“Trump was president now and we were two Blacks and one Muslim in the back of a white man’s pickup truck who took down his Confederate flag just to trick us.”
In the summer of whatever year in wherever-the-hell, my dad and I sat in the back of a white man’s pickup truck. My dad looks like a date. Or a prune. In colouration and skin texture. He has minimal hair, soft white tuffs that snake around his pruney head like a wreathe. I’m so mean. He’s so sweet. We sat in this man’s truck and I thought, out loud, this ain’t gonna end good, perhaps a little too loudly. The White Man kept looking at us from his rearview with eyes that suggested that he voted for Trump. He didn’t have a Confederate flag and that surprised me a-lot.
“Dad, bruh, what are we doing here?”
My dad smiled sheepishly and looked at the passing scenery with a gaze that I interpreted as boredom and regret.
“Dad! What. Are. We. Doing. Here. Question. Mark.”
I was wearing a hijab that didn’t look like a hijab, twisted into a turban bun. But I was hoping that Trump Eyes would think it was just a Black thing.
“We’re a little lost, Tash. It was nice of him to offer us a ride at the gas station.”
“Ugh,” I said. “Ugh.”
But dad, do you see that way he’s looking at me? It’s too much, I thought.
“But dad, do you see the way he’s looking at us. Like, why?” I whispered.
“Have a little faith, love. Most people are kinder than you think.”
My dad is a sweet, sweet prune. A strange fruit that people eat and forget about later. I wanted off, like now. When the White Man looked at me again, for the sixth time in five minutes, I gave him a squinty-eyed glare that my dad didn’t notice. I wanted him to know that I was onto him. He quickly looked away.
“Oh Tash, do you have my camera? I wanna take a look at the pictures we took today. Let’s send them over to mom when we get back to the hotel.”
“When we get back ? If. If. If. If. If,” I said, waving the camera back and forth.
My dad laughed with too much lightness. This was serious. Trump was president now and we were two Blacks and one Muslim in the back of a white man’s pickup truck who took down his Confederate flag just to trick us. Like, bro. After they find our bodies hanging from some poplar tree, someone somewhere will write a long-form piece titled “Being Black and Muslim in a Time of Trump,” and it would be well-written. Pulitzer-worthy. Some parts about my life would be factually inaccurate. My mom would decline to be interviewed.
The White Man took a sudden turn off of the main road. Consider the gravity: Trump Eyes took a sudden turn OFF OF THE MAIN ROAD. I looked at my dad with I-told-you-so eyes and said nothing. He seemed concerned but only vaguely. The side road was gravel. I swear. Not even paved. The kind of road that leads to nowhere good, like a dense forest with lots of trees with low hanging branches.
“Dad, say something,” I pleaded. “Pleeease.”
He nodded and gently tapped on the man’s back window.
“Excuse me, sir. Excuse me. Is this the way back into the city?”
Trump Eyes looked back for a moment but didn’t say anything. The sound of the gravel out-noised my dad and maybe he didn’t hear. But maybe he did. And then he slowed down. He parked up at the side of the road in a place where the houses were miles apart from each other. There was a stream partially obscured by trees. Trees. Trees. Trees. It was kinda pretty, still.
He slid open the window.
“I didn’t quite catch what you said, but just one moment, please.” He was fumbling with something in a plastic bag. A gun in a bag? Bro, I dunno, maybe not, that’s weird. A rope though.
“Dad,” I whispered. “His Southern drawl is soooo intense. What if ‘one moment’ here means ‘I’ll shoot you?’”
No laughter this time. My dad gave me a steely look. He didn’t approve. I turned away, staring out towards the stream.
“Look-at-those-trees-dad-aren’t-they-nice-though-which-ones-do-you-like-the-best?” I said a little too quickly. My dad didn’t understand my morbid humour. Or even the gravity of the sit-u-a-tion. I had to offer a little prayer one time: Ya Allah, protect me from the Trump-inspired evil. Like, all of it.
Trump Eyes turned around and slid two juicy dates through the window, and then said something like this: “It’s customary for me to offer dates to anyone who enters my truck. I keep them right here, in my glove compartment. Medjool, the best kind. Usually, I give them at the end of the trip, but we’re making a little pitstop. No pun intended.” And then he laughed loudly. Mad corny, bruh.
My dad smiled and thanked him graciously, and took the dates for the both of us. I looked right at him and smiled, still squinting my eyes. Medjool and errythang? In these parts? From this man?
“Thanks, Medjool dates are lit, um, I mean tasty, really tasty. So are we nearby or…are we not going there ever…or like how far?” I was so awkward. It didn’t even have to go down like that.
“You seem a little spooked, little lady. I guess you never know with folks these days. There’s a lot of tension ‘round here what with Trump.”
I almost, almost rolled my eyes but I exercised maximum restraint. Trump Eyes, didn’t you vote for Trump?
“Oh, she’s just a little tired. We had a full day and we’re going back home tomorrow morning. Long flight ahead.” Dad, be real for once, I thought.
“Well, glad you came out here. It’s gorgeous this time of year. The nature, the waters, and the fish around here can’t be beat.” Yah, and the racism. The Islamophobia. The tension-what-with-Trump.
My dad nodded while I took stock of my surroundings. After we escaped, I wanted to remember to tell the police about the house with the green door. The blue mailbox with the number 15. The corny joke.
But wait, did Trump Eyes just pull out a prayer rug? I thought I saw a glimpse of it. The cheap Made-in-China kind, beige and green with geometric patterns. Bro, I got mines from Habib’s Bookstore in Rexdale! Similar, but black and yellow, black and yellow.
“I’m sorry, I have to ask. Are you Muslim?” he said as he exited his truck, rug in hand. “I couldn’t really tell. That’s why I kept looking back at you.”
I looked at my dad with widened eyes and flung my head back in laughter. My dad offered a more subdued laugh. Ya Allah. This. Was. The. Best. Joke. Ever.
“I am Muslim, yes—as-salaam alaykum, by the way—but my dad is just chilling right now. I mean, he’s not….”
He chuckled. “Wa alaykum as-salaam. I just made a detour to pray. It’s Asr time, almost Maghrib. Would you like to pray with me, sister? And sir, please feel free to have more dates while we pray.”
My dad politely declined. I smiled and smiled and smiled before I could answer.
“Nah, I’ll pray when we get back to the hotel.”
He nodded and slowly walked towards the stream, laying out his rug in the direction of Mecca. Trump Eyes started praying. Straight “Creeping Sharia” in public. In the American South. Like, bro.
I’m the worst. I’m the worst. I’m the worst.
“Dad, I’m the worst. I thought he wanted to lynch us.”
My dad smiled. “I told you to have a little faith in people,” he said, but he didn’t give me those I-told-you-so eyes.
“Dad, I swear I have faith in Islam, but not in people. Mans are dying in these streets.”
He just shook his head and pulled out his camera. With a gentle smile on his face, he gazed—but only for a moment—at Trump Eyes in prostration before snapping a photo of him. I showed my mom, my sister, my squad. I told them the story. Everybody laughed. Everybody thought I was so extra. I posted the pic on Facebook that same day with the caption: “No faith without faith. #twodates #strangefruit.”
About the Author:
Tendisai Cromwell is a Trinidadian-Zimbabwean writer, filmmaker, and founder of New Narrative Films. She has nearly a decade of diverse writing experience through her pursuits as an independent journalist, creative writer, and documentary filmmaker. Her fiction has been published in an anthology highlighting the works of young black creatives in Canada. Over the years, she has shared her work at public readings across Toronto. She currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta. Follow her @Tendisai.