I really do try to avoid going out on Saturday nights. Six hours of pretending to be a practicing Muslim is hard enough when I’m not hungover.
But, as is to be expected, this is not normally the case. All too many times, I’ve had to shimmy into my headscarf and abaya while picking strange things out of my hair and applying copious amounts of under eye concealer – all in the hopes of keeping my secret.
And after five years, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. My poor dad doesn’t suspect a thing.
The secret was a lot easier to keep once my mom was in on it. Every Sunday morning as I got ready to spend the day with him, she’d let me borrow her hijab pins and remind me to flip my septum ring up into my nose. Then I’d walk downstairs, slip into the passenger seat of his car, and put on an Oscar-worthy performance for the next six hours. I would always nod sweetly when he asked me if I said my prayers that morning and held my tongue when he scoffed in disgust at what he believed was disgusting American culture.
My mom would joke that God must be on my side: five years, and not once did I run into my father in public, not once did he try and look me up on Facebook, not once did we run into someone we knew. I started getting cocky and less careful, sure that after all this time nothing could blow my cover.
That was, until one day, as I sat next beside him in his car and rifled through my bag, about to spend the weekend with him for the first time in years, that I noticed a bright orange pill bottle completely stuffed with pot from the night before.
It took a second for the smell to hit me. I zipped up my bag with a noticeably frantic fervor. “Hey Baba,” I loudly interrupted as he droned on with the argument. “Smells like a skunk must have gotten run over!”
He absentmindedly claimed he couldn’t smell anything. I leaned my head on the back of the seat, my bag at my feet, and sniffed the air as subtly as I could. Nothing. Was the smell really hidden, I immediately panicked, or was I just used to it? I leaned over a bit – still nothing. Brought my bag to my lap – sure enough, there it was.
I cranked the window down, hoping to air out what I could. “Close your window,” my dad barked from next to me. “The heat is on!” I wanted to melt into my seat as I very slowly rolled it back up.
While I restlessly shuffled around in my seat, he launched back into one of his seemingly endless political rants. His worldviews are shaped from his exclusive reading of tabloid magazines and self-help books. As he vehemently argued with no one that Facebook is solely responsible for the rise of alcoholism in young teens, I continued performing various contortions to try and detect where the smell was strongest.
It was a fruitless endeavor. Desperate, I then closed my eyes and prayed silently. Surely God was watching me squirm and was dragging this scene on as punishment. It didn’t need to smell this strongly, this trip didn’t need to be quite so long. I bargained. I promised I’d never indulge in any more illicit activities if He could just let me get through this one unharmed.
With a sigh of relief, I lightly tossed my bag back on the floor, smoothed out my abaya, and allowed myself to relax. Forty-five minutes later, when we were almost at his house, he sniffed the air again.
“Huh, weird,” he said. “Now I smell that skunk. I usually love the smell of skunk, but not when it’s this strong.”