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“Your name is Tasbeeh. Don’t let them call you by anything else.”

My mother speaks to me in Arabic; the command sounds more forceful in her mother tongue, a Libyan dialect that is all sharp edges and hard, guttural sounds. I am seven years old and it has never occurred to me to disobey my mother. Until twelve years old, I would believe God gave her the supernatural ability to tell when I’m lying.

“Don’t let them give you an English nickname,” my mother insists once again, “I didn’t raise amreekan.”

My mother spits out this last word with venom. Amreekan. Americans. It sounds like a curse coming out of her mouth. Eight years in this country and she’s still not convinced she lives here. She wears her headscarf tightly around her neck, wades across the school lawn in long, floor-skimming skirts. Eight years in this country and her tongue refuses to bend and soften for the English language. It embarrasses me, her heavy Arab tongue, wrapping itself so forcefully around the clumsy syllables of English, strangling them out of their meaning.

But she is fierce and fearless. I have never heard her apologize to anyone. She will hold up long grocery lines checking and double-checking the receipt in case they’re trying to cheat us. My humiliation is heavy enough for the both of us. My English is not. Sometimes I step away, so people don’t know we’re together but my dark hair and skin betray me as a member of her tribe.

On my first day of school, my mother presses a kiss to my cheek.

“Your name is Tasbeeh,” she says again, like I’ve forgotten. “Tasbeeh.”


Roll call is the worst part of my day. After a long list of Brittanys, Jonathans, Ashleys, and Yen-but-call-me-Jens, the teacher rests on my name in silence. She squints. She has never seen this combination of letters strung together in this order before. They are incomprehensible. What is this h doing at the end? Maybe it is a typo.


“Tasbeeh,” I mutter, with my hand half up in the air. “Tasbeeh.”

A pause.

“Do you go by anything else?”

“No,” I say. “Just Tasbeeh. Tas-beeh.”

“Tazbee. All right. Alex?”

She moves on before I can correct her. She said it wrong. She said it so wrong. I have never heard my name said so ugly before, like it’s a burden. Her entire face contorts as she says it, like she is expelling a distasteful thing from her mouth. She avoids saying it for the rest of the day, but she has already baptized me with this new name. It is the name everyone knows me by, now, for the next six years I am in elementary school. “Tazbee,” a name with no grace, no meaning, no history; it belongs in no language.

“Tazbee,” says one of the students on the playground, later. “Like Tazmanian Devil?” Everyone laughs. I laugh too. It is funny, if you think about it.


I do not correct anyone for years. One day, in third grade, a plane flies above our school.

“Your dad up there, Bin Laden?” The voice comes from behind. It is dripping in derision.

“My name is Tazbee,” I say. I said it in this heavy English accent, so he may know who I am. I am American. But when I turn around they are gone.


I go to middle school far, far away. It is a 30-minute drive from our house. It’s a beautiful set of buildings located a few blocks off the beach. I have never in my life seen so many blond people, so many colored irises. This is a school full of Ashtons and Penelopes, Patricks and Sophias. Beautiful names that belong to beautiful faces. The kind of names that promise a lifetime of social triumph.

I am one of two headscarved girls at this new school. We are assigned the same gym class. We are the only ones in sweatpants and long-sleeved undershirts. We are both dreading roll call. When the gym teacher pauses at my name, I am already red with humiliation.

“How do I say your name?” she asks.

“Tazbee,” I say.

“Can I just call you Tess?”

I want to say yes. Call me Tess. But my mother will know, somehow. She will see it written in my eyes. God will whisper it in her ear. Her disappointment will overwhelm me.

“No,” I say, “Please call me Tazbee.”

I don’t hear her say it for the rest of the year.


My history teacher calls me Tashbah for the entire year. It does not matter how often I correct her, she reverts to that misshapen sneeze of a word. It is the ugliest conglomeration of sounds I have ever heard.

When my mother comes to parents’ night, she corrects her angrily, “Tasbeeh. Her name is Tasbeeh.” My history teacher grimaces. I want the world to swallow me up.


My college professors don’t even bother. I will only know them for a few months of the year. They smother my name in their mouths. It is a hindrance for their tongues. They hand me papers silently. One of them mumbles it unintelligibly whenever he calls on my hand. Another just calls me “T.”

My name is a burden. My name is a burden. My name is a burden. I am a burden.


On the radio I hear a story about a tribe in some remote, rural place that has no name for the color blue. They do not know what the color blue is. It has no name so it does not exist. It does not exist because it has no name.


At the start of a new semester, I walk into a math class. My teacher is blond and blue-eyed. I don’t remember his name. When he comes to mine on the roll call, he takes the requisite pause. I hold my breath.

“How do I pronounce your name?” he asks.

I say, “Just call me Tess.”

“Is that how it’s pronounced?”

I say, “No one’s ever been able to pronounce it.”

“That’s probably because they didn’t want to try,” he said. “What is your name?”

When I say my name, it feels like redemption. I have never said it this way before. Tasbeeh. He repeats it back to me several times until he’s got it. It is difficult for his American tongue. His has none of the strength, none of the force of my mother’s. But he gets it, eventually, and it sounds beautiful. I have never heard it sound so beautiful. I have never felt so deserving of a name. My name feels like a crown.


“Thank you for my name, mama.”


When the barista asks me my name, sharpie poised above the coffee cup, I tell him: “My name is Tasbeeh. It’s a tough t clinging to a soft a, which melts into a silky ssss, which loosely hugs the b, and the rest of my name is a hard whisper — eeh. Tasbeeh. My name is Tasbeeh. Hold it in your mouth until it becomes a prayer. My name is a valuable undertaking. My name requires your rapt attention. Say my name in one swift note – Tasbeeeeeeeh – sand let the h heat your throat like cinnamon. Tasbeeh. My name is an endeavor. My name is a song. Tasbeeh. It means giving glory to God. Tasbeeh. Wrap your tongue around my name, unravel it with the music of your voice, and give God what he is due

Tasbeeh Herwees, The Names They Gave Me (via cat-phuong)

I am weeping.

(via strangeasanjles)

(Source: rabbrakha)


Logurt Week: Family

James Howlett and Kurt Waggoner from X-treme X-men. In my head James totally busts Hercules and Kurt out off the afterlife and they live happily ever after.

I guess technically this isn’t really Logurt, but I could any meaningful relationship between them as Logurt, even if it’s father/son.

If that sort of thing isn’t allowed, just let me know.

My mother once told me that trauma is like Lord of the Rings. You go through this crazy, life-altering thing that almost kills you (like say having to drop the one ring into Mount Doom), and that thing by definition cannot possibly be understood by someone who hasn’t gone through it. They can sympathize sure, but they’ll never really know, and more than likely they’ll expect you to move on from the thing fairly quickly. And they can’t be blamed, people are just like that, but that’s not how it works.

Some lucky people are like Sam. They can go straight home, get married, have a whole bunch of curly headed Hobbit babies and pick up their gardening right where they left off, content to forget the whole thing and live out their days in peace. Lots of people however, are like Frodo, and they don’t come home the same person they were when they left, and everything is more horrible and more hard then it ever was before. The old wounds sting and the ghost of the weight of the one ring still weighs heavy on their minds, and they don’t fit in at home anymore, so they get on boats go sailing away to the Undying West to look for the sort of peace that can only come from within. Frodos can’t cope, and most of us are Frodos when we start out.

But if we move past the urge to hide or lash out, my mother always told me, we can become Pippin and Merry. They never ignored what had happened to them, but they were malleable and receptive to change. They became civic leaders and great storytellers; they we able to turn all that fear and anger and grief into narratives that others could delight in and learn from, and they used the skills they had learned in battle to protect their homeland. They were fortified by what had happened to them, they wore it like armor and used it to their advantage.

It is our trauma that turns us into guardians, my mother told me, it is suffering that strengthens our skin and softens our hearts, and if we learn to live with the ghosts of what had been done to us, we just may be able to save others from the same fate.

S.T.Gibson  (via modernhepburn)


(via witchy-w0man)

These aren’t tears I’m just…

Don’t look at me.

(via arys-tokeheart)

(Source: sarahtaylorgibson)

Day 2 of Logurtweek. Prompt: food/meals.

from Never Piss Off a Telepath; Or How Logan Opened His Mouth and Said a Stupid Thing

The next morning, Kurt woke up in bed, cuddled up to Logan’s pillow.  He blinked and rubbed his eyes and couldn’t find his lover anywhere in the room.  He listened for the sound of morning sickness that had greeted him the previous morning, but he was quite alone.  He sat up and looked around.  Something seemed…off…then he realized that the bedroom was spotless.  There were no clothes on the floor, no empty beer cans or bottles waiting to be thrown away.  No cigar smell.  In fact, that particular odor didn’t seem to cling to the curtains or sheets the way it normally did. 

He climbed out of bed and made it hastily then threw on clothes before stepping into the bathroom to brush his teeth and hair.  Even the bathroom was shiny.  Kurt poked his head back into the bedroom and noticed that the mini-fridge that Logan kept for his beer was slightly open, so he moved over to it to close it.  Before his tail could push the door closed, Kurt saw that the fridge was empty. 

“Huh,” he mused to the empty room.  That was odd.  Logan had just restocked that the other night before all of this pregnancy mess started. 

Instead of puzzling over it for long, Kurt just teleported out of the bedroom and popped into the kitchen.  When the brimstone cleared, he smelled the aroma of eggs and bacon cooking and…other not-complementary scents. 

“Ya know, Elf, we’re gonna have ta talk about you portin’ into a room without fair warning first,” Logan said from stove-side where he was busy flipping the bacon, cheese, sardine and pickle – sweet and dill – omelet until the eggs were nice and fluffy around all the filling.  He looked over his shoulder and beamed a playful smile at his lover. 

Kurt had been known to eat some strange food combinations in his life.  For that matter, so had Logan, but whatever monstrosity that the older mutant was concocting now smelled like nothing that he would ever wish upon his worst enemies.  His nose crinkled in disgust, and his tail flicked back and forth until he made it stay still by his leg.  He looked around and saw that Logan had even pulled down several herbs that he must have added to the mix – tarragon, basil, cumin, cayenne pepper and Chinese Five Spice, all serving to blend and create a pungent aroma that was reminiscent of the horrors that he remembered creating in chemistry lab. 

“Logan, mein Gott…what are you doing?  Have you gone insane?  That smells horrible.  You’re not actually going to eat that, are you?” Kurt complained, wanting to move closer to his lover but terrified that the horrifying stench would cling to his fur all day. 

Turning around with the handle gripped in one hand, Logan eased the omelet onto his plate then walked over to the sink, immediately running hot water in the pan, which he scrubbed out and set into the dish rack to dry.  He grabbed the sponge and walked back over to the stove to wipe it down then back to the sink.  “Of course, I’m gonna eat this.  Just woke up hungry for it…and seein’ as how cravings are all a part of pregnancy, I might as well indulge whatever the baby wants.”  He looked up at Kurt and kissed him then hugged him tightly. 

Kurt’s gaze had followed the shorter man around the kitchen, a bit surprised by Logan’s sudden change in cleaning habits when normally, he’d just leave dishes in the sink until the end of a meal or until he could pawn washing them off on someone else.  He hugged Logan back and kissed him, but his eyes fell on the sheer number of beer bottles and cans sitting on the edge of the sink.  Empty. 

“Logan?” he asked and gestured to them.

Logan turned to look at them and gave Kurt a grin before brushing back an errant lock of black hair from his tanned skin.  “What?  Ya didn’t think I was gonna keep all those around while I’m pregnant, did ya?  I can’t drink, Kurt, and I was hopin’ that…well, with this bein’ our baby an’ all, that you’d be willing to give up drinking during the duration, too.  Ya know…emotional support.” 

I need a drink to just get through this week, Kurt thought to himself, but he nodded his head.  “Of course, mein Lieb.  Emotional support.  That’s what I’m here for,” he promised and kissed Logan’s forehead.  He felt the older man nuzzle against him then nearly bounce back over to the island where his plate waited for him.  Kurt watched as Logan buttered two pieces of toast then liberally coated them in plum jelly before shaking a bottle of Tabasco sauce over his omelet, then he carted everything including a glass of milk toward the door leading into the dining room. 

“I noticed you got rid of the cigar smell in the bedroom, too, Liebchen,” Kurt mentioned while he tried to decide if he could actually eat anything after watching Logan fix his own breakfast. 

“Oh right!  I got rid of all my cigars, Elf.  Not good ta smoke while I’m pregnant, babe, and I shouldn’t smoke afterward either, so I’m gonna give it up.” 

Kurt watched Logan disappear into the other room then sagged against the counter.  He wasn’t going to make it to the end of Emma’s week. 

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