There is a feeling that consumes me whole greasing my body and smearing filth on my skin after I lure in the next body that I’ve used to release my own.
I sit for hours in my bed crying my eyes to sleep before tossing and turning and running to the shower to allow clean water to run all over my body.
Letting the guilt drain at the sink only to chase it again.
I am trying to comfort the feeling trying to let it seep into my skin and settle into my bones so that I may swallow my pride and welcome it once more if I ever give in to your body on mine and wake up next to you aware of everything I have just lost by giving to you all that I had left to give.
In the world that we live in today, you’ll hear the word “ally” or “allies” a lot. You’ll hear it in politics, and you’ll see it in wars. You’ll hear it in relation to feminism and the role men can play to be allies to women. You’ll hear it around issues of race and how white people can be allies to people of colour. You’ll hear it about LGBTQ+ communities, and so much more. However, you should also know why it’s important that you hear it when it comes to your circle of friends. That is something I have learned from one particular friendship in my life, more than any other.
A friend is exactly what their name suggests – they’re friendly. They usually tell you what you want to hear and they agree with you on most occasions. You build a bond based on the mutual and common traits between you both. Friends will always be there to share the fun and good times, as well as to give you a helping hand during the bad. Allies however don’t just help give you strength to fight, they fight with you – for you. They don’t sugarcoat things and they don’t have their own agenda in complementing you or in being polite. They call you out on your shit. They tell you things exactly how they are, and they do it because no one else will. They’ll envision your dreams with you and wish you success as much as they wish it for themselves. Importantly, they’ll also tell you when you’re not working hard enough towards those goals and dreams. They tell you when you’re not living up to your own expectations, morals and standards. Most importantly, they accept you fully and truly for who you are, not how you are. An ally might be a friend, but a friend isn’t always necessarily an ally.
That is what Ruth is to me. Ruth is the friendship in my life that truly opened up my eyes to what it means to have an ally. It’s the example I share when I talk about what being an ally truly means. Ruth has always lived as she preached. She’s a feminist, positive and hard-working person who only speaks words she understands the weight of. So, as a person of colour, as a woman, as a minority – having Ruth stand by me as an ally in each of those aspects never shocked me. These were things Ruth already preached and lived by. As the years went on, it became clear that Ruth didn’t just stand as my ally in social issues and constructs. She stood as my ally in the personal side of things too. In fact, she stood by me through just about everything.
When I would argue with my mom growing up, Ruth was never the friend who told me what I wanted to hear. She never took my side simply because we were friends. That’s a hard thing for a teenager to do. No matter if I was right or wrong – she would always calm me down, hear me out, and then defend my mom. She would remind me of the things I knew I would come back to remind myself of; how much my mom cares for me, how she’s only trying to protect me, how she’s alone and scared in raising me and my siblings. Ruth always reminded me of those things, because she took the time to get to know my mom over the years, and she took the time to understand the complex relationship my mom and I share. Not many friends would do that, but an ally does.
Allies truly take the time to know us from within. They take the time to learn about all of the things that make us who we are. They take us for who we are, not how we may act or behave at times. They understand our hearts and its intentions. From day one, Ruth took it upon herself to understand and learn about my faith and how important a role it plays in my life. She opened herself up to learning about Islam through me. For the next 7 years, when I would feel far away from God, Ruth never imposed her own beliefs on me. As someone who is unsure about God’s existence, she would turn to me every single time I voiced this struggle with faith to her and simply say: “When’s the last time you prayed? I’m always in your house and when the call to prayer sounds, you never get up to pray. Maybe you need to start there?”
You see allies hold us to the values and things we believe in. Ruth always understood that faith was one of the biggest I had. She knew my faith was so much tied up with what is in my heart, she was the first to comfort me when I ran to her crying about deciding to take off my hijab. When I told her I was scared I might never trust myself enough to wear it again, she simply told me that the type of Muslim I was at heart, never had anything to do with the clothes I put on my body. Allies believe in us because they see the truth of who we are at heart, at the core.
There is greatness in each of us. While we might be aware of our potential, very rarely do any of us brave to tap into it. We can rely on allies to not only see the greatness within us, but to expect it. They are the first to push you towards your dreams. They actively motivate you. Ruth isn’t just the type of friend that will tell me how much she wants me to succeed – she’s the first to like my work, buy it, share it and support pushing it forward. Allies hold you to your own potential, morals, values and standards, not their own. This way, whether it’s your career, personal development or your relationship – allies are helping you become the best version of yourself, not what best suits their own agenda or impression of you.
Perhaps the most important thing about an ally is influence. Your allies will have the biggest influences over you. You both subconsciously and consciously learn from them. I have learned so much from Ruth, whether it’s about jobs, music, relationships, womanhood, or how to just be a compassionate human being during tough circumstances. Ruth and I have never seen eachother for our differences. Today, we are alike in so many ways, because we have influenced one another and grown together over the years. Our differences never mattered next to the one thing we shared in common – our genuine care and need to look out for one another. There are very few people who can fully accept you for who you are. Who can listen to absolutely anything you say with zero judgement. Who can accept you as you grow and change and make mistakes. Over seven years, Ruth has never once turned a blind eye to my changes. She has always supported and nourished the good of them and she has been honest and real with me when I was taking wrong turns. This is a woman and a friend who constantly inspires me to be better towards others and to do better by myself. This is what an ally truly looks like.
So, look at your circle. Where you stand in your circle of friends, do you see any allies? Are you surrounded by people who would go the extra mile? Who push you and inspire you? Who influence you and lift you up to be the best version of yourself you can be? Do you have one ally or many? Or do you just have friends? And most importantly, are you being an ally to yourself? Are you being an ally to others? You see, just like friendship, allyship is also, a two-way stream.
Last month, Ruth and I travelled out to London, UK to go see Childish Gambino’s live show at the O2 Arena. This tour is Childish Gambino’s last ever, and so naturally, Ruth and I felt so humbled and grateful that we managed standing tickets to witness true magic on a live stage. Ruth introduced me to Gambino back in secondary school and we have been appreciating his music and art together since. Despite a huge catalogue and immense variety of musical quality and sound, I think it’s safe to say that Ruth and I’s favourite thing to sing along to is “Donde Esta La Biblioteca?” which he performs in the TV show, Community, where he (Donald Glover) plays Troy and performs it with his on screen best-friend, Abed. I’m not saying my best-friend and I do it better, but we’re pretty confident we knock it out the park.
I travelled out to London two days before the concert. I had been working full-time in a job I hated the entire month before. I had also just received some pretty letting down news regarding my masters. I was worn out and extremely tired. So much so, that I actually forgot my passport, purse, charger and the concert tickets – all of which my mom had to drop out to me. I needed the trip away more than I even realised. Luckily, two of my cousins live in London, so once I arrived I could relax in the comfort of a family member’s home. Ali was away, but Ahmed and I got to go out for the night. He treated me to a super yum Turkish cuisine dinner and we went to go see the movie, ‘Us’. It was so nice to catch up with him because I never get to see much of him, and he’s my favourite cousin. The next day, Ruth arrived to London. We went for a cute brunch and walked around Oxford Street picking up some last minute necessities. We headed back to Ahmed’s where we all chilled for a bit, before we took our bags to our Airbnb apartment. That night, Ruth and I headed out to Tonight Josephine for a few quiet drinks. I just want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the barman at Tonight Josephine for taking such good care of me all night. He made me cocktails from scratch and put precise care and effort into each flavour so as to enrich my drinking experience as someone who doesn’t consume alcohol. I had never had anyone really do so much to give me exciting drinks, as opposed to regular Coke or Redbull.
The next day, Ruth and I decided to go explore Camden Market. We got to see such a different variety of cool shops and stalls. We had dinner there too before we headed back to get ready for our main event, Childish Gambino. We were running a bit late and arrived as H.E.R was mid-way through her second performance. I absolutely love H.E.R and she is practically 90% of the playlist I use when I’m taking nudes, trying on lingerie and all the rest of that side of things. Her vocal performance was mesmerising and she really set the mood for Gambino’s show. I love when artists bring really good opening acts along, because it really enriches the whole experience. Ruth and I were already pretty far up in the crowds of people standing awaiting Gambino. We met some American girls who we were chatting away to while we waited impatiently and tried to find decisive ways to get closer to the stage. They were so lovely. One of my favourite things about Ruth and I, is how easily we interact and meet new people. We always have such cool experiences because of all the different people we engage with.
When Gambino emerged out onto the stage, there was an electric but simultaneously still energy in the room. I had never felt a room feel so still while buzzing with excitement all the same. For many, it felt like the realisation as he came out for the first few moments, that this could very well be the last of Gambino as we know him. This tour, everyone was well aware, was what he had announced to be “the last Childish Gambino tour” ever. While some people think that he will re-emerge under a different name, and some believe that this truly may be his the last of his music all together, one thing was certain about the night – the one man show resembled anything but an artist ready to farewell his craft.
Shirtless, wearing only white linen pants that resemble the ones he infamously showcased in ‘This is America’, Gambino graced the stage with warm love and wild eyes. He danced across the stage, moving in a way that could only be described as the merge of sex and humour, his character prominently defining itself as present and engaged with not just himself, but a room of 20’000 people. He kept the crowd on their feet the entire night, intuitively moving between rap and jazz, slow jams and more hyped up tracks. Ruth and I, simultaneously looked at each other during ‘Summertime Magic’, as we rocked back and forth to the beat of the music – I knew we hadn’t felt this alive in so long. That was something that Gambino truly evoked within everyone that night – a feel of liveliness. Claiming “we’re in church tonight”, “I want you all to feel this with me – we’re at church”, one thing was clear; with Gambino as the pastor, the whole crowd was ready to worship.
While ‘Heartbeat’ didn’t make the set, Gambino varied from new works to old, leaving some of the best for last. ‘V. 3005’, ‘IV. Sweatpants’ and ‘Sober’ had the crowd wilding, mosh pits and dance circles quickly forming, before Gambino brought the whole room to a hushed standstill, setting the mood for the last moments of the magic that he had just brought to stage. Taking the lead, Gambino led the choir with ‘Redbone’, everyone singing at the top of their lungs, the room emotive and unified for one final hymn.
The night came to an end, and I think everyone was already replaying it in their heads as soon as it ended. This simply cannot be the last we get of Childish Gambino. One guy embraced me after the show and asked if I had been at the concert – when I told him I was, he gave me a big hug and just said: God bless, I hope you had a good time, I hope you feel alive”. I was stunned by the amount of love Gambino had created, not just from him to us, but from us to one another. Ruth and I decided to sit in a nearby bar while we waited for the line to the underground to die down. There, we met Natalie and Josh, who we wound up spending the rest of the night with. Two of the nicest Londoners I’ve ever met, we got to know each other as we waited for the line to die down. We talked as we caught an underground to Floripa – a little Brazilian club in the city, where we danced to the best music the 00’s had to offer. We also got what I must say was one of the best döner kebabs ever – and I’ve tried them in Germany. I don’t know if it was the hunger talking, but I had never enjoyed a kebab more than that night.
While the entire trip to London was amazing, and seeing Gambino live is an experience that I will never live down, there was one thing that elevated the whole experience. I got to meet up with one of my friends from Alexandria, who I hadn’t seen or spoke to in a really long time. Ruth was so excited to finally be meeting any of my Egyptian friends, but I felt so warm when I got to see a friendly face that I had missed for so long. As I left for Gatwick, I felt so rested and genuinely happy. I got into my seat on Gatwick Express, put in my earphones, and listened to Childish Gambino for the entire duration of my journey back to Ireland.
Childish Gambino had this Muslim worshipping in a church, and I know God ain’t even gonna be mad about it.