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I Hate Tuesdays
Every Tuesday, my mom makes me go to this place for the food drive and makes me hand out bags of food to the poor, to the ones who don’t have enough money for food. She thinks that it will teach me a lesson in humility but after three weeks, it has done nothing for me.
On this cold winter day in December, I went to the food bank and as usual, handed out prepared grocery bags to some people. At 10:00pm, I was sent home but before I could catch a ride home on the bus, I had to go buy some stuff at the convenience store around the corner.
I bought a carton of eggs, some salad dressing, a few cans of soup, a bag of milk and a chocolate bar at the store and the clerk shoved everything thing in the bag took my mom’s debit card without a question. I was in and out of there in five minutes, with a little time to spare for my bus ride.
I walked out of the store and crossed an empty intersection. Empty except for me and a woman who was crossing a few feet in front of me. We both were headed in the same direction and I paid little attention to her as I was stuck in a world of my own thoughts.
Somewhere along the middle of the intersection, I fell and dropped my grocery bag all over the ground. I groaned in embarrassment, frustration and in pain. My arm which I had fell on was pulsing in pain. I looked across the ground where my plastic bag had broken open from the bottom and the groceries were everywhere. Most distinctive was the gooey mess coming from the egg carton. I groaned again.
“Need a hand?” came a woman’s voice. She sounded like she wasn’t from the area, she had a slight accent. I looked up and saw the woman who walked in front of me earlier. She must’ve turned around to help me out. I looked at her outstretched hand for a second and reached out for it.
The woman helped me to my feet and I noticed how oddly she was dressed. It was a very cold night with a little snow here and there and yet, she was dressed in sandals with a dress on. Her dress was black and full length, covering a lot of skin. She wore a scarf as well, a matching black one and it covered most of her face. I barely could see her face but the parts I could see were well defined and stood out, like the indent on her forehead and the look in her eyes, she looked happy but there was also a glimmer of something else in there…perhaps loss? The woman was well-tanned and looked as if she was from the Middle East. That would explain her accent.
“Let me help you pick up these groceries,” she said. Together, we picked up the groceries and she handed me all my things. She held the egg carton with care and opened it slowly once we were finished. It was a gooey mess and full of cracked shells. Only a few eggs were cracked.
“Oh great, now my mom’s going to kill me!” I exclaimed. The woman gave me a little look. “Well, not really, but she’s going to be so mad. On top of all these other things that’s she mad about…great. Could you just throw them out please?”
“Not every egg is cracked though,” the woman said. “Come on, we better keep walking before the light turns.” The hand was already beginning to flash and we hurried along, with her still holding the eggs.
“Most are cracked though, it’s useless.”
“It’s never useless to save the ones that have a chance,” came her reply. We stepped onto the sidewalk and she held out the carton for me. Reluctantly, I took it.
“I guess so,” I said and sighed. “Well, I best be going. I’m probably going to miss my bus now. Jeez, I hate my life.”
“I am catching the bus as well, perhaps we could continue talking and you could tell me about why you just can’t handle things in your life right now,” she said.
I glanced over at the woman and gave her a once over. She was rather young, probably only twenty, not much older than I was. Something about her made her seem a lot older though, maybe the way she spoke or the way she carried herself. She didn’t seem to be a creep, she seemed like she wasn’t going to mug me, so I shrugged.
“Okay,” I replied. It was random, I know, me about to spill all my sorrows to a woman I didn’t even know.
“My name is Naori,” the woman said.
“Alright, Theresa, what seems to be the problem then?” Naori asked as we walked towards the bus shelter. I sighed.
“Everything. Basically, my whole life sucks. My parents just announced that they were getting divorced and dad’s already left the house and taken up with a new woman. My boyfriend dumped me right before semi-formal next week and I have no date for it anymore. My mom makes me volunteer at this stupid thing where I hand out food for the poor while I could be doing better things, like talking to my friends. Now, I crushed all my groceries and made a fool of myself. And on top of that, I’m failing two of my classes,” I vented as we reached the bus shelter. We went into the little glass shelter and both took a seat on the little bench.
“Sounds tough,” Naori said. “But you can change that. You have to make the best of what you got, I guess. There’s nothing you could do about you’re parents, that is between them but the boyfriend thing, I suggest you do your best to forget him. Go to that semi-formal with your friends, have a laugh. Maybe you’ll find someone there. And your classes, well at least your in school unlike some kids in this area. Keep trying and reach for the top.”
I looked over to Naori who was staring at the religious channel ad on the side of the shelter. “Wow…I guess. I want to go to semi but … Yeah, I could find a new guy. School seems so pointless at times though…I want to do good but I don’t think it’s worth it.”
Naori looked over at me, piercing me with her brown eyes. There was a little glint in her eyes and my eyes were drawn to the indent on her forehead again. “School is worth it, you can go anywhere with it. It’s one of the best things you can have. Education is needed if you want to succeed in society.”
I sighed. “Yeah, I guess.”
Just then, the bus came into view and stopped at our little shelter. We both rose and Naori let me go on first. We both paid our money and climbed aboard. We took our seats and I decided to sit with her.
“I can’t handle it though, the work is hard.”
“Get a tutor then,” Naori replied.
“Yeah, that could work. It’s not like I have a boyfriend hogging all my time.”
I think somewhere behind that scarf Naori smiled because she gave a little laugh.
“You are right. See, there’s a silver lining in every cloud. Every cloud.”
I smiled. “Yeah, I guess there is.”
We sat in silence for another few minutes, talking occasionally about the odd thing and I finally got to my stop. As I stepped off the bus, I looked back at Naori, the woman who had helped me with a lot of problems. She was staring off in space but when she noticed me looking back, she gave a little wave. I grinned and waved back.
I hopped off the bus and began to walk home. It was random, how tripping on the street had helped me. I didn’t even know Naori and I probably would never see her again and yet she was kind enough to pick up my groceries.
I reached my house and unlocked the door. I reached the kitchen and set the bag on the table where my mom was reading the paper.
“Oh, hey honey,” mom said.
“Hi mom,” I replied.
“How are you?” she asked.
“A lot better now, especially after that grocery helping stuff.”
“Told you it would help,” Mom replied.
“Well, actually not the giving the poor groceries but on the way home, I dropped all the groceries on the ground and this woman just helped me up. I’m sorry Mom, but most of the eggs are smashed.”
“Theresa.” Mom said sternly, rolling her eyes.
“Well, I thought I should bring them home. The woman said save the ones that are okay because they deserve a chance or something like that.”
“She seems very wise.”
“She is. And she was only a few years older than I am, she couldn’t have been older than twenty,” I said. “We somehow got talking and she really listened, you know. She gave me some good advice.”
“Do you even know this woman?” Mom asked.
“Um…not really but she gave me her name, it’s Naori. She looked Middle Eastern or something like that.”
“Naori? I think I know who you mean. Does she have a little indent on her forehead and wears sandals even though it’s cold out? Covers up a lot?”
I nodded eagerly. How did mom know her?
“Oh, she’s a fine woman. She’s only eighteen. Three years older than you.”
“No way, she seemed so much older.”
“Nope. She’s just very mature. Been through a lot. It’s tragic, really. I’ve helped her get her feet off the ground. She recently immigrated to the area.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. My mom helped a lot of immigrants who came to our area. That was her job really. She just worked to help out new people so they fit in better.
“Yeah, real sad story for her. She comes from Afghanistan and her whole life, the country has been war torn. Her mother was raped when she was young so her father had to kill because of the shame to the family. Her father was in the Taliban so he was never around and because of his beliefs, she had to wear this burka all the time, covering her skin. She never went to school or anything like that. It was against the rules for girls to attend school. She was abused a lot too, she was always in trouble. She tried learning math once but her father found out…that’s why she has no pinkie toe. He punished her severely. A few years after that, her eldest brother was sent to jail and she never saw him again.”
“She never really had any friends growing up. Going out of the house alone for girls isn’t allowed. She tried playing the flute for a while but then one of her brothers found out and hit her on the forehead with it. That’s why there’s an indent. Music isn’t allowed in Afghanistan. And then around eight, her father left for a year to go fight. Her uncle went with him but never came back. The Taliban were slowly taking over the country and there was bloodshed everywhere. People she knew, like a woman who worked at this corner store, were killed.”
“And when the Taliban finally took over, it was alright for a few years until Bin Laden attacked the Twin Towers. Then the country was at war again. Her father was arranging a marriage for her at that time and then she was out in the garden one day and fell in love…in love with a Canadian solider whose time was finished but he hadn’t left. Naturally, that wasn’t allowed since he was from over here and her father flipped. She ran away with her man and they found themselves fighting for her freedom. Her Canadian shot her brother and as he slowly died, he shot her Canadian, Marc. Then she had to kill her father to escape death herself. She needed out of Afghanistan and Marc had told her of Canada so she came here. She somehow made it out of there…and to Canada where everything is so different.”
I looked at my mother with my mouth wide open.
“I know, very tragic. Her life is one big disaster after another. But now she’s here in Canada…She should be better now,” Mom said and lifted her newspaper back up again.
Like a zombie, I went to my room and collapsed on my bed. How could one person handle all that? I would go insane. I would never be able to handle all that. I don’t even know how she could just continue life after she lost her mom, her brother in jail, losing her love, killing her brother and father…that was a lot.
And I had complained to her about my life. My life. My rather simple life, compared to hers. It seemed very clear now: my life wasn’t that hard, it didn’t suck like I thought. She should’ve just laughed in my face when I complained about mine… and yet she was nice enough to listen to my woes. After all that, she still was decent. She could’ve easily turned into a hateful person and yet she helped me out.
One thing was for sure, groceries had taught me a lesson in humility.