Originally published at stillharbor.org..

Normally, Halloween meant I dress like myself. I got used to that.

My parents provided a sufficiently satisfying Halloween alternative filled with late night movie binging fueled with an all you can eat candy buffet. We’d turn the house lights off, of course, lest we get a pesky trick-or-treater (we really didn’t care to share our candy stash).

Whatever I wore, it had to be cool (I would later learn that ‘cool’ is a very relative term).

I loved poetry. I loved to write. And I absolutely loved everything and anything from the ‘olden-days’ — think Jane Austen meets Rumi.

It made perfect sense that I would choose to dress up as Charles Dickens. And so, I did.

I wore an outdated black dress suit with a pair of laced brown leather shoes my older brother had outgrown, a button-down white collared shirt with large ruffled cuffs that was my own (it was the 90’s), and my younger brother’s black leather belt with a faded silver buckle. I rummaged for one of my Father’s briefcases and filled it with paper so it wouldn’t feel light.

Instantly, I came up with the solution: I would wear it too. I would honor our pact. I would wear it on this day, this Halloween Friday, and so I did.

I quickly marched upstairs into my Mother’s bedroom, opened her drawer full of colorful scarves, and grabbed a white one. It would match my collared shirt with the ruffled cuffs, I thought.

I walked out the front door knowing I didn’t need her permission. It was my choice. I knew it, and she knew I knew it.

She looked at me with a serious but soft expression and calmly asked what I would tell my friends at school. What else? I am Muslim.

I gave her a kiss goodbye and walked off into the rest of my life as an American Muslim girl.

I looked down and saw strangeness personified.

Thankfully there wasn’t time to make comments or ask questions before the start bell rang, but I could see it in their eyes. I could see my strangeness — a peculiar anomaly.

Strength is a choice, a choice I still make everyday.

wage beauty| published in McSweeny’s Internet Tendency; Anchor Magazine| recipient of the 2018 SCBWI Emerging Voices Award