It's official. I've "expired." I'm "past-date" material. My expiration date has come and gone. I'm apparently like that apricot jelly forgotten in the back of the cupboard that now looks more like grape jelly.
This was news to me, beings as I don't feel like I would expect expired apricot jelly would feel. However I was informed of this regretful fact by our respected and friendly shopkeeper, Abrahim. He said it with confidence and assurance as only an expert would. This is how I found out the awful truth.
"You married?" He asked casually. He was the picture of stately repose as he reclined comfortably in his plastic chair, dressed in a handsomely embroidered robe as is commonly worn by Muslim men.
"No" I replied.
He took this news fairly calmly with a quick jerk of his head as he wisely surveyed the busy market street.
"How old are you?" He ask with distant interest, still surveying the street before him.
When I answered, the ox cart he'd been watching lost his interest. His gaze swung around so that his eyes met mine in a brief but intense moment.
"How old?" He demanded. "23?! Not married?” He paused as one does before pronouncing a devastating sentence.
"You've missed your chance. You're too old now."
Immediately I smirked at what I found to be an amusing comment. A quick look showed he did not share my feelings. Instead his face wore a grave look that said "tough luck pal, but you missed the boat."
I tried to explain how it is common in the U.S. for girls to wait until their education is finished before getting married, but he was unconvinced. He shook his head slowly from side to side.
"No, no, the Chadian way is better. I think 15 is a good age."
Now it was my turn to shake my head and sigh.
After surveying me briefly with critical eyes he revised his first sentence.
"You might still have hope if you get married right away . . . while you're still decently young."
I graciously accepted the kindness he showed me in making this concession, but explained to him that immediate marriage was impossible.
I think that’s when he decided this apricot jelly could not be salvaged, and abandoned it to the compost bin.