything watching Youtube videos - Channel 2 sucks almost always by the way - it would be the fact that Americans love stand up comedians. Like Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Robin Williams, and Dave chappelle. Hence what I'm about to do now.

Defense Mechanism.. Smooth Social move.. call it what you want. I call it the Not-to-become-a-punching-bag technique. AKA: The Act.

I heard the guy clear his throat. Apparently he was finished with the sandwich. I watched him take a paper out of his pocket; examine it; then stare right at me for a while.
I felt like I was being scanned by invisible rays. Maybe even a little bit violated. Somehow it reminded me of the airport.
"Khalil.. That's a heavy weird name. Am I saying it right? We will have to do something about that. What does it mean in Arabic?"
"A close friend"
I sensed that he wasn't waiting for an answer.
"Maybe we should turn it into something cool.. like (Kal-El), you know?.. Superman's real name"

Losing my name.. CHECK.

"He is somewhat Jewish though" he continued, "I mean the guys who created the comic were. Do you know that?"
It sounded like some kind of a trick question, so I nodded and said nothing.
He seemed a little bit disappointed that the conversation didn't go any further.
"Of course you do!.. You look like a smart little Harry Potter, especially with these glasses"
He giggled to himself. I didn't comment.
Then he knocked on one of the doors and we entered a classroom. A paper was handed to a short bald teacher while my whole concentration was on the students. The audience.

I was introduced and the teacher said something polite that I didn't catch.
My heart was pumping hard. Here it comes. The moment of truth. Will it work?
I cleared my dry throat and said in a horrible Pakistani impression I once heard in a movie: "Soo.. do you speaking English?"
No immediate reaction. Warning!. Warning!
Suddenly I'm hot and sweaty.
The brief moment of silence was like years to me.
I though harder, then said in a Seinfeld imitation:
"Whoa.. Tough crowd tonight! Isn't it?"
They laughed.
Some of them smiled at me.
This is enough. I'm safe for now.
End of Act.

Last Edit 2012 March 04

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