“Pause. Take a deep breath. What are you trying to say?”
Great. Now I have to start again.
I’ve had a stutter all my life. Initially, my parents thought I could grow it out, as it was a common speech developmental issue, but the problem began to rise when I would stumble upon simple vowels and consonants like “a”, “w”, and “r” and outpassed the growth stage where stuttering was considered normal in society. It only went downhill from that point. Some days, I would stutter on my name. All the heat would rush to my face and I acted like I was in a battle of not maintaining eye contact with that person. Sometimes, people would copy my stutters and say “Just don’t stutter” as if it was something I could control. Presenting in front of a class was pure mortification. I would always speak fast. My brain ran faster than my mouth and when I tried to catch up, I would be stopped. The two hemispheres in my brain were imbalanced. Anytime anyone heard me stuttering, they would somehow immediately become an expert in speech impediment and provide unwanted advice.
But all that didn’t faze me even a bit as much as my parents. I was a disgrace to them. A stain of steel in their white linen clothes. I was ruining the seemingly perfect image of my parents. I had been overweight since birth. I had yellow teeth. I had broad shoulders and I laughed loud obnoxiously. I spread my legs when I sat down. I raised my hand in Biology before the questions were even asked. I struggled with spelling simple Bengali words, my mother tongue. My English skills were barely intermediate. Whereas my father spoke Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali fluently. His shirts were ironed the night before. He only wore white and black socks. My mother made sure to raise her pinky finger when sipping a cup of chai. She put her hand to her mouth when she laughed. Creases were nonexistent in my mother’s wardrobe.
We were a first-generation immigrant Muslim family from Bangladesh. We moved to America in 2020 on March 9th on the last flight from Bangladesh to the United States before the lockdown. My father was a well-known businessman in Bangladesh. He wanted me and my older brother to continue his legacy. Unlike my brother who found himself reading economic books and shadowing my father, I gravitated towards those Youtube videos like “Day in the Life of a Dermatologist” or shows like Grey's Anatomy. Medical professionals were considered low social workers in Bangladesh who were likely infected with various diseases. My father had OCD and having a daughter who was already more of a nuisance engage in such tasks and bringing viral infections home was probably what hell looked like for him. Nonetheless, we were living well, we were happy. However, my mother longed for a better life, she wanted quality education for her children and reunite with my grandma, who was fighting breast cancer here in Virginia. And so when the VISA letter came, we swiftly embarked on this journey, clueless of the gloominess it would bring us.