Listen, I'm sorry, I really do feel bad
but I just want to go home.
As I slide into your backseat clutching my backpack and my coat
and you say "assalamualaikum," I'm making enough noise
to pretend that I don't hear you
and it's dark enough that you don't have to see me roll my eyes.
And then you say it again and listen,
seriously, I'm sorry, but I just want to go home.
I want to sit in the back of your camry that smells faintly of spiced wood
and close my eyes and nod off.
I've written about you a dozen times
how you look like my father
how I can find comfort in the way you pronounce your words
because they sound so familiar
but tonight I don't have the energy to stumble around
the intricacies of our shared history,
to lean forward and ask you about how you came here,
how my mother went to med school with your cousin,
back in Baghdad, to see your eyes light up.
I'm sorry, I feel bad, I really do,
but I'm tired and I just want to go home tonight.
I've written about you, reduced your history
to my longing
and my digital affirmations
but when you say "assalamlaikum"
your voice ringing with hope and dripping
with the sweetness of 50 cent Damascene ice cream,
all I can think is that I'm tired.
So I say, in the accent I learned in the suburbs
and perfected in Midtown Manhattan,
I drop an octave,
I respond "Hey, how are you?"
and slide on my headphones.