The Beauty of a Mentos - Tounarouse El Yazidi '19

Poverty is an ongoing issue all around the world, mainly in third world countries, and I happen to be from one. I was born into a very financially stable family, for which I am grateful every day. My family consists of four members: my mother, my father, my sister, and me. Latifa is a very cheerful woman who constantly has a somewhat comforting smirk on her face. Her presence is one I will always relish. My father is the definition of a Muslim father, meaning that he had all of the authority. To defy him is to disrespect the fundamentals of Islam and of our family. Without a doubt, I essentially oppose his guidelines and rules. On the other hand, my sister is a very bright and cunning girl. My relationship with her is similar to Antigone's relationship with her sister Ismene. In this case, I am the “rebellious” sibling.

Growing up, I was given materialistic objects meant to offer me happiness and comfort that a traditional Moroccan child would not be able to afford. I grew up in Marrakesh Morocco, a city which perfectly defines the country. It is a luxurious city that  captivates by the collision between the blazing Sahara desert, swaying palm trees, and breathtaking panorama of the Atlas Mountains. While Marrakesh is luxurious, it is also undoubtedly home to one of the world's poorest society.

This is the story of how an eight-year-old me got in trouble for stealing candy at a gas station for a homeless girl.

One late summer afternoon, my family was returning from one of our many holidays away from the sizzling hot weather in Marrakech. My sister and I were both resting our exhausted bodies on each other in the backseat. Not only was the drive back home a long one, but we had drained all of the energy out of each other from laughing at each other's unamusing jokes. Our eyelids were slowly becoming heavier and heavier as we drowsed off into a deep nap. Suddenly, my father woke us up to show us the sunset. Being the stubborn child I was, I decided to continue resting my now completely shut eyes instead of watching the sunset.

“Touna, Touna, Tounarouze!” yelled Tilila as she rapidly lost patience.“ You're missing out on one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see.”

Hearing what my sister had announced made my heart race faster than light. Missing out on what seemed to be like one of the life's greatest gifts frightened me. I opened my sleepy eyes only to witness a dull sky with a single ray of sunlight piercing through the ugliness. Unable to see the beauty in the gray and gloomy sky they were so dazzled by, I felt as if I was detached from my family. I had understood that our definition of ‘beauty’ was drastically different. Little did I know, our interpretation of beauty wasn’t the only thing we disagreed on.

I spent the next hour examining my thoughts on beauty and what it meant to be beautiful. I was both astonished and baffled at how a single sunset had triggered an abundant amount of questions in my head, questions I did not know the answers to.

My father decided to stop at a gas station to satisfy his quenching thirst for coffee. My sister ran off to the bathroom as my mother cluelessly followed her. As I stepped out of the car, a child like a silhouette appeared to be hiding itself behind one of the gas tanks. I was determined to figure out who the mysterious child was. Suddenly the young silhouette carefully approached one of the cars as she stretched out her arm begging for money.

“ Tounarouze, I am getting my coffee with our without you. You decide whether you want to be left alone out here!” exclaimed my father as he marched towards the door.

I managed to get a quick glance at the mysterious body before following my father into the gas station out of fear of becoming a mysterious silhouette myself. The girl was younger than I was. Her shiny blonde-like hair was cloaked by dust and grease. Her innocent eyes were filled with curiosity and thirst for love.

There I was, surrounded by food and beverages of all kinds, and all I could think about was the unfortunate girl out in the world alone. I could only imagine how hungry she was. How her stomach growled in the middle of the night and woke her up from the little sleep she got behind the gruesome gas tanks. When was the last time she had felt the gratifying feeling of “being full”? Or the satisfaction of drinking water?

“ Are you all set? Is there something you want to buy? We have to get back on the highway soon.” As soon as my father had asked me if I needed anything, I knew exactly what I wanted. I headed straight to the candy aisle and spotted my favorite candy of all time. Watermelon Mentos. Watermelon Mentos is the type of candy that every child adored and devoured whenever they could. The sound of the wrapper slowly tearing apart and revealing the most extraordinary chewable candy of all time. Its pale green color has the capability of putting the widest smile on any sad child's face. The salivating aroma of watermelon sweetness was an aspect of life I couldn't imagine anyone living without, and the thought of my mystery friend never having the experience of savoring a Watermelon Mentos tore apart my heart into a million pieces. I finally knew what I could do to help her; even though my action was small, it would help her find joy in a world where a gray and gloomy sky is considered beautiful.

“ Dad, I want the watermelon Mentos” I ordered without thinking about my decision twice.

“ Mentos? I'm not spending money on candy to spend more money at the dentist.” He yelled back at me as if I had done something foul.

“But-”

“There's no but, we’re leaving”

Leaving without giving my mystery friend the watermelon Mentos was something I was not going to let happen, so I snuck back into the candy isle. I grabbed the Mentos and shoved it into my butterfly underwear under the short purple dress I was wearing with no regrets. As I turned around to head to the door, my father stood right behind me speechless. I did not speak a word but started crying as I knew that I was in a tremendous amount of trouble.

“Take the Mentos out of your underwear. We’re leaving now,” said my father using the most gentle growl I have ever heard him use up to this day. My heart started racing, and my body began to tingle as I slowly lost control of every sense in my body. I took out the Mentos and gently put it back on the counter out of shame, and without a word followed him out of the gas station. I looked up and the first thing I perceived was my friend, alone again. All of the regrets I felt for stealing the Mentos flew away as I was reminded of the reason why I would do such a thing.

 After my attempt at making a homeless girl smile, I was grounded for a very, very long time. I did not regret the decisions I made, and up to this day, I still do not. I would do it all over again. I tried to steal my favorite candy to bring joy to someone in need. I will forever remember that day as the first time I tried to give back to the people in need, and the gray and gloomy sunset will forever be the first time I questioned who I was and embarked on the journey of finding my true self.