White Like You

Scene 1

It’s a Saturday night, and she’s perfect.

Her hair is blonder than mine, her shorts are shorter than mine. Pale pink legs sway to the beat. 

I can smell the beer on her breath when she comes up to me.

Darling, she says. She lunges for me, takes my arms, clumsily pushes my sleeves up. Arm next to arm, she positions us, my hair black, hers glinting golden. 

“You’re not white like me.”

Time is suddenly still. I feel eyes on us.

Suddenly, the party doesn’t seem like a party. 

People are watching us. Will I react?

I pull my arm back.

She laughs.

Relax, darling, it was just a joke.

Oh, right. A joke.

Sorry, I have to go.

Scene 2, and I’m looking into his dreamy eyes.

Baby, he says.

He holds my chin in his hand,

Baby, we can’t be together. We’re not the same.

Wait, what? We have the same interests. We go to the same school. You and I came together because of our shared love for Dostoyevsky. You quoted Proust to my heart and sang Neruda to my soul. Why can’t you see a future with me, again?

look I just don’t think this is working out, he says.

But we held hands on the subway.

We come from different worlds, he says.

But you kissed me atop the Empire State.

Ugh. You won’t understand, he says.

He’s getting frustrated, but I am too. What is it that I just won’t understand?

You just don’t know what it’s like to be me, he says.

Huh? We live in the same city. Your hair is black, your eyes are brown, my hair is black, my eyes are brown, why are we different, why are you leaving me? Why are you trying to leave me? 

Baby, he says. I’m sorry, he says.

My parents –

My parents just wouldn’t understand your background.

Scene 3, and now it all just seems to be blurring together.

Hi, she says. I wanted to tell you something.

Her red hair is waving, and her green eyes are shining.

Hi, I say. What’s up?

My grandparents, she says, I hope they meet someone like you. 

Uh, Okay, I smile, I guess that’s cool?

Someone like you – what does she mean?

I’m confused, but just for a second.

They hate your people, she says, by way of explanation.

I look at her,


They hate all of you immigrants, she says again.

Is this happening?

She’s smiling at me. 

Is she trying to be nice? Do I forgive her this social faux pas?

I take a step back.

She takes a step forward. Why isn’t she letting me leave?

If I react, will I become the intolerant Muslim?

You agree with me, don’t you? She says, That some people just haven’t been exposed to these new ideas,

The kind of Muslim that you should keep your kids away from?

It’s not that they are intolerant, – she’s still talking – just that they are set in their ways.

The kind of Muslim that is exactly what’s wrong with this country?

I-I’’m sure they’re lovely people, I say.

Where is the nearest exit?

Oh yes, she says, yes. She’s blocking my way. Demanding my attention. They just have strong opinions. They haven’t had anyone to explain it to them.

Riiight, I said. 


Because I’m supposed to explain who I am.

Scene 4, and I’m almost done

With this work week, with this life, this poem.

I am on the train, minding my own business,

but I must have caught her eye.

She stops and turns.

Her eyes meet mine.

“Why don’t you people fucking leave already? Why don’t you fucking go home?”

Thin lips, pink lipstick, blonde hair.

She’s blurring as my eyes fill up.

She’s looking at me.

I drop my newspaper.

The front page splays across the subway floor.


Can you see the headline through my tears?

I’m sorry.

I said it out loud, but she’s not there anymore.

There’re tears on my cheeks, I can feel them. 

There’re tears on my high tops, I can see them.

I-I’m sorry, I say again, that my red and white stripes aren’t

as red and white as yours.

I look around.

The train car is full 

but I’m alone.

I’m sorry, I cry.

That I grew up in the south

That English was my first language.

That I lived down the street from a Catholic church.

I’m sorry, I cry,

that none of those things grant me legitimacy in your eyes.

I’m sorry my passport isn’t the right color.

I’m sorry, I whisper, that I have an immigrant mother.

Do I need to keep apologizing?

Sorry that I dress like you, walk like you, talk like you.

That I look like you.

I’m sorry, I say.

I’m sorry I’m not white like you. 

White Like You is property of Zainab Zaheer.