There was this little girl shyly watching as I worked. I looked up at the sound of two little boys screaming their little heads off, running around the mall, and noticed the little girl. She said:
Boys are silly.
I nodded and gave her a look that said, You said it, sista.
Where’s your mother?
She’s inside that store, pointed the girl.
Shortly thereafter, the boys came back. I had gleamed from my conversation with the girl that they were her brothers, although, curiously, the two boys didn’t look alike at all. The boys eventually made their way over to get a closer look at the grown-up stranger their little sister had apparently started a lopsided friendship with.
I have money, can I buy a phone? yelled the cuter brother. He must have felt that my ears were very far from his view three feet off the ground. He held out his hand, on which laid approximately two dollars and twenty-five cents.
Sorry kid, we don’t sell our phones outright, I grinned.
Oh. That’s ok! he shouted. I turned to my coworker – I guess these kids don’t have indoor voices.
We chatted for a bit, and then I asked, What’s your name?
No! His name isn’t Humzi, it’s Humza!
No! I hate my name!
I grinned. That’s ok Humzi, I’ll call you whichever one you like better. He gratefully flashed me his pearly-whites.
So. You two are brothers?
Yes! Gap-Tooth, his brother clarified, We’re Muslim brothers.
No! Don’t tell her we’re Muslim! Cutie-Pie shook his head vehemently, with such urgency that his arms swung also, swinging out to the sides like that one ride at Wonderland.
That’s ok Humzi, it doesn’t matter to me what religion you believe in, I’ll always like you.
The relief in little Humzi’s eyes was so apparent, you could spot it from a mile away. Were these kids not used to acceptance? I wonder who or what made them feel they shouldn’t disclose their religion.
It made me sad to think that perhaps their parents told them not to, for fear of their children being touched by Islamophobia. Or maybe the little boy didn’t want to be different from the kids at school. I know I felt the same growing up.
In that moment, I wanted to scoop him up and give him a big hug. It was at this exact moment that their mother came out, finally, and corralled them towards the next store on their to-do list. Humza, that lady is working, don’t bother her!
Before they disappeared into The Children’s Place, Humzi turned around. On his face was a big smile.