Living the dream at the Theatre of Dreams

By Noora Dawood

(FILE PHOTO) Manchester United FC Applies To List On US Stock Market-1131519

“Manchester keeps our family united” is something my father would say to anyone who would ask if my family were all Manchester United supporters. Upon hearing that, most people would mouth a shape of an O and remain bewildered for a moment, fascinated at how committed we are to watching every match and how passionate our conversations tend to become. My brother and I grew up this way; we would keep track of all the scores and buy all the latest t-shirts each season we won, as if we were collecting them. If not all the matches, we’d at least watch the ones against our biggest rivals. Over the summer, we’d read the transfer gossip and speculate who would leave and who would join. This was the tradition at home; Manchester United is part of our lives.

I can still recall, three years ago, when my father surprised my brother and I with the best news ever. We were going to London, and from there, would take a train to Manchester to attend the match against Liverpool FC. The reality of it didn’t hit me until we were on the train heading to Manchester. I didn’t realize how serious the matter was until I walked outside the train station, breathed in the crisp Manchester air, and saw the blue sky and the dull grey clouds, only then did I grasp the fact that I was undoubtedly in Manchester, and was going to watch my first football match.

The city, like any metropolitan city, was busy, buzzing with cars and people yelling for a cab, unlike the district near the football stadium, which was silent yet somehow peaceful. During the day, we would walk the dank streets while it slowly drizzled and I would be so captivated by all the landmarks. I’d take in every detail around me securing them into my memory and snapping photos just to make sure I never forgot. It was as if I was living a dream; everything felt superficial but genuine at the same time. The neighborhood itself wasn’t perfect; the weather was always so placid and after sundown the streets would turn into a graveyard. The only reason anyone would ever choose to come to Manchester is for one reason and one reason only; to watch the young lads of Sir Alex – now David Moyes – play their legendary football, not because they had to, but because of their love and devotion to the team.

Just days before match day, we had gone to the Old Trafford stadium for a tour. I had learned a number of new things, some of them being that the team was once called Newton Heath, and that the stadium’s second name is The Theatre of Dreams – a name I came to like because of its beautiful representation. My excitement and anxiousness grew as the match day approached. Our new t-shirts were clean and ironed, the entrance tickets tucked away in our bags, and our strong loyalty to the football club set on overdrive. We walked into the stadium the next afternoon and a gust of familiarity had swept over me. I could smell the freshly cut grass from the entrance, though that could’ve been the clean Manchester air that I had been inhaling from the day I arrived. After we had taken our seats, we prepared ourselves for the extraordinary event that was going to transpire in front of us, LIVE. The football players of both teams emerged from the gate we had visited during the tour. Soon came the footsteps of the famous coach Sir Alex and the crowd cheered even louder; we joined the chant “Glory glory Man United, Glory glory Man United”. At that moment, in a stadium full of thousands of people cheering, I felt like I was a part of something special. Everyone around me was emitting a strong passionate love for the team and the game; my love for United escalated past the meter, and there was nothing stopping it. The players took their positions, and the referee blew his whistle; the rest was history.

The game ended with a score of 3 – 2, with one of our most talented players at the time, Dimitar Berbatov, scoring an amazing hat trick. One of his best all time ever goals was scored on that day when he chose to throw his whole body into the air, then brought his one leg in front of the other, kicked the ball into the goal, resulting in him doing a bicycle kick. I remember being in a state of awe when I saw that goal, the same way strangers are in awe when they see our passion for Manchester, mouth shaped as an O, blinking several times just to make sure that they’re not dreaming. We left the stadium with smiles plastered on our faces and our minds constantly replaying those remarkable goals. When we reached the hotel, the cab driver was waiting with our bags in his trunk – it was time to return. On our way to the airport, I glued my eyes to the window as the car drove past beautiful sceneries of farms and animals. I would never forget the fresh feeling I had when I walked the streets of Manchester despite the murky weather at times. I knew that even though all the buildings were red and the clouds were usually grey, that this city would always remain dear to me because it possessed something no other city in the world had – The Theatre of Dreams.

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Call the Cops

By Jennah Fakhouri

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What do pedophiles look like? I’d never had much of a reason to contemplate that question before. My mind scrambled to form an opinion. Pedophiles should look like grotesque monstrosities, as ugly on the outside as on the inside. They should have the grin of a predator, not the smile of your next door neighbor. My mind whirled. Pedophiles should look…strange. Yet, this man with the baseball hat and the boy-next-door smile did not fit that description. Not in the slightest. His eyes were an unexciting blue and besides his height, he was utterly ordinary. Could it be? Could my preconceived notions be wrong? I did not want to believe it, but the evidence was right before me. This ordinary man was not so ordinary after all.

It was a chilly night in La Jolla, San Diego. I remember the bite of the air, even in mid-summer. My family and I were at a Lebanese restaurant in a small plaza than screamed ‘suburbia’. Everything was wonderful. I was blissfully happy thanks to the nature of Californian spirit. My young cousins were spread out to my left on the long outdoor table overlooking nothing in particular. It should have been an uneventful night, but fate had other plans. It all started when we noticed a man hovering near our table. The children (who were the closest to him) squirmed uncomfortably. Children are amazing like that; they always know when something is wrong. My big brother tried to intimidate the man through the awe-inspiring power of his laser-jet eyes. Understandably, the man was unimpressed and decided that he did not quite feel like moving just yet. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, my brother offered him some of our food. The man scarfed it down hungrily, but did not budge.

“Could you go somewhere else?” my brother pressed.

Blissfully, he moved away. Everything should have been alright after that but it wouldn’t be much of a story if it was.

The events of the night accumulated rather quickly after that. The man (let’s call him Jack) was never far from my sight. Although he was now a couple of shops away, I could feel his every movement. It was like my internal heart alarm was telling me that this man was not what he seemed. I tried to voice my concerns to my family but I was in that in-between phase between a child and an adult and was given a pat on the back for my concerns. However, it soon became apparent that I had reason to gloat. As soon as an attractive young lady left her car, Jack was right on her heels. I’d never seen anyone being stalked before and was utterly blown away by how well-prepared Jack was. He stepped gingerly so as not to alert her to his presence. I leapt out of my chair, ready to jump into action. Thankfully, that was not necessary. The waiters and waitresses all materialized by our table, as if called. Concern was written all over their faces. As one Arab to another, the head honcho admitted to my father that Jack had been lurking around their restaurant all day.

“We’ve already called the police several times,” he said, “but they haven’t responded yet.”

I’d turned my attention towards the manager for a second but quickly whipped my head back towards the man and his prey. A waiter from another restaurant had quickly ushered the girl inside, while casting furtive glances towards the seemingly-innocuous Jack.

“We’ve got to call the police,” I said, my heart beating too fast. “He must be a pedophile.”

Phones were snapped opened and 911 was promptly dialed. My father and my uncle had taken it upon themselves to watch Jack until the police arrived at the scene. The predator became the prey as they attempted to stealthily follow his every step. They followed him into a convenience store. I thought this was a foolish practice as Jack might have a gun. However, my fear for the girl in the restaurant was stronger.  I would not be able to live with myself if I’d let anything happen to an innocent while I looked on.

While the alpha males of our pack were looking out for the good of the people, I fretted. I could not help it. My heart was galloping in my chest with a mixture of excitement and fear. The herd of servers remained close to our table, eager to see this adventure unfold. I couldn’t blame them. While we waited for the cops to show up, the waitresses told us all they knew about the man.

“He’s been hanging around here all day,” said a curly-haired Lebanese girl. “We’ve been trying to make sure he doesn’t leave until the police get here.”

“One of the workers in another shop said he left a bag of (I’d really prefer if you used your imagination at this point) in their store,” said another waitress.

I was absolutely astounded. The man must have preyed on young women before. To think: that could have been me! The seconds seemed to pass by slowly as we waited for the police. Jack and his stalkers were still ambling about, unseen. I tried to busy myself by calming down my slightly hysterical young cousins who kept asking about their father’s whereabouts. The mind-numbing practice of speaking to children was refreshing. It allowed me to do something about my nerves.

After a long while, Jack and company exited the convenience store. Jack was walking very purposefully towards the main road, I noticed. He must have sensed that something was up. However, Jack was not to escape that fateful day. Karma, or perhaps Divine Intervention, decided that the despicable person who stripped the innocent of their virtue was not to get away. Three police cars, their sirens blaring, raced into the plaza. Jack looked stopped in place, his face slack with shock. I remember thinking how ridiculous he looked with his baseball hat on at ten o’clock in the evening. It still amazes me how my brain had the capacity to think of something so nonsensical during a dire situation. The police officers leapt from their vehicles and forced Jack against the hood of one of their cars. He was promptly read his Miranda rights, handcuffed and forced into the back of the car.

The excitement died after Jack was escorted to his doom. I still wonder about his fate, sometimes. However, I will never forgive Jack for stealing my naiveté from me. He taught me that appearances can be deceiving and all of my interactions with new people are marred by his memory.  I hope the law serves him the justice he deserves on behalf of all of those girls he raped and battered. The damage Jack has done to my mind can never be mended. I used to think bad people only existed in movies. Now I know better; bad people are all around me.

Endless Thoughts…

By Maryam Abullatif Al Shawab 

I was on auto-pilot, somewhere in the fathomless blue ocean of my mind which quickly became the only reality I could see, and my thoughts swirled like silver smoke spreading across the vast ocean. When I was younger the thought of an empty blue nothing scared me, but now it just seemed like a peaceful place to go when my emotions feel like tangled strings, choking me.

“Maryam, eat!” ordered my mother, snapping me back to reality where I was greeted by the shouts of brainless arguments piercing my ears. My brothers were fighting again. I took a sip of fruit juice, my mouth filling with a sweet acidic taste.

Half of Ramadan was already gone but it felt like ages before it would began. “Time, what are you rushing for?” I thought to myself as I absent-mindedly swallowed a spoonful of rice. My eyes automatically flew towards the flashing screen of the television, where I witness a dying man surrounded by concerned family members. He was talking about his will and whenever he was close to dying he would remember something he wanted, and informs the crowd around him. At some point, his wife got fed up and implied that he should just die already by forcefully trying to quieten him. The audience in the background laughed and the show ended, and I was left with the idea of death fresh on my mind.

And that’s when it hit me that I was alive but I won’t always be that way. At least not here: on earth.

I wonder how I got so distracted to the point that I forgot to remember the most important part of life: That it doesn’t last forever. Its sort of like being in a mall surrounded with ticking bombs but being too distracted by all the things like those adorable high heeled boots, the latest IPhone creation the world is crazy about or a heavenly piece of deeply rich chocolate cake with melting vanilla ice cream on top. That’s a kind of habit most of us humans have, we keep piling up on those little things until they become a huge mountain overshadowing the big important thing.

Suddenly the television screen goes blank and the room silent except for the sound of cloth wiping the leftover bits off the surface of the table but I didn’t mind as I wonder whether every person has thought about the things I wonder about or do I just think too much? Do other people just ignore those thoughts or does it never occur to them? And if it did, would they still be the same person?

I guess it does change something inside of us when we become more aware but we have a choice of whether we want to show that we changed or whether to keep it all inside locked way and pretend nothing happened.

It’s a bit frightening if you think about it; how on our own we all are despite the fact that we are all together. We all have our separate thoughts, ideas, dreams and worlds inside us that only we know about. That lead us to a different place and a different ending, and knowing how to be on our own whether it’s walking around in gigantic library or being lost in the vast blue ocean of our minds help us become individuals aware of everything.

That’s life and death in a way, it wants us to be aware and to notice things, especially life the craziest, most amazing, yet sad, confusing, peaceful, tough, joyful journey I’ve ever been through. I’ve lived 17 years yet I still learn something new in the time God gives me.

Meanwhile in reality, I was walking up the stairs to pray, the sweet taste of chocolate still lingering in my mouth. In my mind, I was above the surface of the ocean, breathing in the fresh air as if it were my first breath. It was nice to breathe after being caught up with so many thoughts. “What if our thoughts escaped through our breathing? And all the thoughts we had were just recycled by someone else? And all of us just add our unique twist to these thoughts?” My mind started to wonder into the world of ridiculous questions.

In the end, life is different for each one of us but the final result is all the same, and it’s not a sad thing to die young but a sad thing to die ignorant and without helping the world in someway or trying to. Another thing is read and listen to what the world has to say because something I noticed is that I expected life to teach me through experience what it all meant like in the movies but I realized that life isn’t like the movies. It’s pretty quiet and dull most of the times, but I’m ok with that (expect when I get really bored on holidays) because books exist and so do people that are aware of the world.

Her Aura

By Anonymous Writer

Once I found out, I wrote my goodbyes, and prepared myself for the worst. Her place was already engraved in my heart, so trying to accept that I might lose her one-day, because of this specific reason was probably the most emotional train I ever was a passenger on.  “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” ― Abraham Lincoln. My name is X and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, when I was only 4 years old, and I remember the experience as clear as day. During this experience I was competing for love and attention that I knew I wouldn’t get, because my mentor, my better half was having marvelous chemotherapy emanate within her bloodstream.

Admittedly, I counted the days, hours and minutes. Gaiety never seemed so distant.  When will I lay my eyes on her and not feel the need to look away because I could sense her sorrow telling me it’s still not time to take in her appearance, and scan her sickness as if I’m superior. But I was only her youngest daughter looking for an affectionate, tender touch from her mother. At that age I didn’t pay attention about how she looked like, I will always view her as my savior, my mother, as the most finest, exceptional lady I ever encountered. My eyes slowly rebelled and started examining her hairless head, her tiresome broken body, and her drowsy eyes, but my oh my did her skin glow like the moon, and her powerful, structured cheekbones carried her beautiful face up high like no other. I was astounded by her vibe, by the way she accepted this difficulty and decided to face the facts and act upon. Consequently, my mother was never one to dance around lies just to make her or others feel better, she was simply, compromisingly forthright.

“I got you flowers,” I said, as my hands reached inside my tiny, inconvenient purse. It was the second time I flied to her, during her chemotherapy journey in majestic Mumbai. Earlier that day, before leaving the house, I quickly picked jasmine flowers from our garden, carelessly stuffed them in my purse and rushed to the car. Once we landed, I was anticipating seeing my mother. I couldn’t wait until I throw my arms around her and give her a long awaited hug, and show her the pretty, young jasmines I got her. I wanted her to remember our house. The house that used to be a home, until her footsteps faded and her presence disappeared. I wanted her to reminisce on radiant memories that would only make her smile. “Thank you,” she said as she reached her hand out to take the worn out jasmines that weren’t given their privileges in my restricted purse. She held them close to her ravishing face, and a beaming smile instantly delineated her countenance. In addition, she pulled me close and kissed my cheek, as I was awkwardly positioned on her bed. I didn’t care; I wanted to relish the moment…. until I started crying and grasping her tightly, thinking maybe if I didn’t let go, everything would go back to normal. “This was never supposed to happen, this was never supposed to happen” that vacant phrase kept reiterating and echoing in my head.

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         Granted, that was officially the last time my mother was accompanied by chemotherapy for an entire day. “Thank you for being a good escort” I said sarcastically, “you’ve helped us overcome.” We were all in raptures, screaming out of joy with no sound, happiness conquered and smiles were contagious. Undoubtedly, I cried from contentment, and said, “Finally, closure.” At last, after an extended period of waiting, I hear the footsteps of a lighthearted survivor, a combatant who defeated cancer, a woman flourishing with strong, incandescent hope and faith. She reincarnated the spirit and liveliness of the house, and I finally felt complete. I ran to her, hugged her as crystal-like tears rolled down my eyes, although it took my brain a while to acknowledge that she’s back, for good. “Mum!!” I cried, “You’re finally back, you look so beautiful.” “My dearest daughter, I missed you so much” she said as she stroked the back of her hand on my face. Unquestionably, I rushed to prepare her some hors d’oeuvre’s, before lunchtime, so I took out her favorite olives that were garnished with garlic, olive oil and a hint of chili pepper. Then I added some Gouda cheese slices, and cut them up into squares. My mother was always a dairy fanatic and she always found pleasure in the little things, which made her more appreciative as an individual. Her simple snack was completed and I poured her a refreshing glass of Hibiscus, the floral essence of which she loved

In a nutshell, experiencing my mother slowly being torn down by cancerous growth, cut me up into a million pieces, as if my soul was dispersed in a sea of depression. I had to stay strong in order for her to remain secure. The last thing a sick patient wants is an emotional, unstable family member. She needed us to be her rock, and oh boy did we deliver the Grand Canyon for her kind soul. Point in fact, I didn’t just go through this experience, but I grew with it. It changed me for the better and it showed me that life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, and every individual is bound to face a crisis at least once in their lifetime. The way they manage and act during this crisis determines who they are, and what they’re capable of. My mother was always my rock and still is, she taught me right from wrong, and she held my hand through scary situations. My mother’s soul is embedded within mine; she is a part of me. I aspire to be like her one day, for she is the strongest, most courageous, selfless person I ever met and will ever meet.

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