Here I am walking by the public garden on the way to school. I don’t increase my pace although being late to the exam I haven’t prepared a word for. I just like to walk in the few green spaces left in my city.

As it seems, I’m not the only one enjoying his walk at the park. I notice a man of sixties, probably about to retire and is already planning what to do with his money (if he had saved any). We make deep eyes contact as if he has known me for me for so long. A smile that is slowly painted on both our faces makes me feel like taking the initiative. “السلام عليكم” I merely say, falling as always, into the trap of being the first to speak. The man’s face remains neutral, neglecting the greeting I’ve just said.

Turning awkward situations into situations that are even more awkward is the only skill I seem to keep developing. So as not to feel burned, a hypothesis shows at the door of my mind saying that he probably is deaf and mute. Consequently, a feeling of guilt for being judgemental instantly replaces my anger.

Still late to the exam, I remember my mother’s face breaking into grins whenever I pass an exam. Therefore, I decide to walk at a faster pace if I am at least to take my chances in this one. About to cross the road, I spot a mid aged man who’s apparently done his mom proud. He is well dressed up in a fancy suit and wearing a Rolex on the same hand that is gripping the steering wheel of his Range Rover.

We make eyes contact as I observe his lips moving in gesture. I don’t think of a reason why his words wouldn’t be directed to me in a way to say hi. I smile, because smiling is the most precious gift you could give to someone, before I say “السلام عليكم”, expecting him to smile back.

The man’s facial expressions don’t change while his hands aggressively blow the car horn as he shouts at me to empty the road. My smile immediately vanishes as a frowned face takes over before I take notice to his wireless headphones. After all, he was talking on the phone and none of his words were meant to make a conversation with a useless boy to his circle.

I don’t give up because I don’t want to take the exam with the feeling of contempt. Luckily for me, a respectable girl of my age passes by and, without second thoughts, I fire the expression we have all been raised to say whenever we cross roads with someone “السلام عليكم”. The girl looks at me in nonchalance like if I am flirting with her. Nothing provokes me more than being misunderstood while making peace.

I can’t explain why would three of my greetings go unwelcome by three persons I rated so highly. They think that maybe if they didn’t do so, they would lose their value as “prestigious guys”. Well, at the end of the day, “السلام عليكم” means “Peace Be Upon You” … Nothing more, and nothing less.

Written by: Aymen Cherqi