2016: Punk’d By Homeland Security

So, you guys wanna hear about the time I got punk’d by Homeland Security?!?!

This story comes with a little background information: I’ve been in many stressful and bizarre situations in my short lifetime. There have been times where I’ve had to talk friends out of suicide, there have been times where I’ve had to both physically and legally remove myself and my siblings from an abusive home, hell there was a time where I’m in the middle of Walmart trying to help my cousin buy stuff for her two small children’s funeral WHILE being harassed on the phone by my dad in jail who’s demanding I put money on his commissary.

Hence, I can handle high-pressured situations (I’m not particularly happy about this ability but whatever).

So anyway I’m at work. I’m a receptionist at a refugee center. I’m, jokingly, referred to as the “security” for the place which is funny when you realize that I’m a freckled face white girl with the BMI of a can of silly string. I’m about as intimidating as a can of silly string.

Regardless, its lunch time and the refugees are exiting their ESL classes and that’s when three white people come in. And they start asking questions:

What’s our security like? Do we have cameras? Do our doors lock at night? Do the refugees live at the center?

Sketchy ass question after sketchy ass question.

And every time I ask them, “Why are you asking me these questions?” They would answer, “Oh we’re just curious…”

One of the women even tried going upstairs to where the ESL classes are held (in the words of Negan though, I shut that shit down. No exceptions.)

The worse part about this is my boss is gone, her boss is gone, nearly anybody with any authority is at a conference for the day and I’m distrustful of these white people. So I ask them, “Do you want to talk to the guy in charge of resettlement?” Thinking he can at least shove them out if it gets to that point.

I turn around to retrieve the closest authority figure I can find and they are GONE.

I’m freaking out.

I’m running around the building looking for these guys, I’m alerting other people of what just happened, I’m texting the woman who has access to the security footage so I can give a picture to the police, I’m a minute away from actually calling the police when two cops walk into the building.

I’m relieved! I tell them everything I just told you, I’m giving descriptions of what I believe are three neo-Nazis out there plotting to hurt the agency when one of the cops tells me flat out,

“Oh those were undercover cops. This was all a part of a counterterrorism exercise and you passed!”

They even hand me a NY State Homeland Security “See Something Say Something” pamphlet and continue to praise me,

“You did a great job! One of the officers said you were like a Pitbull. You didn’t give them any information blah blah blah…”

Like I give a half-baked shit!! I–WAS–PISSED!

I called them flat out assholes for putting me through this and they laughed (“oh we’ve been called worse.”) But I’ve never been more insulted in my entire life.

I assumed the absolutely worse was going to happen. I thought these were extremist Trump supporters scoping out the place. Homegrown terrorists trying to plant a bomb. Murderers out to harm the agency and dispel the city of unwanted Syrian refugees.

But NOPE.

It was a security test. Just a drill. A practice run to a real life occurrence that, apparently, I would have done “fine” if there was a real threat…

After that the two cops go to the same guy’s office I tried retrieving earlier and they’re all buddy-buddy. Normalizing this incredibly traumatic and offensive situation that left me shaking and shell-shocked. I ended up sobbing in my car for nearly 40 minutes afterwards.

They didn’t see that though (I wouldn’t let them). I just left my coworker’s office too pissed off to stand there and listen to them anymore.

Afterwards, when the cops are about to leave, one of them holds his arms out and has the fucking nerve to ask me, “Aww…Do you want a hug? I don’t want to leave here on bad terms.”

I wanted to tell him to rightly fuck off but instead I just tell him, “No. I don’t want to talk to you.”

All of the men (including my coworker) laugh and then they leave and my coworker leaves for lunch and I’m so distraught that I end up sobbing hysterically in my car for 40 minutes, going home and spending another hour just crying into my sister’s bed.

 

The ONLY positive thing I got out of this absurd as fuck situation was that I, once again, rose to the occasion and proved to myself, and others, that I can handle, probably, anything.

Vidimose

He received a call. “Hussein speaking.”

It was the receptionist. “Hey Hussein the news dudes are here.”

Hussein jumped to his feet as soon as he put the landline back on its receiver and walked out of a door that read ‘Executive Director’ into an adjacent lobby. He swung his head around to avoid touching one of the two sky blue UN flags that cornered his office.

A spindly-twenty something with a cart full of electronics and a short-haired reporter stood in front of the barely attentive receptionist’s desk, already smiling at him.

He lumbered over, his left leg dead while his right hand shot right out to accept them. He spoke loudly; hearing loss yet another one of his war deformities. This one was easy to hide. With his thick accent, it just made him seem excitable.

They did their small talks. Eventually, the camera woman asked where the interview would be located.

“My office is right there, but it’s very cramped.”

“How ‘bout conference room one?” the reporter asked, having done a few interviews there before.

Hussein didn’t care, but he smiled as if he did. “Conference room one works.”

+

While the camera woman with the BMI of silly string set up, the reporter went over with him what to expect, what she’d ask, even suggested things to talk about. After that a light came on and the reporter read off-screen from the script:

“With the Arab Spring and the crisis in Syria approaching its fourth year, the rise of refugees in the world has grown astronomically and, in turn, so has the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric. Today we are here with Hussein Ostojic, the Executive Director at Uncanny’s Canning Factory, to discuss, not only the need to help but also to talk about how America was there when he was in need…

“Hussein, a Bosnian refugee himself, Hussein fled to Utica after Serbian armies and has since made great efforts to employee refuges within the community giving them jobs, 75% of which makes up his working staff…”

Drowning underneath the natural light, a ghost from within him bespoke in his ear and he was hearing that last sentence echoing again and again. In the back of his eyes, dusty, dreadful memories filtered in him like cheap cigarette smoke.

The reporter’s dulce voice simpered through this barrier though and he felt himself say, despite it all,

“I think it’s critical for our country to take in these refugees. You just don’t understand what kind of horrors they are running away from…Of course I speak from personal experience. I came to this country because of the war, because of the terror…”

This was, and still is, a semi-truth.

 

Bosnia—

 

In the interview he told one story. In his mind, he told a different story.

His mind was going over what had happened, as if he wasn’t there. About how during the war, there was no color. The theater of war had taken away all the blues and yellows from everything. Even the stars at night were eradicated. Everything was just gray. Shitty and gray.

While Hussein’s situation wasn’t any different in regards to loss, desperation and starvation, he wasn’t being outright persecuted. Not exactly. His neighbors and his friends, those were the ones being attacked and forced from generational homes. And they were being driven out by the hands of his father, who even in his mind his name he erased.

He was 20 during most of those atrocities but even then he understood the cruelties and the crimes that that man and his people were unleashing onto women, children and old friends. At some point, Hussein made a pact to do what God and the American armies weren’t going to do—he was going to kill the man.

Like in every war, there are the devastated then there are the pissed off and mad about it. The need for vendettas and vengeance were so common during that time that there was a whole pole for making such deviant advertisements (think Craiglist but instead of the anonymity of the internet, you have a pole in the middle of a half-leveled town).

Hussein stood in front of the Revenge Pole for three days. His proclamation attracted many (It was a simply read: ‘COFFEE, CASH OR BEER TO ANYONE WHO HELPS ME KILL MY DAD’). That is, until they asked who his dad was. After that the only offers his sign garnered were for getting his ass kicked.

At last, just when he was at his lowest, someone dumb and reckless came to his rescue.

His name was Admir Ludovic. He himself still on the ground, worn out from broken expectations and too many punches when this contemporary with curly hair and limpy gait strolled by.

Admir took one glance at Hussein’s disheveled state then to the simple sign that hung above him.

“So…Who’s the guy?”

Exhausted, Hussein said the name, already preparing himself for another beating. But that didn’t happen with Admir. Instead, his eyes were teeming with interest.

“That’s your dad?” He asked, aghast.

Hussein didn’t remember if he nodded or not but the gasp that tumbled out of Admir’s mouth was forever seared into his skull.

“No way! Your father killed my father!” Admir replied, a small smile splayed across his pale face, as if he just found out per chance that their fathers were once friends way back when.

Hussein never forgot how quickly they bonded over how badly they both wanted to kill his dad. He should have known back then that it wasn’t wise to forge friendships on such tumultuous connections. But he didn’t know back then. He thought this is how relationships formed during chaos. That in this world of blood and decimation it wasn’t odd to become friends with your assassin for hire.

A plan was forged. Unyielding hatred for his father didn’t prevent Hussein from knowing a great deal about him. He knew the little dictator’s habits, his favorites, even of his routines.

Their plan was set weeks after their first meeting. Hussein was going to ask his father to spend the day with him. He was going to liquor him up and drive him out to a medieval forest about thirty miles from his home. The rest was going to be up to Admir.

“A simple plan makes everything simple.” They reasoned the night before and they raised a glass at their own brilliance but while Hussein downed his drink he missed how Admir’s eyes and how they were drowning in complications.

The next afternoon, Hussein and the man went to the bar as planned. Hussein pretended to get drunk while the old monster really got drunk. The more he swigged, the louder he got and the more often his bumptious laughter crackled throughout the bar. To old menace, the sound of his own laughter was music but Hussein could see how the barmaid’s hands shake when she handed him a frothy drink. Or how the old drunk men who hadn’t moved from their designated stool in decades dipped out one by one with each guffaw. Or how the windows no longer showed passengers’ feet because his voice could be heard from the outside and it made the street they were on to become sparse. His laughter was paltry puissant and poisonous. It was all Hussein could do to not bash his bottle against the counter and tear his tongue out with the glass shards.

Finally, it was closing time and the old man was rightly smashed and Hussein became a designated walker for the old man to get into his car. Hussein didn’t complain though. It would be the last time this man would downgrade another person.

The drunk devil beside him slept as they headed south west instead of south.  Hussein smiled down every extra road he took that his passenger merely snored throughout.

Despite the rattles and constant lurches from poorly-handled car, he was able to make in half a mile inside the forest with the man beside him waking.

Eventually, he picked a spot and slapped the headlights dead. He turned off the car and stepped out into the black trees and star-raped skies. It wasn’t until he purposefully slammed the door shut that his father jerked awake.

“Where am I?” He must have said seeing unable to see where he was, unable to see the butt of a revolver slowly being raised outside of his window.

He’d notice it soon enough when the weapon would rap against his glass and a man on the other side would overpower his drunken ass forcing him to the ground.

Hussein didn’t remember much of their exchange. Just a lot of cursing and crying, mostly ‘shut the fuck up’s. He remembered Admir being decidedly dramatic about the whole thing, taking way longer than needed be. But he also remembered that it was a part of their pact: That Admir would get to do what he wanted and Hussein would get to watch.

Finally a gun was raised to the blithering blight’s head and Admir started taunting him.

“Hey. Hey.” Admir commanding, snapping his fingers at him like a dog owner, until his demand was met. The old man raised two sniveling, weeping eyes to him and that is when he saw, in the indomitable darkness, his son standing right behind him.

It was Hussein who had the voice that he’d heard last.

“Vidimose,” he sneered, vowing to see him soon.

A single round of thunder came.

The war lord was dead.

They left with his body unburied and to added humiliation shot of couple of rounds into his car for the hell of it. Admir wiped down the handle of his gun and heaved it over his head carelessly against one of the trees that concealed his deed.

They emerged from the woodland murderers. Happy, happy murderers.

Neither of them spoke again until they found security at Hussein’s home. Hussein tried to discuss payment but Admir, whose eyes were wet when he looked upon him, clasped his shoulder blades and said no to the money.

“Think of it,” he said with great emotion, “as an act of love.”

He interpreted that as an act of love for Bosnia and Hussein embraced him warmly. Hussein entered his home thinking he made a blood brother that night. Admir left thinking (knowing) he was in love.

Several weeks went by and the eventual news of his father’s death shocked the populous. But, not enough for a thorough investigation.

Both men were at Admir’s home listening to the radio report of how the police decided to blame it on the gypsies. Needless to say, they were overjoyed. In celebration they got liver-killing-drunk that night.

“To the gypsies!” Hussein remembering praising at some point with a raised glass. “God’s greatest scapegoat!”

He remembered saying that joke a hundred times before Admir said something about it.

“I think we should raise our glass to another cause this time.” He said half-slurring.

“I agree.” Hussein said before he straightened his elbow up and said, “To Admir. The best friend a man could ever ask!”

He remembered Admir staring at him, looking saturated with great feeling. He remembered the man hadn’t touched his glass after that. But Hussein was selfishly drunk and too obtuse to recognize his friend’s agony. It wasn’t until Admir spoke that he realized Admir wasn’t happy.

“I love you Hussein.”

Hussein knew what kind of love he meant instantly. Simply because there was no chuckle at the end, no merriment in his tone. He heard that kind before but out of unrequited lovers’ mouths. Out of silly, sad ladies maws, not out of a man’s.

Despite being drunk, there was still a fondness for his friend. A fondness that made him want to spare him from hurt. It was the reason he put down his drink first before he said to him,

“I’m sorry Admir. But I’m not gay.”

“Gay? Who said anything about gay?” He replied, a little forcefully. It was at this point that he slithered beside him. “Two good looking men like us…It wouldn’t be gay. It’d practically be art.”

Hussein tried to laugh but went on to rationalize with Admir:

“Admir, I’m married.”

“So am I.”

“I have kids.”

Admir grinned. “Two sons.”

His entire arm was hanging off of his shoulder by then. His eyes inches from his own. He could feel his breath. It was the first time in his life that a grown man had made him feel uncomfortable.

“Admir, no.”

Strangely, the ‘no’ had no effect. Admir didn’t relent. He didn’t respect his decision. He laughed.

“Now you’re starting to sound like a woman.”

Hussein remembered feeling like a woman in that moment. He remembered a very real fear seizing over him. A primal fear where even the body, the core of yourself, knows there’s a very real danger emanating. Hussein remembered a very conscious voice telling him, either run or be raped.

He pushed Admir off of him and made a hasty retreat but the man with the limp was surprisingly fast and somehow his drunkenness overpowered Admir’s disability. He remembered furtive hands reaching for what they shouldn’t have. He remembered piercing panic. He remembered the freezing fear. He remembered how hard he headbutted the fucker as just to get those hands away from him. It worked for a second until Admir recovered fast enough to punch Hussein in the mouth. He remembered being shocked by how fast so much blood poured into his mouth. It was then that Admir’s hands went from wanting his pants straight to his throat and Admir started squeezing so hard that he was screaming.

But Hussein held his breath, he swallowed what little air he could, and he took his aim.

He spat the tooth straight directly into Admir’s mouth.

Instantly, Admir started choking. His face and his eyes were turning red. He gulped for air like a lung cancer victim. It was then that Hussein used all his strength to push Admir off of him. He scrambled to his feet, raising one leg and kicked him once in his bad leg.

Admir dropped to the floor fast, face-first. Another man’s tooth rolled out of his mouth and onto the floorboard.

Hussein stood over him, a trail of blood streaming out of his mouth and nose, his front tooth gone but his victory conclusive.

Hussein wanted to curse him. To beat him lifeless. To scream out at him the betray that he felt eat away at his insides. But with all the Epinephrine surging through his body he physically couldn’t stand there any longer. He merely picked up his tooth and ran out of the front door.

He could heard Admir’s voice screaming at him from the front door, two words over and over at him in cruel taunting (“Vidimose Hussein! Vidimose Hussein…!”) Hussein refused to look at the man. He remembered being proud of himself for keeping his head straight and maintaining stamina despite the drunkenness. But for also running in spite of his heavy bleeding, his heart wrought with betrayal and disgust at having found out someone he valued saw him as something to fuck…

Somehow Hussein was able to run the entire night without his body failing and he managed to make it a mile from his home. In his mind he saw himself barging into their home, shaking his family awake and getting them moving when—CHABLAM—his foot lost the ultimate game of minesweeper and he was sent skyrocketing into the colorless sky like in a cartoon.

He woke up in a temporary Red Cross shelter on a refugee island off the coast of Croatia. He found out later that if it wasn’t for a nearby farmer catching his chickens pecking at a disembodied leg, he would be dead.

Just like that, he was resettled and with less than what he started.

 

Utica—

 

“And…that’s it!” announced the camera woman.

Hussein clapped when it was over. The reporter shook his hand.

“Thanks,” he replied awash with relief. “I was so nervous.”

“Really? You’ve ever done an interview before?” the reporter asked.

“No,” he said laughing. “I’m too shy usually.”

“Oh stop!”

“No, I am!” He argued, laughing. “I feel like I am so bad with words.”

The reporter smiled with sincerity. “You did great. Besides, this is just a PBS branch-off. Nobody watches are stuff.”

“It’s true.” The camera woman interjected. “We get less viewers than those Spanish soap-operas that only run at 3am.”

Hussein smiled, thanked them both, shook both their hands and then excused himself to return to work.

Assholish afflatuses aside, he walked away from conference room one satisfied.

 

Syracuse, New York—

 

In a tan-and-salmon house, a woman named Ilma sat on her veranda scrolling through Facebooks on her iPad.

She scrolled past news reels of bombings, mass-murders, endless streams of the asinine controversy surrounding the 2016 election until she found clips of something less depressing.

After one titled ‘Boy Teaches Tiger How To Love Again’ presented a local segment. The words ‘refugee hiring refugees’ caught her attention and she was delighted after watching for a few seconds to see someone she once knew!

She paused the video and went into the house, calling out, “Honey! Come here, you have to see this!”

A pinched-up Bosnian voice greeted her from the living room, “What woman?”

“Look who it is!” she announced, handing over the electronic slab.

She watched the impatience fall from her husband’s eyes and reform into bulging bewilderment.

“Can you believe it, Admir?” She said, chuckling at the serendipity. “25 years you haven’t seen your best friend and here he was, an hour away, the whole time!”

Admir didn’t answer immediately, his tepid blue eyes focused hungrily on the 6×6 screen. Eventually though, he came to and his face was beaming.

She, understandably, misinterpreted its meaning.

Tales from the Refugee Center~2016

Today was my last day at the Refugee Center for 2016. Here are some of my favorite moments (names have been changed):

–Iraqi dude asks me if I had any eyeliner so he could fill in his beard. Is completely stunned when I tell him he can easily buy some from the dollar store.

–Being confused for months and months why the refugees keep calling you ‘teacher’ (even though I’m clearly NOT their teacher) just to find out they mean they respect you.

–One of the refugees hands me a pamphlet from Planned Parenthood with a picture of a pregnant woman on front. He has drawn a circle on pregnant woman’s stomach and written the word ‘like’ on it in crayon. He hands it to me, laughs hysterically then walks away without any explanation. I still have that pamphlet.

–Russian dude dramatically announces, “Without the jokes, I would DIE.”

–I ask same Russian dude how to say ‘sunshine’ in Russian. Replies, “I don’t know. We don’t have that in Russia.”

–Middle-aged Bosnian dude asks me something & when i reply ‘wasn’t me’, he looks me dead in the eye and asks me, “What are you, Shaggy?” (Please refer to Shaggy’s ‘Wasn’t Me’ song if you don’t get the reference)

–When me and different middle-aged Bosnian dude bonded over our love of Borat. Calls me Azamat now whenever I see him.

–Accidentally offered a Muslim woman some pepperoni slices. She smiles at me and says “It is forbidden” before popping 3 of them into her mouth.

–Refugee: “So, what other languages do you speak?” Me: “….Uh, slang?”

–Me: “Yo i think (Bosnian Dude) thinks I’m dumb. He just came up to me and asked me to point to Italy on a map.” Coworker: “Well, Meag, in his defense when I came out here I saw you playing with a pink balloon.” Me: “IT’S CALLED WHIMSY.”

–Bosnian lady: “Why do you call it macaroni salad? There’s nothing green in it.” Me: *face turns into ‘hit the blunt’ meme*

–Spanish speaking refugee finds out I can speak limited amount of Spanish. Goes to friend, grabs her by the elbow, points to me and says in Spanish, “She can understand us.”

–I’m looking for one Bosnian dude. Goes to his employer and jokingly asks, “Where’s your best friend?” BD: “HE’S NOT MY BEST FRIEND.” (later I’m talking to BD#2) “So, where’s your best friend?” (BD#2 points to BD#1’S office) BD#1: “YOU ARE NOT MY BEST FRIEND”

–Day after Trump was elected, I’m at work crying my eyes out and Russian guy is trying to comfort me: “It’s okay. It’s okay. I survived Stalin. Trump is nothing.”

–When the refugees came out and sang us Christmas Carols and my fucking heart exploded like movie Voldemort

–Bosnian dude and I bonding over hand deformities. BD reveals gun wound: “I got this from the war” Me reveals crooked finger: “I got this from playing keep-away.” BD: “Nice.”

–Me and Bosnian dude getting into argument about how there’s no way I can get AIDS from a vacuum.

–Me: “(Karen guy), I like your shirt.” Karen guy explains to me how he got this shirt going back to Burma to see his dying father whom he only met once and how he journeyed back home for the first time in years just to speak to him on his deathbed and how literally three hours after he sees him, his father dies. Me: “Wow KG that’s amazing.” KG: “Yeah…It’s alright.”

–One of my favorite refugees always gives me a round of applause whenever she hears me using Arabic (all i know is thank you and peace be with you)

–Karen Guy#2 tells me how he lived in a refugee camp and how he had to eat cobras and shit to survive. Karen Guy: “Wanna know how to eat a snake?” Me: “How?” KG: “You go behind them, catch them by and tail and (swings arm) WHAM WHAM WHAM. Against the rock.” Me: “KG, you’re so hardcore.” KG: “(laughs) Yeah…”

–Trying to tell Russian Dude at work a joke: “Hey RD, what do you call cheese that someone has stolen from me?” RD: “Give-it-back-cheese?” Me: “No, nacho cheese.” RD: “….Give-it-back-cheese is better.”

–When some Syrian girls your own age are bored waiting for Immigration Lady so they silently come over and start braiding your hair

–When one of my favorite refugee children comes up to me, randomly hugs me and says, “She’s my friend.” And every previous good feeling you’ve ever had doesn’t compare to that exact moment.

–Bosnian lady: ( to me) “You struggle to say ‘good morning’ and ‘chair’ but I teach you how to say ‘shitty’ and suddenly you’re fluent. What the fuck, girl?”

You Know You’re An American When…

…your car insurance is better than your health insurance (and you’d rather get into an accident than take a $1,000 ride in an ambulance)

…you had to learn about how politics really works from the Simpsons

…you are beyond grateful to have at least 3 teachers you actually learned from

…you are appalled and bewildered by the fact that there are people who spend anywhere from $6,000-$20,000 to become an American

…you knew how white privilege and racial inequality worked long before you knew there were terms for it

….the idea of actually standing there and waiting for food to be cooked actively pisses you off

…you went to bed knowing you were going to wake up weeping on November 7th regardless

…you can barely recite 1/4 of the amendments but are fluent in Spongebob, Simpsons and Family Guy quotes

…you learned everything you needed to know about religion from people different than you and memes

…you trust a meme to give you well-researched information on current events than you do your own newspaper or any of the Big 5 new media conglomerates

…you know or have personally lost someone to heroin/ opioid addiction at least 3 times this year alone

…you know well-versed in your local jail’s arbitrary visiting rules and regulations

…you don’t have a God but you have at least one celebrity you would fervently sell your soul just to meet

…(this is for the American ladies) you can’t trust any man twice your age and even the guys your own age you still gotta have make an escape-your-own-rape plan (just in case)

…you have to be in the mood for fruit but you’ll sit there and eat stale potato chip shards for breakfast

…you had to learn about the female orgasm from porn, how to jump start your car from YouTube and how to boil an egg from almost burning your house down

 

Comment below your own ‘You Know You’re American When…’!!!

Perverted Edgar Allan Poe Lines Taken Out Of Context

Who knew Edgar Allan Poe, the sad-alcoholic/ every Goth kid’s spiritual guru, could be so unintentionally dirty?

 

“Jupiter…rushed in leaped upon my shoulders, and loaded me with caresses; for I had shown him much attention during previous visits.” (The Gold-Bug)

 

“Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening…” (The Tell-Tale Heart)

 

“I felt that I lay upon my back, unbound. I reached out my hand, and it fell heavily upon something damp and hard.” (The Pit and the Pendulum)

 

“‘Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!—Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!—Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!—Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!—Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!’”

“My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.” (The Cask of Amomtillado)

The Only Book That Matters Review

Perfume: the Story of a Murderer written by German playwright/ author Patrick Süskind is without a doubt the greatest, sickest book to ever come out of Germany since the rough draft of the Guttenberg Bible with alternate ending (spoiler alert: THERE IS NO GOD).

WHAT? You’re telling me up until this point you never heard of Süskind nor of his apotheosis-level masterpiece? Are you trying to say you were one of those basic motherfuckers who assumed Nietzsche or that punk-ass Kafka were the pinnacle of German literature?

WHAT ARE YOU, A LOSER?

Name one other novel that starts off with the author telling the reader that the main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, is quite literally one of the most abominable persons to ever crawl out of an evil-infested vagina. He even states that he’s up there with the likes of Napoleon or Marqueis de Sade (That’s right. The guy so twisted and cruel we had to invent the word ‘sadist’ just aptly describe his fucked-uppery doesn’t have SHIT on my boy, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille). In fact, he’s so bad that on page two his mom tries killing his infant ass right after birth but Grenouille wasn’t about that life. He screamed his ass off until somebody finds him and gets his own mom executed for it. Yep, already two minutes old and he’s already got enemies AND a body count.

But that’s not even all. Grenouille just won’t die and not without a lack of effort on other characters’ part: The orphans at his orphanage try killing him, the harsh environment of peasant life in 18th century France try killing him, EVEN SMALL POX AND ANCIENT FATAL VIRAL DISEASE CALLED ANTHRAX TRIED KILLING HIM. But Grenouille ain’t shook. Suskind lovingly refers to his main character as a tick but it’s honestly the only way you can describe this motherfucker. He’s so subhuman that he don’t even have a human scent which is the entire premise of the book. Grenouille, whose name is French for frog, is the antithesis of everything human: He doesn’t know love, he doesn’t know how to die, hell he doesn’t even have his own stench. But check it. That don’t stop him from having the superhuman ability to identify every single stench that ever stunk and figuratively collect, bottle and store any and all smells into his imaginative castle of odors.

So what does he do with this remarkable ability?

He kills two dozen virgins in order to cultivate their scent, bottle up their essences, turns that shit into a wearable fragrance and sprinkles it onto himself so he can hypnotize people AND RULE THE FUCKING FRENCH.

That’s not even the half of the plot right there. This book has everything sick and terrifying you can imagine: It’s got infanticide, freaked out midwives, demon-seeing priests, long highly detailed passages of the 18th century process for distilling perfumes, murder, fraud, paragraphs dedicated to esoteric historical information, genius, hard-to-pronounce French locations, exploitation of genius, a mad scientist, pseudoscientific theories on how human feces is affected at different altitudes (I swear to god I’m not making this up), false imprisonment, mass hysteria, prejudice against gypsies and Italians, an almost public execution scene, a public orgy AND lastly, suicide—by cannibalism.

Hell there’s a part where Grenouille is so fed up with smelling humans that he goes off the grid for seven years, lives in a cave and survives by sucking water off of moss and feasting on frozen crows. BECAUSE WHY THE FUCK NOT?

Of course all of this is just background information to the real plot of the story and that is, spoiler alert, the fleeting realm of smell. Page after glorious page of the most beautifully written pieces on the basic yet profoundly indescribable trait of the human scent.

Now look me in the screen and name another novel that’s plot is FOCUSED ON THE 18TH CENTURY PERFUMING INDUSTRY AND THE VARIOUS SYSTEMS THAT THE GUILDS USED IN CREATING PERFUME.

Yeah that’s what I thought.

NOW GO HOME, ORDER THIS SHIT ON AMAZON AND ACCEPT PATRICK SÜSKIND AS YOUR NEW LITERARY GOD.

A White Affair

 

Like every clichéd tragi-romance, we met at a bar.

It was Margarita Wednesdays over at Panzn’s and I was alone because my friend had cancelled last minute with some half-assed excuse (“My cat OD’d on Xanax again and now I gotta find a rehab that’ll take her insurance”). Not wanting to seem like I wasn’t the independent woman I made myself out to be, I went out.

The night was proving to be a dud because by eleven I was barely buzzed and I was getting pissed off watching the only bartender there shamelessly flirt with some bored-looking Latina at the end of the bar instead of paying attention to my money.

The worst part is I would have continued to complain had the guy next to me not started snapping at the server and screaming.

“Hey! Assholio! You’ve been trying for ten minutes; she ain’t interested. Hey!”

His abrasiveness and impatient snapping garnered nothing. The bartender continued to ignore him and, by proxy, the rest of us drunks.

Inspired by his bumptiousness, I stepped on top of the metal pipe at the bottom of the counter, lifted myself up with the help of my heels and cried out in Spanish, “Ella es non va a joderte, pendejo (She’s not going to fuck you, fucker)!”

The woman he was harassing burst out laughing, effectively proving my point. Embarrassed, the bartender nearly ran away from the woman, towards us drunks and served a record-breaking number of margaritas.

The man next to me was speechless. Almost. “I have no idea what you just said but I can tell what swearing sounds like in other languages,” he said, audibly impressed.

I sipped on my liquored-up slurpie, letting off just a small smile but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t infatuated. He had light blue eyes, a chubby pair of lips and a voice that sounded like the heave and sigh that follows an orgasm.

“That?” I scoffed, when I finally let up for air. “That was kindergarten cursing. You should hear the guy who runs Karaoke night. He’s got a mouth that would make Castro cry like a little bitch.”

He laughed, which I knew he would because I’ve used that same joke on men before.

“You must come here a lot, then.”

“I live here. For six bucks I can eat like a king, drink like a fish, PLUS they got a pinball machine right outside the ladies bathroom.”

He chuckled this time. “Man, you make this place sound like paradise. I always drove by and just thought it was some crap shack bar that codes never got around to shutting down.”

“You talk shit but what made you come, then?”

“Eh.” He cocked his head back to a table out to the left, past the main support beam that took up ten percent of the dance floor and an oil painting replica of Las Meninas, to where a handful of white guys in collared shirts sat around laughing at nothing. “Some guy at work’s last day. He wanted cheap booze and burritos so we took him here.”

I turn my head to look at the table just so I can lure him into looking at my side profile and my sexy-as-hell collarbones. In the corner of my eye I sensed a lingering glance, but when I turn my head back I pretend as if I didn’t almost catch him objectifying me. He’s merely smiling.

I smile back. “Shouldn’t you be going back to your office party?”

He lets out a laugh/scoff combination. “I did my time. If I wanted to be socially obligated into buying someone a shit-ton of drinks, I’d rather it be you.”

Damn… That was smooth. Even if that was a ready-to-go pickup line at least it had a little bit of social commentary attached to it. Looking back on it, maybe that’s where he tricked me. Then again it could have been that voice or the eyes or the way he called that asshole bartender ‘assholio’. I don’t know anymore what worked on me. All I remember is when I said next:

“Hey, I don’t like getting stuff for free.” (Which is probably the biggest lie I’ve ever told someone; I love getting stuff for free) “So why don’t you buy me a couple drinks and I’ll teach you how to curse out Señor Puta over there?”

There was something odd in the way he looked at me after I said I didn’t like handouts that I wish I would’ve caught onto. But I didn’t. Instead I watched his eyes grow soft and I watched his hand stretch out to shake mine.

“Deal.”

I don’t know what propelled me to give him my full name but I did. “I’m Jeanette, by the way. Jeanette Sobriquet.”

He gave me a wolfish smile. “I knew you were a gringo.” (I shoulda corrected his ass and told him ‘it’s gringa’; alas, what life doesn’t beget regret?) “James Woods.”

I made a face which he, needless to say, expected.

“No relation.”

I shrug, bending my face down to reach my straw to a drink that was by then just a watery tequila pond. “Too bad. I guess I’ll just have to get drunk with a hot stranger instead of a hot celebrity’s kid now.”

James gives me another wolf-like grin and I wish I could have told you that was when I figured out his secret, that I smelled it right then and there and bolted out of that seedy little Mexican-styled bar. But I didn’t. I did the exact opposite. I got moderately drunk off three pomegranate margaritas, verbally abused a twenty-two-year-old bartender for my own amusement, and then went back to James Woods’ house where we feverishly fucked until 4:30 in the morning.

I wish I knew back then what I know now. But I didn’t. Which is why my shitty story goes on.

+

A couple days pass and it’s the morning after we just spent another (sexy) night together. I’m sitting at the kitchen table, staring at my phone, scrolling through news, memes and adorable baby animal videos. James is beside me, doing the same thing. It was a peaceful moment.

James’ laughter was the first to break this moment. At first I didn’t think anything of it until my left eye got nosy and travelled west to see what he was laughing at. It was a Fox News segment. The very sight of which made my chest and my uterus seize and burn. But I kept positive.

“Whatchu watchin’?” I inquired, impersonating mild curiosity.

“Oh,” he said laughing, “just this news reel from yesterday. Check it out. Clinton’s trying to blame the FBI director for losing the election.” He maneuvers his phone for my vision’s benefit but it doesn’t matter because he’s talking over the anchors anyway. “What a cunt. She rigged the primaries, fucked up Benghazi; she literally gets away with murder but she’ll still have the nerve to go on TV.”

I make a small laugh but I’m holding back my disappointment. I can’t believe I’m screwing a conservative.

At first I tried to dismiss this newfound fact. It’s whatever, so what, we differ in politics? Politics is just a one-dimensional view of a person’s personality; a benign trait no more interesting or revealing than announcing your zodiac sign. It’s not as if politics is an indicator of a person’s world views or personal beliefs…

My thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. James stopped what he was doing to go answer it. It’s the UPS guy and James is audibly excited to see him. He comes back to the kitchen table with a package in his hands and it barely touches the table before he’s using his car keys to slice open the top flaps.

“Oh sweet!” he cries once the box is open.

I had no idea why he was so excited. It was just a pair of plain white, cheap-looking hotel slippers. The kind even I wouldn’t want for free. But then he turned them around for me to see. Embroidered on the toes. A single name. In black standard print.

Trump.

+

After I found out James Woods was a Trump supporter, I assumed I could change him. That our incredibly satisfying sex life would be enough to alter thirty-three years of independent thought creation.

I, in my dick-obsessed naivety, honestly believed I could convert his socially asserted white supremacy and time-test values into post-modern tolerance and intersectional feminism. If only we just fucked and talked long enough, that would cure him.

Alas… my optimism was short-sighted.

+

 

Three weeks into our relationship and we’re pulled up on the right-hand shoulder of Route 8 South and we’re going at it like two gay teens at a conversion therapy camp.

We’re in the backseat and I imagine now that the ferocity with which we were humping must have made my car look like a defected dryer from the outside, but that still didn’t stop me from being shocked at the sight and sound of an officer tapping his flashlight against my back window.

We froze mid-thrust and turned our heads to see a dark-brown face in a dark blue uniform blaring a horrible white light into the car.

I didn’t have a chance to get off (out) of James’ lap when he rolled down the window and said, without shame:

“Evening, Officer.”

I balked; I was horrified at being caught acting like a whore but it was all he could do not to high-five the dude.

“Good evening,” the officer replied, looking and sounding wholeheartedly unamused. “Who’s the owner of this vehicle?”

“Uh, mhm, I am.”

“Ma’am, you realize that the road shoulder is for emergency stops only?”

At this point I’m too mortified to make out anything intelligible but James has no problem speaking on my behalf.

“Ha, Officer, if we waited any longer this car would have looked like a crime scene.”

His face doesn’t change in the slightest at James’ crude joke but his tone got real strict when he said to him, “Sir, I was talking to the owner of the vehicle.”

At once, all at once, I watched from the corner of my eye as the mirth drained from James’ eyes and was abruptly replaced by an icy, unforgiving chill.

For a moment, James locked the officer into this new stare. But the officer was undaunted.

“License and registration, please.”

I did my best to stretch my shirt below my pelvis in order to reach forward into my glove compartment but James’ hands halted me, grabbing me by my hips, in order to keep me in place.

“What’s your problem?” he demands.

Excuse me?”

“James—” I began but he talks over me.

“Why are you turning this into a fucking big deal? You know we were just fucking. Now you’re going to run my girlfriend’s plates like she’s some fucking criminal?” (But I’m not a criminal and that was standard procedure. I try to tell him it’s no big deal but I’m talked over again) “We weren’t doing anything wrong.”

“You mean besides indecent exposure, commission of lewd acts, failure to cooperate with a police officer. Besides all that, yeah, you’re a regular Johnny Law.”

None of what he says fazes James. “Fuck off,” he hisses, unimpressed.

The officer gives him a hard look before the door clicks open and he orders him to step out of the car.

At this point I’ve shimmed myself from his lap and I’m trying to apologize on his behalf but James cuts me off, looks the officer dead in the eyes and tells him:

“The fuck I look like getting arrested by some big-lipped nigger.”

I feel the literal wind being stolen from me. It’s enough to make me clutch at my own throat. Whatever shame I felt earlier cannot compare to hearing him speak the unforgivable and, worst of all, explicitly to this man’s face.

But the officer’s expression doesn’t alter a bit and his voice isn’t any different when he pulls out his handcuffs and tells him, “You’re under arrest.”

I let out a sharp-pitched gasp but James scoffs at him, even as he’s pulled out of the car with no pants on. “For what? Calling you a dirty little spook? I can say whatever the fuck I want. First Amendment, right?”

“Free speech doesn’t cover hate speech,” he replies coldly, as the handcuffs are snapped onto James’ colorless wrists.

The officer is dragging him away, reciting his Miranda Rights along the way and that’s when the hatefulness gets louder. James’ voice sounds like a bat having a heart attack now. He’s screaming. I’m sobbing. I want to apologize, sincerely, deeply, mortally, say I’m sorry to the officer. I stick my head out the window, I’m babbling, I’m trying desperately to undo. But the officer doesn’t even look at me, doesn’t respond to me, and I’m certain James’ hate is drowning out my apologies. But when I try to get out of the car, the officer snaps his entire neck at me and cuts that shit down quickly:

“Ma’am! Do—not—step—out—of—the—vehicle! Do. NOT. Make me arrest you too!”

“Too?” I’m petrified by that word, by the implication of inclusiveness. “I’m—I’m not—” But I don’t finish what I want to say.

I’ll never forget the way the officer’s brown eyes were hard-pressed onto mine and within them I saw no sympathy for me. No warmth or optimism or fellowship. Because it didn’t matter if I had black friends or mixed relatives. It didn’t matter if I loved Toni Morrison. It didn’t matter if I voted for Bernie Sanders. And it sure as hell didn’t matter if I was just this embarrassed girlfriend of an ignorant man.

I was just a white woman unapologetically overlooking her boyfriend’s white supremacy just because his racist views had no consequences for me.

That officer doesn’t look at me again as he reaches in his car and pulls out a walkie-talkie to alert his coworkers. James continues to scream psychotically in the backseat, something about Trump, something about Africa, something about Benghazi… I couldn’t tell you what after that. Every sound that caught my attention just overwhelmed me with revulsion. I ended up just sitting there in the backseat, well after the patrol car peeled off and James was taken into custody.

I cried there on the shoulder of the road with no pants on for who knows how long. Because I was utterly disgusted with myself. Because, sure, I wasn’t okay with racism. But I was willing to fuck it.

They Don’t Think They’re Princesses

 

I’m a receptionist at a refugee center. On a daily basis I interact with literal hundreds of people. With those numbers in mind I get hit on or called ‘pretty/ beautiful/ gorgeous’ a lot. With the exception of the more exceptionally creepy, it doesn’t bother me as much as it once did.

What does bother me is when little girls tell me I’m pretty. They’re usually little black girls and they usually say things like ‘oh you’re so pretty’ ‘I love your hair’ ‘your hair is so pretty’ ‘you look like a princess’. And that saddens me because I want so badly to tell them ‘no. I am not a princess. A princess can speak multiple languages. A princess has travelled and has seen other countries. A princess sees and lives through war and political strife and is still brave. You are more of a princess than I’ll ever be and you’re not even 10-years-old.’

But they don’t think they’re princesses because, on the surface, the princesses they know look more like me: The princesses they are familiar with have long hair and are skinny and are undeniably white. The princesses they know don’t wear hijabs. They don’t have dark skin and dark eyes and even if they do, they do have comparatively darker skin they still have enough Eurocentric tendencies to counter balance it (j’accuse Jasmine and Aladdin).

It’s easy for women with Euro-centric characteristics to stand on a soap box and scream ‘looks shouldn’t matter’. For the most part they are right. Looks don’t matter, if you have the acceptable ones—the slender noses, the soft hair, the white skin that gives you an unfair advantage in a world brimming with racial disadvantages.

But to those black girls and brown girls and tan girls (and boys, lest not forget the foreign boys) their looks are not revered. More likely they won’t know that they’re beautiful until they’re older.

If we can agree that telling little white girls that they don’t need to be skinny and blonde to be considered ‘beautiful’, then we can’t leave out the non-European-white girls and boys from feeling assuaged.

It goes without saying that the life of a refugee is exceedingly hard and unforgiving. It was that harsh reality that fairy tales were conceived from, in order to give our ancestors some distraction from peasant life, early death and constant war. Isn’t it only fair, humane even, if we let refugee boys and girls believe that they too can be princes and princesses?

Literary Classics I Can’t Fucking Stand

  1. Anything by Jane Austen, although I will say I hate Sense& Sensibility marginally less than her other works. Mostly because of Colonel Brandon who I feel is the only interesting character she’s ever made (LOOKING AT YOU DRACY, YOU MILKTOAST JUDGMENTAL BITCH).
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Okay the book itself is great and Wilde’s witty as fuck but I HAVE NEVER HATED A FICTIONAL CHARACTER MORE THAN I HATE LORD HENRY. LORD HENRY YOU’RE SO LUCKY YOU AINT REAL. I’D THROW THESE BONY WHITE HANDS SO FAST.
  3. The Bridge Over Drina by Ivo Andric`–DON’T READ THIS BOOK IF YOU AREN’T PSYCHOLOGICALLY PREPARED TO GET READY ATTACHED TO A BRIDGE JUST FOR SAID BRIDGE TO BREAK YOUR HEART, LIKE YOU DON’T EVEN MATTER.
  4. Crime&Punishment by Dostoevsky–Sorry Dos, I love you but Raskolnikov was such a punk ass. He spends 6 chapters convincing himself to kill that old greedy bitch, just to kill her AND her innocent half-sister—JUST FOR HIM TO FEEL BAD ABOUT KILLING THE MEAN OLD WOMAN BUT NOT HER ABUSED MENTAL CHALLENGED HALF-SISTER? Weak.
  5. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephan Cane–I had to read this in high school and to this day I vehemently boycott the hell out of this hard to read, somehow impossibly boring war book. SERIOUSLY WHO MAKES WATCHING A GUY GET GUTTED BY A BAYONET BORING?!? -89,000 stars.
  6. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck–I will never forgive this book for that one time in the 4th grade when I accidentally poked myself in the eye with it’s hardcover corner. Plus, the book isn’t even about a pony. The fucking pony dies 20 pages in, if i remember correctly. I probably don’t though because you know that BOOK TRIED TO BLIND ME.
  7. The Hunchback of Norte Dame by Victor Hugo–you know it’s probably a sin for me to say this but I actually liked Disney’s film adaptation so much better than this book. In fact when I read this as an adult I was so disappointed at how different the plot is from the movie. Quasimodo’s not even the main character. It’s mostly about Frollo and how his brother keeps mooching off of him and how much of a pervert Phoebus is (spoiler: dude was married, tried fucking Esmeralda even though she’s 15-16 and he knew she was in love with her then tossed her ass to the side when she was accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death by the King). That and it’s just chapter after chapter of describing the fucking stain glass windows of the Norte Dame. Don’t get me wrong I read Les Miserables no problem and that book is twice the length of this one but at least Les Miserables didn’t talk about the cathedral’s parapets of stone for thirty fucking paragraphs.

God I’m Cliched

Actual diary entry from 3 days ago

“Fuck this. I need to cave and make a blog already.”

I had just another rejection from an online publication and I was feeling like shit because that was the 5th one from November/December alone. I just wanted someone to validate my writing so I can get out there more but that wasn’t working for me at all (but to be fair I’ve noticed in a lot of literary journals that they don’t usually put pieces where the main character swears every 5 words and the plot revolves around a guy being held captive by his stalker from Bosnia so going to be pretty hard to get someone to say ‘hell yeah’ to that). So here I am! UncleMeag! Bringing you the latest in profanity friendly short stories, poems, think pieces and lists of stuff I hate!