Skrrrrrrr. The train comes to a complete stop and a cluster of people gather around the door to enter, myself included. The train is empty except for one man standing, walking cart to cart while holding clear bottles full of perfume. I take a seat and increase the volume of my music to enter my own little world, as my chain dangles and dances around my neck. A couple years ago my mom married a muslim immigrant who shared his culture and beliefs with us, which lead me to find a new meaning in things. I began to share the same beliefs as him as he took me under his wing. As the years went by my family took a trip to Egypt, without me, to meet my step father’s family. They brought me back a necklace that says “God is one, Muhammad is a profit” to show a piece of my religion. I haven’t taken it off since the moment I got it.
The man enters my cart, eyeing the amount of “future customers”. He’s wearing white Air Force ones with nike sweats and a Kufi (an islamic prayer cap), we share something in common. I see that he is holding clear bottles of perfume, trying to sell them to an open customer. I put my head in my phone trying to avoid eye contact because I’m not interested in buying any perfume.
Social media has had a big impact on the way I think about things. I’ve seen multiple posts on my timeline warning me about people trying to sell perfume, when you sniff the scent it causes you to pass out and allows the person selling it to kidnap you or you not be aware of your surroundings. This causes me to be alert at the sight of the man.
I bury my head in my phone avoiding all movements. I’m scrolling through my instagram feed and suddenly a blue tinted clear bottle gets put in front of my phone. My heart starts racing as I lower my music, take one earbud out and lift my head to make eye contact with the man.
He proceeds to make an argument on why I should invest in his perfume, I make eye contact but I’m not really listening. I then acknowledge the kufi on the man’s head and look down to make eyes at my chain hoping he realizes the sign. I raise my head to see if he has caught the sign I was trying to make and he did. He then places out his hand and greets me “As-salāmu ʿalaykum”. I shake his hand as I respond “alaykum as-salām”. He then leaves me and goes about selling his scents to other people as I put my earbuds back in and go back to my daily train ride.
Later in the day, while I’m daydreaming during class I think about what occurred on the train. It lead me to think that the man on the train only went away because we shared something in common, our religion. It lead me to believe that once he realized we were almost one of the same, he wasn’t interested in selling me his product but he was interested in protecting me from it.
I then started to think deeper, people take it upon themselves to figure out how you identify, white, black, muslim, asian, male, female, but who said that’s how you identify? I realized that the man on the train was eager to sell his product to me while I was looking like any other ordinary white boy on the train, but after seeing we shared a common belief his mind had changed. I believe people are more prone to protecting people that they share a common belief with, especially if what they believe in leads them to discrimination. Although it’s comforting to feel united, we associate ourselves with the ones we’re comfortable with, leaving the others to be on their own.