Sometimes, I wonder who am I; a potential suicide bomber or a CIA agent?
Last Thursday, I decided to start walking the long distance between University of Florida and my apartment in order to get into a healthy shape again. That day, when I was about to leave school, I realized an old woman called me from back asking if I was a native from Miami.
— “No ma'am, I not not, why?”
— “Your T-shirt says University of Miami, so I thought lived there.”
— “Well, my sister used to live there some years ago.”
— “Is it a safe city? I have not been there.”
— “It's safe as long as you don't get into drugs.”
— “Is your sister a drug dealer?”
— “Not really, she was a assistant professor at University of Miami.”
— “Where are you from?”
— “I'm an Iranian.”
— “Oh, so you're an Arab.”
— “No, I am not an Arab; I'm Persian.”
— “How long have you been living here?”
— “Long enough to learn your language.”
— “What is your major?”
— “Chemical engineering.”
— “Are you a Muslim?”
— “Well, I suppose.”
— “I love your rugs. Do you have any at home?”
— “No, I don't keep rugs.”
And I am just thinking when she would finish this conversation at this hot weather and let me go, but it seemed she did not want to quit talking. I tried to be as patient and polite as possible and not to hart her feelings. Anyhow, she kept me for almost 2 hours talking about everything you could imagine in the middle of college until I decided to end the conversation.
— “Ma'am, I have to go now. It was nice meeting you.”
When I was about to leave, she said something that I will never forget.
— “Are you going to bomb us? Are you going to be a suicide bomber too?”
I just ignored her and left, thinking she just kept me for 2 hours to know if I was a suicide bomber.
This incident reminded me of what had happened to me right after September 11 when I was still at junior college. Well, one of my classmates accused me of planning to bomb my community college. He could never prove it, because I was so clumsy to even tie my shoelace let alone planning for such a task. Most my teachers and classmates who knew me personally were laughing at him, and even though I tried to be calm about it, it hart me badly for a semester.
On another incident, one early morning when I was about to pass my social science professor to attend a class, he said that a good terrorist was a dead terrorist with a smile on his face. He also, said something about American Indians, but I did not hear him. I smiled back calmly and walked away.
Later on when I asked some of my Muslim classmates, I realized I was the only one who was targeted at college, yet I still don't have any idea why.
Back in Iran, I can remember the situation was not so great either. We were still engaged at war with Iraq when I started first grade, and in that local primary school whose teachers were mostly our own neighbors, everyone knew I was an American citizen. As a result, all the words coming out of my principal's mouth had something to abuse me. I guess he considered me as a CIA agent of the Great Satan working to overthrow the Islamic Government of Almighty God.
One day school officials had asked us to bring donations for our soldiers at war with Iraq, and when I did, my principal said, “You're an American. Neither you nor your family cares about our government.”
He was right. I never cared about his regime, which had brought fortune to uneducated people like him. But even as a child I did care for our soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our motherland, Iran.
People like my principal prayed 15 times a day instead of five to get promoted, while I was raised listening to my father who would proudly tell me stories about our great past; our kings like Cyrus and heroes like Babak who kept Iran alive.
Yesterday I was called a CIA agent, today a terrorist. I know what I am, no matter what people say.