This text was first published in a shorter version in Digging Through The Fat, Stories No. 39, on July 8, 2015. I am inclined to put on this site the longer – original version – of the text, while expressing gratitude to the literary website for its enthusiasm. I do want to make this longer version available partly because of the recent spike in migration through Europe, and because this text testifies in the best of my abilities to my own experience as migrant/refugee, at least in ways I feel are honest, raw, uncompromising. I have struggled throughout my adult life to narrate to myself – come to term with, in concise and chronological manners – the events which led my brother and I to be smuggled out of Iran, when I was 5 and a half year old, my parents having to flee overnight three years before. The image of seeing that young Syrian boy on the beach stirred in me more things than I could handle. I have found that the narrative re-appropriation of such events does more injustice to the events themselves than expressing them as what they truly are: trauma upon memory, perception, and language. The fragmental style of this text testified precisely to this disarray: the impossibility of talking about such events in a narrative and transparent way, and the incompatibility between the different parts of my past and present identities.
Be Not Afraid of The Clown
Words slip from the lips through the fingertips. Eyelids open and shut intermittently. TV screen next door break news every other minute. Man with pack enter crowded mall. Toddler’s tantrum shrivel the skin off the back wall. Father bawl: You are a detriment to my every second of every day. Skin supersensitive to touch. Random letters lost in transcription. First name printed on paper silently misspelled with an e lie beneath nine numbers. State document misstate the date of birth. Four break-dancers spin on heads in synchrony inside a scooting train. Landscapes of red brick facades shift with oblique letters scribbled all over. Back alleys with staircases unfurl and vanish every split second. Humdrum day in day out. Indecisiveness of color over color. Skin-deep cut into the morning mirror. Dark red permeate bright white. Milk in plastic bottle turn bad before its date. Ice in glass of water spin without any extrinsic pressure applied but that brought to bear by its own deliquescence. Isles of cold shelves bear lumps of blood-drained flesh laying bare side by side in bright red. Shades of flame turn tame and back to light again. Underground the smell of wet and woman’s scent and sweat all in one breath. On reds at crossings flocks of people like sheep. Dark suit and white shirt with suitcase stare over his shoulder to the left. In subway a fat lady foray with fury into a crammed doorway. Elevator smiles and lavatory gossips. Hand dryer smother sounds of faucet flushing and urine hitting water. Neurotic’s take on the plausibility of solar explosion within the following twenty-four hours. Flashback. Desert-crossing at night at five and a half on smugglers’ horseback. Hiding amid the stable stink of sheep shit in the dead of night. Dogs bark ferociously outside at soldiers’ footsteps digging sand. Cattle clatter in angst. Mouth gagged by brotherly hands. Newsflash. The final assault begins. Civil unrest enter fourth year. How forests think. In Harlem: You know Africa’s my middle name. Paraplegic on wheelchair in Kingsbridge: It hurts then again I’ve hurt my whole life. Beggar reply in anger: What are you sorry for. Orgies in people’s eyes in public places. Spite on faces in a crammed subway. Government set to ban several letters of the alphabet. Infomercials flash right and left across hemispheres. Suspicious train collision injures dozens. Government and military prepare for collision amid protests. Rats run over railways. Keep razor blades razor-sharp by storing them in baby oil. Screen memories flush. Little boy’s red ball bob in a family courtyard beneath a balcony and flurry toward the front gate. Four car-doors clap and sidewalk stumped by boot heels. Stairways run up and to the left reaching out to a woman’s hand to point at the scene playing out in the street. The earliest memory be randomly recounted scene by scene one evening by one other woman over eleven years after the fact. Feel of memory fade with words popping up on the screen. Voice played on tape sound foreign to the ears. Sleep never come easy. Subway banner say: You are more than a diagnostic. A loner lament to himself out loud in the crowd: I can’t stand you scolding me any longer ’cause it’s demeaning. Mammal-refuse on pavement. Broadcaster blare on air: Sonars alter whale behavior to the brink of mass beaching. Stumped tabloid sullied on concrete read: Microbes will be last survivors on future earth. Spectrum of saturation. Music improved on radio while being cut out with white noise. Story end abruptly mid-sentence. The wait for the afterthought. Writers’ support system stress out: Transparency is good because it allows your target audience to connect with the real you. The pleasure of defecation. Its pain beyond words. Incontinence at seven. Casts of white and red and yellow collide in one frame. Bodily secretions in every state and form. Excreta’s texture and mud indistinguishable by touch. Hygienic paper folded systemically two to four over. The way toilet paper rolls: Best arguments. One hundred and one ways to wipe one’s ass per a Sixteen-century humanist’s exhausting list: I prithee go on with this torcheculative or wipe-bummatory discourse. Puppeteered mouths deliver ventriloquistic phrases. How to explain your plush business without turning people off. Flush people in shorts and flip flops dozed off behind desks gape in one direction. Ape gab in gape. Placard in a public park probe: Is heroine a problem for you. Need Help. Up close a stutterer face’s ghastly disfigurement as he stumbles upon sound. Mute monstrous lineaments claim facial territory for a split second before retreat. Someone uncompromisingly disliked retort: Sounds like you wanna say something but can’t just say it. Stuttering scholar spend half-hour recounting contortionlessly stories of past arms-dealing and high-theft in the Middle-East back in his twenties while sipping from plastic bottle makeshift liquor devised in Hungary to end on this: But see I’m from New Jersey. At bus stop an ear-splitting lone lost little girl vociferate bullishly to a petrified quadragenarian Caucasian male commuter: Sir take my money. College classmate confess: I knew this kid and he was a good kid and apparently he is also a monster. At an armed camp at midday a child sprechgesang in his inner thoughts an inarticulate song. In a desert: Barbed wires whirl on fence top under a sectarian sun. Natives speak a strange Semitic tongue. Asphalt melt and road sink under a kid’s meagerly weight. Water heat instantly by contact with thin air. Blue helmet drop dead from heat wave. Own blood gush out of a mosquito’s body upon it being crushed between two fingertips. Old socialite bric-a-brac-incense-newspaper street-vendor profess on the sidewalk every morning: A mother’s work is never done ’tis what mommy tells me. Sunglasses in the subway. Lot of candy lady gentlemen one dollar. Kalashnikov bullet in the front pocket as keepsake. Bus ride at six yet in a different desert. Not easy to stand here and ask for money when people make fun of me everyday. Desert walk many hours in pants wet with piss. It could happen to anybody you know. Parents fret about eight-year-old discovering hand grenades in kitchen pot over the stovetop. Ladies and gentlemen be thankful on his Lord’s gracious day that I ain’t gonna start singing for you. Crammed elevator vault with shut iron doors not move for over a minute. Scorpion skulk close to the face in almost complete darkness at a boy only dormitory. In the midst of children and animals two blood gushed leonine eyes riveting only a foot away behind iron bars. Toddler in rage throw peanuts at a caged gorilla while yawping with untethered animosity: Say mommy you dummy. Small supine frog’s belly soft and swollen smell of death and feel tepid at the fingertip. Butterfly wings severed from the thorax by little toddler fingers. Lepidopteran plod like petty tapeworm. Pleasure of guilt in a three year-old fray indelible memories. Philosophy student in conversation once at springtime in New York die in Texas of cocaine overdose two months after. Pre-med student in good health in conversation once in New York die in New York from leukemia two months after. Different degrees of dyslexia. Pomegranate be the first word of the alphabet. Study: Poverty reduces brain power. Depression forms in the Caribbeans. Fifty-two killed and seven abducted at Camp Ashraf. Elementary-school classmates left behind die soon after by bombardment. Three people bearing the same name. Newborn in Isfahan. Street-vendor in Metz. Arab in Atlanta. Doppelgängers messaging thrice trashed unread in archives. Dusk streetlight fizzle with agony for minutes before ending in an explosive apex. Window frame and rain on red bricks and rusted staircase collide in conflicted geometries. Trumpet in an underground tunnel mute out. Meaning of foreignness appear for the very first time with gypsies babbling incomprehensibly at a desert border at night at five and a half. Police kill man who tried to run them over. Fake sleep on a bought off border patrol agent’s lap. Parents switched five times in two weeks. Brother in bathtub begging: You must understand this time that these ones are real. The perks of becoming a precocious liar. Someone say: What an interesting life you’ve had. I can listen to your voice for hours. Somebody decree to somebody standing next to him: If he could write there sure would be stories to tell. Commitment on the brand of toothpaste. Perplexity about people fostering feelings of enmity against bananas. Amid all edibles bananas trigger the most noncommittal decree. Of two men known to foster feelings of enmity against bananas one commit suicide at age forty two. Gunman in a clown suit. President spurned deals seeing military as tamed. In a kitchen’s privacy sexagenarian retort to lifelong husband: A dog’s better than you. Man self-immolating on the National Mall labeled: An isolated incident. In notebook: I am the remembrance that dies before the threshold. Further down: You better put up with me because I will not put up with you. Committees self-congratulate monthly on hot air. Family drink cardamom tee nightly reveling in others’ misery. Family drink hard liquor nightly reveling but more crudely. Grudge against others’ successes. Shame in pride while being told of a child’s incurable illness because it was somebody else’s. Fatigue turn dark spots in the eyesight into menacing animals. News consumption at a compulsive speed. Brazilian referee decapitated by mob of angry spectators after stabbing player. Upheaval raise brain drain fear. Men rescued from tigers after days up tree. Local news only from unknown localities. Twenty-four hour Dunkin Donut front counter barbate Muslim toiling the night shift: Homemade turmeric lamb stew with rice sealed in a privately owned plastic tupperware handed before dawn for lack of donuts on display racks. Accompanied by the appendage: Brother. Time it takes to ingurgitate someone’s dinner under his watchful eyes before daybreak. Being pressed on: Hurry it’s almost time. Terror at being mistaken for somebody else less than seeming ungrateful for unwanted hospitality. Commercial break every ten minutes. How a lemon can save your life. Prompter in the foreground: I personally guarantee this is going to be the most comfortable pillow you will ever own. Comfort in feeling of free falling into the void before sleep. Engraved on a grave: Dripping water hollows out stone. Only one boy looking different from other middle-school classmates speak the same language. Him translating playground gossip and recess politics. Him teaching with phonetic prowess how to ask politely classroom teachers proper permission to please may I use the bathroom. Bullet hole on the left side of his brown skinned face beneath a blind eye while he smiled and played ball with Caucasian autochthons. Acquired sensitivity to perforations in skin. General awareness about switching the lights off before exiting. Occasional forgetfulness of the ventilator’s whisper. Inability to translate energy wasted overnight into pecuniary digits. Preference for guilt gauged in numbers. Aversion starting early teenage-hood to dishes serving cow tongue. Prone to buccal confusion between textures of the bovine kind and own organ’s. The skin over boiled milk. The deformity of yogurt spilled over a metal kitchen faucet. Pamphleteer in the subway: This is your opportunity to receive Him as your savior. At social gathering a woman point her index at the frontal lobe of the upper skull and say to another woman: That guy looked just the same. At the bottom part of an expired refugee card: Any change in residency must be reported within eight days of arrival at the new address. Drama neither in life nor in art. Red meat cooked rare so it barely meets health standards for safe digestion. Distaste for speaking about oneself. Compulsion in looking into the mirror always from the same angle. Disavowal and awe at spit projectile propelled from a rolled down passenger window of a looming car blobbing on the facial skin. Puzzlement at the shared intimacy with a faceless stranger’s bodily secretion. Little boy comment: Cars are smaller than ants. Vertigo at take off or landing when the scale of things wither away from everyday familiarity. Landscapes through window at mid-flight trigger dissociation similar to images seen on screen. Panic about a plane crashing while in it felt no sooner than age twenty. Music play in the ears during turbulence. A woman jerk up mid-flight pointing her index while shouting over her head with deep-throated southern accent: Hey look at this guy. A stuttering scholar ostracized from academe due to unintelligibility. The incomprehensible comfort felt in picturing shooting at random people before falling asleep. Cashier smirk back: You stuttered for a second there. Middle-school shooting fantasy from ages ten to fourteen. Can’t seem to spill out that novel you’ve had inside of you for years. Suffering through a writing dry spell: Download Unstuck. A film end abruptly mid-way without end credits. Pop up ad: We can help you quit. Proclivity to mingle only with other ethnic minorities. White on paper. Passport falsely read September 11 as the day of birth. A patron in a shoe shop ask to try on the old shoes here to be replaced by new pairs. Twenty three year old fret he had not seen his father barefoot in his whole life. A summer spent unaware of wearing father’s shoes’ exact replica after hunting for the perfect fit for weeks. Intimate voice resonate on landline: I’ve internalized a system that does not believe in life. The utility of bad art. Fatherly figure fist-pound the over-counter: He shall never be a poet. Writers on lifeline: It is very important for artists to learn to use their own words. Teacher to student soon-to-be terrorist: My God how did you cope with all that stress. Bullets cut through thin air all around in a desert-night at five and a half on a stranger’s horseback. Hysterical laughs set off by the urge to piss and the saddle pressuring the bladder. Don’t assume it’s been left there by accident. Despite violence many support military. Large red stain covering straphanger’s face stare back unblinking many stations long. Shadow follow from the back. The bravery of the caned blind beggar collecting in a crammed car. Is marijuana a problem for you. Lies double up at interview with government officer. Prayers made to say in a foreign language. The department assumes no responsibility for the quality of this translation. Rereading: The sentence is a lonely place. Knife cut though red tomato flesh give the jitter.