In-between. That's the word I chose to describe myself in the essay portion of my college application. I spent nearly a month on that application and that's all I could come up with? Me? Zahara? The girl who was always writing and I couldn't come up with a better word?
But I guess it wasn't exactly wrong though. No matter where life sent me it seemed that I was in-between two worlds or two situations. Heck, even the day I was born it seemed that god couldn't choose what he wanted to do with me. Deaf in one ear and hearing in the other, one side of my face sort of smushed and the other side 'normal.' I always wondered if one of my parents were deaf or a side of their faces didn't agree with the other, but I guess I will never know because the second I was born I was handed to another woman. Her face perfectly symmetrical. Her blue eyes the polar opposite of my big, dark brown ones. Her light brown hair flat, while mine was already curly and unruly.
I don't know exactly what happened after that, I mean I was just a baby, but I know at some point I met my new mom's husband who would from then on be dubbed "dad."
The thing is, my mom and dad didn't know that I was going to come out funky looking and half-deaf at the time they signed the adoption papers. Kiersten and Ethan had signed those papers months before I was born and even though they raised me like I was their birth child, I always secretly wondered if they would have chosen a different baby had they known what I was going to turn out like.
And then there was the fact that they didn't know I was half-Arab. Apparently the woman who birthed me had left that little detail out as well and then the minute she was left alone she rushed out of the hospital without any further monitoring or medication.
So there I was. Kind of deaf, kind of ugly, and kind of Arab. But despite all of this, my parents accepted me with open arms. My dad just always liked to refer to me as "the big surprise." He even tried shortening the term to the acronym "B.S," but you can see why there were problems with that.
But even though Kiersten and Ethan are the best parents in the world, as I grew older I realized just how different I was from them. I mean just by looking at the three of us, you could see they weren't my birth parents- something that even strangers felt the need to share with us. I was tall with olive-tone skin and big curly hair, while Ethan and Kiersten both had light skin, were shorter than average, and had flat, straight hair.
My parents did everything they could for me. They learned American Sign Language and taught it to me as they learned and then later on when I was put into mainstream school I was put into other ASL courses so that I could become proficient. Why did I learn ASL you ask? Well that's because there is a good chance that one day my other ear will catch up and I will be completely deaf. Luckily for me, I loved learning sign language, it made more sense to me than English and if it wasn't for ASL I would have never met my best friend.
So this is how it went: we were both in sixth grade in the advanced ASL class. I guess we had been in the same classes together for a couple of years, yet I had never noticed him before. One day we had a test that was filled with dozens of ASL videos. Isaac and I were the only ones still working on our test. Even though I had finished the test in about 10 minutes, I was looking over my answers (for the third time). I saw this boy with shiny black hair on the struggle bus. Now, let me say this- I am not a person who cheats, but I will give others a little help now and then. So, while my teacher was looking at her phone, I dropped my pencil on the tile floor so the boy would look at me and I started signing him the answers.
"What question are you on?" I signed to him.
"Number 10." That wasn't good considering we had five minutes left and there were 60 questions.
"Answer number 10: arbitrary sign." The boy started clicking keys on the computer faster than I thought was humanly possible.
We finished all 60 questions within five minutes, all while Mrs. Buchanan was scrolling through her cat videos on Facebook, which she frequently forced us to watch with her.
I learned two things that day, one: next time I needed to sign some of the answers wrong so the teacher doesn't get suspicious, and two: ASL is a great tool for anyone who needs to or aids in cheating.
Kamal and I have been friends ever since but the thing I was most excited about was having an actual friend. I mean I had 'friends' just not ones I particularly liked. I also was able to teach Isaac a lot of sign language which helped him do better on all his tests. The best day of our lives was probably the day that Kamal's interpreter didn't need to come with us anymore because we were both finally proficient in sign. We were finally allowed to go where we wanted without an adult third wheel.
Kamal was probably the only person on the planet who didn't make me feel "in-between." He didn't care that I looked weird or that my parents didn't match me. But that all changed when Kamal moved back to India with his parents and I was once again caught in the middle.
This is the very beginning of a story that I began writing a few months ago. The title may not seem to match this story, but that's because it is important later on in the book I am writing. This is simply a snippet of the story.