Oh my love of clothes and shoes and bags! And make-up and hair products! I’m sure when people see my closet they see a self-absorbed person. Every corner is meticulously done so I won’t ever have trouble finding anything when I need it. I have a fear of forgetting a particularly lovely piece of clothing just because it gets pushed to the back of the closet. I’m not a generally tidy person but my closet is the envy of many friends and cousins. They marvel at my knack for picking out amazing accessories and shoes. They can’t get over how immaculately put together I always look. They’re always wondering when I get the time to spend on myself. I can’t help but suppress a self-satisfied grin when people praise me and my organizational skills when it comes to my closet. I think of my closet as an accomplished child of mine and I’m very proud of it.
When we were moving into our home I had insisted for months to get my closet done by a professional closet organizer. My husband didn’t get why but he went along with it. He hardly ever says no to me and he found this to be a particularly innocuous thing to want. We hired a great closet organizer who charged us a fortune but got me what I wanted.
Each time I see my reflection in the full length mirrors that surround my closet I’m filled with happiness and another feeling. I don’t quite like to acknowledge it but it does creep up on me through pure stealth. I try to keep it at bay because I’ve been a willing home to this feeling for so many years, only to be told by my parents that it’s the most unbecoming thing that a person could have. I try to shake it off. I try to think past it. But a slow, silent, deep wicked satisfaction at having the best closet amongst all my friends moves into my heart and settles there for many hours. Many straightforward people call it vanity. Some may even call it conceit. But they just call it that because they can’t afford what I can. Vanity, conceit and hubris are words that losers use. I’m not a loser. I’m a winner.
But if I’m a winner why do I immediately get this unease in my system when I see my next door neighbor’s closet? I cringe when she asks me to come over to see her newly-acquired Chanel bag. And she gets one almost every few months. Her husband loves her so much. If only mine loved me more I’d have more stuff to show. Not that I accumulate to show but still! It’d be nice to have a new expensive bag hanging off my shoulder every few weeks.
Her closet is twice the size of mine. And her stuff! Oh gosh! Her stuff is the real deal. I mean I know some people think I have great things but compared to her my closet is crap. It’s absolutely crap. The kind of crap that she wouldn’t look at twice. Her designer outfits put my entire wardrobe to shame. I know her personal shopper is so much more efficient than mine. Probably because she pays her better. I pay mine a fortune but my money has never shown the type of return that I could be proud of. Even though people think that I don’t have a budget, only I know that my husband argued with me for weeks about why I wanted a new bracelet. It’s just an atrocious habit of his to haggle over things that I absolutely need. Not that I need his money. But it was a pricey item and I thought he could buy me an early anniversary present.
I got my bracelet! He loves me so much. Now I just have to be discrete in how I show it off to my neighbor! Nah uh! Not show off! I’ll tastefully match it with an outfit and discretely flash it before her eyes while waiting for the bus in the morning. Sorry I didn’t mean flash! Just let it catch the sun a little bit and let her notice it. Discreetly! That’s key! I can’t be a showy gaudy person. I’m not a cheap woman. I’ve got uber class. I’m nothing if I’m not classy.
Oh I forgot to wear my bracelet this morning. Oh shoot! Should I quickly run upstairs and get it? But the kids could miss the bus. Well that’s not as huge a problem as I’m building it up to be. The school is so close I could just drop them off myself. Yes I’ll quickly get it.
Got it! I hope she hasn’t gone back in. Nope! She’s here. I have to give it to her. She is a good conversationalist. Has so much to talk about. Even though all I wanna know is where she got those cute sunglasses. I have sixteen pairs of sunglasses, all crap. Really why’s all my stuff crap?
God I can’t believe it! She actually noticed my bracelet. Wow! This is a cool piece of jewelry. It had matching earrings too. May be get them soon. Have the set. That would really show her how rich I am. And also make me happy. May be!
Why’s the baby crying? It’s 3 in the morning. What happened? Why’s my husband rocking him? Let me get him his formula. Huh? Where’s the formula? Why is the spoon scratching the bottom of the jar? Have we run out of it? Oh I know! There’s more formula in the pantry. Silly me! How could I forget to get the formula! Haha! It’s the most important thing for my baby.
There’s no formula in the pantry. Oh my God! It’s 3:30 in the morning now. Where am I gonna get the formula at this hour? Where? No pharmacy is open. I can’t cry. But I can’t stop my tears. Why is my husband yelling at me? Doesn’t he get how distressed I am? How could I forget it? I had written it right here to get it on the way back from school. But oh! I was so preoccupied with getting the earrings to match my bracelet I forgot all about it. Gosh! I don’t know what to do! If only I could get some food for him right now! I’d trade everything I have for just a bottle of milk for my baby. I hate all of this crap around me. What’s the use of all my expensive china and crockery and jewelry and dresses when none of it can buy me food for my baby right now? What’s the use? I don’t want to cry but I accumulated and thought about things that I can’t even use when I need them? I have literally collected crap. It’s all crap. I don’t want it.
Wait a minute! Let me ask her if she has some formula! She probably has some. Her baby is my baby’s age. Yes good idea! Let me ask her.
Thank goodness she had the formula. I don’t know what I would’ve done. I had never thought that infant formula would be the thing that I’d ask her for. I had always thought of asking her for her personal shopper, or her connections at some big departmental store. Formula! Ugh! Who’d have thought?
I know who’d have thought! Allah thought about it. Allah had been thinking about it since the day I started collecting mundane items of display. Allah had been trying to redirect me without being harsh. But I wasn’t listening. Allah was trying to make me see the error of my ways politely and lovingly. He valued my hard-earned money more than I ever valued it. He would put obstacles in my path when I was blind with lust for an object. But I never took His signals. I would work extra hard to overcome all problems in the line of worldly acquisitions. And I was shameless in my pursuit of cold, lifeless objects. Until today. Until none of my high-end designer outfits or thousands of dollars worth of bags or custom-made shoes could get me a bottle of formula milk. Until today when I saw the real nonexistent value of worldly possessions. Until today that I really started to see them for what they are. They are crap! Cold, hard crap. The diamonds on my fingers that shone so bright until yesterday have suddenly become glass-like. They’re staring back at me with an emptiness and hollowness. The mirrors surrounding my closet that made me feel so fortified in my feeling of conceit and haughtiness only serve the purpose of magnifying and multiplying the illusion of the crap today. They have become slightly suffocating and seem like they’re closing in on my stuff. And my stuff doesn’t look like my stuff. It looks like some distant, worthless memory.
I don’t wanna have any of it. It’s all possessions of an idle mind. A mind that didn’t think, listen or reason.
What I really wanna hear today is my kids playing with her baby. My baby crawling up to his stroller and trying to get in. My husband coming home early to be there for Iftar and not having to worry about me dragging him to the mall because I have to don a new designer scarf for Taraweeh tonight. I wanna form a bond with her too. The bond that I wanna form with her is not of material things but of sisterhood. I never asked her who she really is. That’s what I need to ask her when I see her next. Past her designer jeans and cool sunglasses and hot shoes, I have to see the woman who is my neighbor.