Month: October 2020

MOTHA	FUCKAS IN THE BARBERSHOP

MOTHA FUCKAS IN THE BARBERSHOP

SETTING Present Day. Interior of a black-owned barbershop (ew not Great Clips) on the Eastside of Atlanta. Flags for the Atlanta sports teams adorns all of the walls. Paintings of Barack Obama and Malcolm X kicking it reside next to the mirrors. Muhammad Ali and 

The Big Cat

The Big Cat

It was the morning after my older brother, Mike, moved out. Mom had just left for her job at the bank, and I was in the kitchen, barefoot, wearing a long t-shirt and boxer briefs, staring out the back door. The condensation on the glass 

Not One of Ms. Aisha’s Stories

Not One of Ms. Aisha’s Stories

Yemen, 2010.

I stood by the front door of our gated school, keeping half of my arm inside to make sure the metallic door didn’t close. I peeked inside to see if anyone was noticing, and peeked back at Reema every few seconds. She stood by the end of the narrow street that lead to our school’s gate, an old gate that reminded me of the mistake I made every time I stepped outside during school hours. Reema had rolled the sleeves of her shirt and the hem of her long skirt to make it shorter, and untied her braided hair. It turned to brown waves, and I imagined Ahmad surfing between the waves of her hair sometimes. “I won’t be late this time, I promise,” she said. She turned to me with her wide eyes that were for sure darker than her hair and walked, expecting me to follow her.

Reema and Ahmad met once every two weeks. They touched, looked around and whispered things in each other’s ears. He held her arm and played with the hair tie around her wrist. She talked and looked at the hair tie casually. I didn’t know why I obligated myself to help her, but I didn’t mind watching them and I enjoyed the secret we shared together.

             We could see his school from our classroom, it wasn’t gated, but somehow it looked more depressing, maybe because the gate made our school look cozier, but not the best kind of cozy. I had love-hate relationship with the gate, but I didn’t bother myself thinking about it most of the time. Our classroom’s window gave us a good view of their playground, and sometimes we would gather around the window and watch them play soccer. Choose teams that have members with blurry faces and names, cheer for them and fight about who did better during each match. Reema smiled, looked at me and pointed at Ahmad whenever he played. She sat next to me, and sometimes I would catch her staring at the window, especially during Ms. Amal’s math class, and then Ms. Amal would walk slowly with her long yellow ruler and hit Reema on her back.

           I don’t remember how I became friends with Reema, but she was there, and we never decided that we shouldn’t be friends at some point. I never hung out with her outside our school, but we called each other to plan her meetings with Ahmad, or to help her understand Ms. Amal’s class better.

Ms. Aisha’s class always scared Reema, and I could feel a spark of guilt inside my chest whenever she told us one of those stories. One story was about a girl our age that ran away from her house to see her lover and never came back because he kidnapped her. A few days later, her parents found her body some miles away from the school she had run away from. Another story was also about a girl who didn’t obey her mother. She had once asked the girl to lower the sound of the music as she prayed. But the girl kept playing the loud music, so Allah had made her ears vanish the next day when she woke up. When I first heard this story, I slept with my hands over my ears for few days. There was another story also about a girl who never prayed because she always slept during the prayers. If the call to prayer woke her up, she would ignore them and go back to sleep. One day, she slept right through them and never woke up again. I believed the stories sometimes, not because they seemed reasonable, but because of Ms. Aisha’s thin eyebrows, which moved with her as she told the story, and her brown pencil skirt. They made her seem like a credible teller. I once asked Reema after Ms. Aisha’s class if she was ever afraid of Ahmad kidnapping her. She covered her mouth with her hand as she laughed and said she wouldn’t mind. Reema always moved a part of her body when she laughed. She would stamp her feet on the floor, wrap her arm around her stomach, or use her hand to cover her smile. A part of her body had to move with her, and it made me laugh even if I didn’t think the joke was funny.

It was another Ahmad and Reema meeting, so I stood by the gate and watched them kiss. He was taller than her. He had to bend his already bent back more, and she had to stand on the tips of her toes. Sometimes he would wrap one arm around her waist and pull her to reach his height. She said that Ahmad wanted to marry her once they graduated. I told her he had to find job, and she said he already started looking for one. This is why she agreed on kissing him. But Ms. Aisha said boys never marry girls their parents didn’t choose for them. That brown skirt, again, made her credible. Reema would do a slow jog toward me with a satisfied smile on her face when she was done with the meeting. She told me once that Ahmad had a friend, who would like to meet me. But I sweated from her suggestion, and we agreed that holding the door of the gate was enough for me.

“I need to meet with Ahmad again this week,” she said.

“Why?” I said.

“He said he got me a gift,” she said. “He really needs to give it to me before the end of this week.” Her voice sounded sharper, and I didn’t see a point in saying no, so I stood by the gate the next day.

It was hot, and the metallic door burned my arm. Reema and Ahmad walked away, and I couldn’t see them anymore. I stood inside next to the door, waiting for Reema to knock. We usually sneaked out during Ms. Shahad’s art class. There were forty of us in her classroom, and she never memorized our names. She thought she did sometimes but always ended calling us the wrong names. Her pregnancy bump got bigger every class period, and I was always afraid she would fall and explode. I got nervous whenever she walked around the classroom and couldn’t wait for her to sit down, rub her belly and stare at the ceiling while we painted. Reema took longer than I expected, or maybe I was too excited to see what Ahmad planned to give her. I could feel a drop of sweat traveling through my back, stopping when it reached the skirt’s tight waist. I opened the door again, no Ahmad and Reema. I saw Ms. Amal walking closer to the door, so I stepped back and walked to the bathroom. My face sweated, too.

Reema’s spot was empty, and the air conditioner hit my back, but I was still sweaty. Ms. Aisha looked at Reema’s desk, but didn’t say anything. I imagined Reema in front of the locked gate downstairs with her fizzy wavy hair, mad at me for leaving her that way. I waited ten minutes, listening to Ms. Aisha’s story about a girl who insisted on wearing skinny jeans even after her mother’s warnings. One day, the girl tried to take them off and she couldn’t because they were glued to her legs, so they had to cut them off. I liked to look at Rana’s face whenever Ms. Aisha finished one of her stories. Her eyes would become wider and her mouth turned to a little circle. It made me giggle, but the spark of guilt stopped me every time. As I tried to act like Reema was present next to me, I asked Ms. Aisha if I could use the restroom. Her eyes looked at me for two seconds. She nodded with a no.

Reema and I never had a clear plan of what we would do if we ever got caught or, more specifically, if she got caught. But we had agreed on some basics that would get us in less trouble: Never show them that we are afraid, deny everything they say, never tell them the truth of what she was doing outside if they didn’t know, and never stare at principal Jehan’s eyes for more than three seconds. I knew, though, if we ever got caught, I would tremble and forget that these rules existed. After Ms. Aisha’s class, I opened the door of the gate again; wishing Reema would suddenly appear behind me and show me whatever Ahmad had given her. I wondered why the school decided to keep the door unlocked in first place. It was probably a test to see which girls would break the rules. Their stories would be told as a warning in Ms. Aisha’s class, so girls like Rana could circle their mouths.

The final bell rang. As I walked to the bus stop, I saw Reema sitting inside principal Jehan’s office on her black leather couch. My whole body felt sweaty again, and I wanted to stop and listen to what was being said. Ms. Amal waved to me with her hand to keep moving and follow the line. At home, I called Reema’s house number twice. Her mother answered the first time and her soft voice scared me even though it sounded regular. She answered with “Reema is sleeping, I will let her know you called.” But she didn’t ever call me back.

The next day, we stood in our classes’ lines, and a young-looking teacher I’d never noticed before came to do a regular check of the rules we have to follow: no nail polish, braided hair, black shoes and white socks. She didn’t seem like she was enjoying her job. She saw two girls with mismatched socks and didn’t tell them anything. She moved between us faster than Ms. Aisha did and smiled at a girl who had nail polish on. I waited for Reema to show up and join us while we sang the national anthem, but she never arrived. I didn’t know what to expect, but I prayed, feeling the guilt that comes when praying only when I needed something. I felt like I used God sometimes, and I didn’t know if that was okay. If I had asked Ms. Aisha, she would probably tell me something like, “God doesn’t accept prayers from selfish people who follow their own needs and desires.” After quick consideration, I was relieved. Because what I was praying for wasn’t actually something I needed. It was Reema’s problem. I was praying for Reema.

The day was slow, and girls asked about Reema’s absence looking at me. I wanted to go to the principal’s office and ask her what exactly happened, but fear made me selfish. I planned not to say anything, or show my involvement unless I was called to Principal Jehan’s office. I froze every time someone knocked on our class’s door or whenever I saw Ms. Jehan walking closer to me. But it never happened. I was never called. Opening the gate for her wasn’t part of the story. Reema was a good friend for leaving me out. I thought maybe God understood my prayers in different way, because of my weak phrasing, and decided to just save me.

I phoned five times after I left her waiting at the gate. Her mother stopped answering my calls. Her younger brother picked up once, and it went like this: Me asking him if Reema was there, heavy breaths from him with no answer, me asking if he was still hearing me, more heavy breaths, the sound of Reema’s mother asking him who is on the phone, and then nothing.

When I entered the classroom the next morning, I didn’t find Reema’s desk next to mine. Everyone stared at me as if they knew what had I did to her. That I’d left her waiting. That she had knocked, expecting me to open. But that someone else had instead. And, whoever that was had turned her to Jehan’s office.

When Ms. Aisha’s class started, she stood, leaning on the table in front of her body. She did that move when she wanted to get our attention and say something wise.

“God doesn’t forgive girls who sneak behind their trusted ones back and sin,” she said. “Remember, no one wants to marry a girl who sins before marriage.”

Reema’s story was about to be told, and the mysterious disappearance would be solved to those who didn’t know. Girls listened as Ms. Aisha spoke about how a good man saw them hiding and committing a sin and returned Reema to the school and informed her parents. Ms. Ashia’s lips moved faster as she spoke, and she moved her hands with the rhythm of her words. Her voice got sharper when she said words like “sin,” “girls” and “God.” This is was the most exciting story she ever told, and maybe even the only true one.

I stopped calling Reema and stopped expecting her return, but I remembered her at least once a day, which I think was enough for a friendship that consisted of phone calls and me opening and closing the gate for her. Sometimes her memory made my steps heavy and my breath slow, but I tried to remind myself that it was that good man’s fault — never mine. One time, Mama asked me about her. I told her she left school, and she wasn’t surprised. It was okay for girls our age to stop attending for marriage, or for other reasons like Reema’s. I wondered about Ahmad and if he tried to find another way to contact her. But without me that couldn’t be possible, so probably he just kept this whole thing a secret and remembered her during the day sometimes. I’m sure he remembered her more than I did because their relationship consisted of more things than our friendship did.

We graduated from the gated school. Reema and Rana were the only two missing girls from our class’ graduation. The girls said that Rana got married to a rich doctor. He proposed to her before finals week. One of the girls attended her wedding and said that her hands looked so small when she held her groom’s hand. Her dress was a beautiful white with flowers that popped out, her curly hair was straightened, and her lipstick was a dark red that you could see before she got closer to you. I imagined Rana with her thin and tall body, wide eyes that listened to stories walking down the aisle next to a groom with a lab coat. I told Mama, and she told me she couldn’t wait for me to get married, too. She said Rana was a good girl, and she deserved nothing less than a doctor.

I heard stories about Reema’s ending, as well. There were a lot of them, and I didn’t know which one to believe: The first one was Reema got married to the first man who proposed to her. Her parents were very excited and afraid that he would find out about her old lover, so the marriage arrangements went very fast. The next story was that Ahmad came to Reema’s house and proposed to her, but her parents didn’t know that he was the lover she kissed as I watched the gate and watched them. Her parents approved, but she and Ahmad had to hide this big secret their whole life. I thought the next story was the most exciting one: A different man proposed to Reema, and her parents approved, but she was determined not to marry him because Ahmad still lived in her heart. One week before her wedding day, she ran away with Ahmad to somewhere that was far away. Her parents looked for her, but their search wasn’t successful. This story sounded a lot like Reema, and I replayed it in my head every few months whenever I remembered her. I actually replayed all of them, but that story had a lot more things to imagine and daydream about. I hated the last story. It made me bite my nails, shortened my breath and made my tears almost fall whenever I replayed its events. After Reema got caught, and her parents came to pick her up from Principal Jehan’s leather couch, she tried to run away again as she walked to the car, but her father caught her, tortured her, and she might be dead.


Batool Alzubi is completing her M.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing at Missouri State University. Previously, her story “Illegally Alive” was published by Bacopa Review.

Elegy/Paean, in Twins

Elegy/Paean, in Twins

            Conversation with Max, April 2020 I am in my room, he in his, our gemini miseries roping between us. Not a single 10 minutes passes without me hearing an ambulance or two anymore, he says. Weill Cornell, HSS, and Lenox Hill are all close 

A Song for New Orleans

A Song for New Orleans

Each street is covered in mud, stray dogs search for their owners bodies they toss and tumble through the wreckage like dendrites, millions of branched extensions pile in the streets a nightmare from hell. Blue gray bits of flesh become one with murky water. The 

The Innocent Gaze of Irene Jacob

The Innocent Gaze of Irene Jacob

A play in one act

CHARACTERS

Sherry: 31, blue short-sleeved plain blouse over purple shorts, blue flip-flops, long straight hair.

Amir: 33, grey-striped pajamas (both shirt and pants), barefoot, shirt collar halfway turned-up, mussed hair, one-day’s worth of stubble.

TIME

The present, late morning.

PLACE

Amir and Sherry’s one-bedroom apartment in Tehran, Iran. Their kitchen is on the right which opens to the living room at the center. The bathroom is a darkened room in the far-left corner. The side of the bathroom facing the audience is made of glass. The TV is on, mostly showing commercials and music clips on low volume, except when noted in the play (the audience cannot see the screen). There’s a large travel bag open on the floor next to a wooden coffee table, near the TV.

 (SHERRY is in the kitchen. She’s humming to the music on the TV and every now and then takes a quick look at it. She’s spreading oil on a medium-sized frying pan. She cracks eggs on the edge of the pan and empties the shells, each time causing a sharp sizzle. A few pieces of the eggshell find their way into the pan. SHERRY considers taking them out and then ignores it. When she picks up the fourth egg, she hesitates before breaking it.)

SHERRY

(Loud.)

How many eggs—

(The sound of the toilet flushing swallows Sherry’s high-pitched voice. She falls silent, shaking her head. Then, she picks up a spoon and stirs the egg yolks and whites. AMIR exits the bathroom and smiles victoriously in SHERRY’s direction. He slams the door shut and waits for SHERRY to acknowledge him. She doesn’t.)

AMIR

            (Shouts.)

What a brilliant suction this flush has!

(AMIR flaps his hands in the air, in an attempt to dry them.)

SHERRY

You don’t have to yell.

AMIR

Wanted to make sure you heard me.

SHERRY

I’m not yelling and you’re hearing me.

(AMIR retracts a stool and sits on it. SHERRY places sausage pieces on eggs. The sizzle resumes.)

SHERRY

(Waits for the sizzling to die down.)

How many eggs did you want?

AMIR

As many as you see fit.

(SHERRY removes an indigo bowl from the cabinet, places it on the island and grates cheese into it.)

SHERRY

I wouldn’t know what’s going on in your belly.

AMIR

But you do know it was just emptied.

(SHERRY wipes the sweat off her brow.)

SHERRY

Gross! Can’t you see I’m cooking?

AMIR

Come on! Don’t ruin your continental breakfast with that frown.

(AMIR approaches SHERRY from behind and places his hands on her cheeks. SHERRY jumps in place.)

SHERRY

Don’t touch me. Your hands are wet.

AMIR

(Surprised.)

It’s just soap and water.

SHERRY

Whatever!

(Amir looks around, finds a fork, punctures a piece of the omelet right from the hot pan, and loads up his fork.)

AMIR

(Sniffs.)

I love this smell. Reminds me of the food carts in Bangkok. Oh, how I miss strolling down those tight and narrow alleys.

(SHERRY collects the cheese curds haphazardly spread around the area. At first, she’s uncertain what to do with them. Eventually, she empties them back into the bowl.)

SHERRY

What else was tight and narrow in Thailand?

AMIR

(Ignores her.)

Dammit! I burned myself.

(SHERRY twists the fork out of AMIR’s hand and tosses it in the sink. It lands on a heap of unwashed dishes and makes a loud clattering sound.)

SHERRY

Be a good boy and go back to your seat. I’ll bring you your food when it’s ready.

(AMIR swaggers back to his stool. He turns to the TV which is showing a commercial about a tour to Malaysia and Singapore. SHERRY sprinkles cheese curds on the omelet.)

AMIR

I wish we could go to Thailand together.

SHERRY

No one invited me.

AMIR

You’re aware of our financial straits. It was a business trip anyway.

(SHERRY grabs two teacups and fills them with tea. Then, she carries them to the island.)

SHERRY

I don’t really get it. What was the point of replacing our Iranian toilet with a Western-style one? It cost us like two tickets to Thailand.

AMIR

Come on, Western-style is awesome. You relax on the rim and leaf through your magazine while doing it. What’s the point of squatting over a hole in that awkward position?

SHERRY

I don’t mind squatting. I love to squat. I long to squat—

AMIR

Now you’re being ridiculous. These days, everywhere we go, we see Western-style toilets. Don’t you envy other people’s toilets?

(SHERRY jerks back her head and gazes him in awe. He laughs.)

Okay, maybe you don’t.

SHERRY

If there’s anything to envy, it’s their peaceful life, their warm relationsh—

AMIR

Warm relationship? Seriously? Like Elnaz and Masoud?

SHERRY

You’re always on the hunt for one of my friends to have a tiny squabble with her husband to use it against me.

AMIR

A tiny squabble?

SHERRY

Their marriage has slipped into a temporary phase. It’ll correct itself.

AMIR

Temporary phase? They’ve been married for four years and have been stuck in this temporary phase for three and a half of those.

SHERRY

Stop picking on my friend. I shouldn’t have told you about their fight. I’m sure things’ll go back to normal once I return from my trip.

(AMIR notices the travel bag on the floor. It’s covered by a couple of unfolded dresses and a long scarf. Next to it lays a pair of light-yellow loafers.)

AMIR

Have you packed by the way?

SHERRY

As you see, I’m not done. It’s just four days anyway.

AMIR

(Sighs.)

So short. Going all the way to Isfahan for only three performances.

(SHERRY turns the stove nub, cuts the omelet and extracts half on a plate and puts it down on the island in front of AMIR.)

SHERRY

How many Isfahanis are interested in watching a postmodern play?

AMIR

No, I mean you could stay longer by yourself. Isfahan has lots to offer.

SHERRY

You love it to be left alone with your films, don’t you?

AMIR

I can’t watch films with you around?

SHERRY

Not if Irene Jacob is in them, I suppose.

(AMIR ignores her. He puts a bit of omelet on a piece of bread, salts it, and takes it to his mouth. Sherry observes him.)

The corners are a bit burned. I should have removed it from the heat earlier.

AMIR

Food made with love is always a treat… Why don’t you try it yourself? Want me to make you a wrap?

(Without waiting for SHERRY’s response, AMIR cuts a slice of bread and steps towards the pan on the stove. He’s about to fish some omelet with his fork when his finger touches the hot edge of the pan. He quickly withdraws his hand.)

SHERRY

Watch out! It’s hot. Let me empty the rest onto the plate.

AMIR

That’s okay.

(AMIR continues to make her a wrap and puts it on her plate. SHERRY starts to eat. For a while the only noise in the house is the music coming from the TV that filters through the hum of the hood.)

SHERRY

(Swallows the last piece more quickly)

You’re obsessed with Irene Jacob, in a morbid way. The other day you told Elnaz how she looked like her. And now you’re writing a critique about her.

AMIR

(chuckles while chewing)

I’m not writing a critique about her. Next month is late Kieslowski’s seventieth birthday. 24 Frames is running a tribute for him. Each critic is writing a review on one of his movies. They assigned Red to me.

SHERRY

They did or did you ask them to?

AMIR

I can’t believe we’re actually having this conversation.

SHERRY

Why not Blue?

AMIR

Then you’d have said I fell in love with Binoche.

(SHERRY opens her mouth to say something but decides against it.)

Eat your omelet before it gets cold.

(SHERRY sinks her fork into her food and reluctantly nibbles at it.)

SHERRY

(looks down at her plate.)

Even in bed with me, you’re thinking about her.

AMIR

You don’t even bother to ask; you just enlighten me about my bedroom fantasies.

SHERRY

I know what I’m talking about.

AMIR

Now you’ve run out of women around us and are targeting a poor French actress?

SHERRY

Does it matter if she’s in France? You like traveling solo.

AMIR

So, the only problem here is how to get myself to Paris? Irene Jacob is waiting for me with a bouquet of roses at the arrival area?

SHERRY

The problem is that you’re living with me, but your thoughts wander to France.

AMIR

Oh God! God! I feel like I’m living in a Woody Allen flick.

SHERRY

It’s not a film. It’s our lives.

AMIR

On what fucking grounds do you make such an absurd accusation?

(SHERRY is hesitant for a moment, then makes up her mind and exits the scene. AMIR sips from his tea while watching her trail, now curious. SHERRY returns with a bunch of A4 papers. She passes him one.)

SHERRY

Look for yourself.

(AMIR peers over the paper. It’s a page full of sentences and several scratching. AMIR shrugs, appearing clueless about the point she’s trying to make.)

AMIR

What about it?

SHERRY

Here.

(AMIR follows SHERRY’s finger that settles somewhere at the bottom of the page.)

AMIR

This is your evidence of betrayal?

SHERRY

First, you wrote “innocent gaze of Irene Jacob”. Then, you scratched “innocent” and wrote “ethereal.” Again, you changed that to “graceful.” and finally to “exquisite.”

AMIR

Sherry! In this thousand-word piece, there are over a hundred cross-outs. And you’re bickering over this?

(SHERRY is still staring at the words, shaking her head.)

SHERRY

   (Softly.)

This is different. You thought more about it.

AMIR

Turn off the hood. I couldn’t hear you.

(SHERRY reaches over and turns off the oven vent. She leans against the stove.)

SHERRY

This is different. You deliberated.

AMIR

Were you there when I was (draws imaginary quotes) “deliberating?”

SHERRY

You crossed out “innocent” and above it wrote “ethereal”. And of all the scratches on this page, you only crossed one word out three times. “Innocent” to “ethereal” to “graceful” to “exquisite.” Three times!

AMIR

Are you an actress or Sherlock Holmes? Another reason to type my shit from the get-go.

SHERRY

You didn’t answer me.

AMIR

You could teach Medea. Seriously.

SHERRY

You’ve said it before.

AMIR

Did I? When?

SHERRY

(Wistfully, savoring every word as a faint smile creeps into her mouth.)

Five years ago, when you came to Roudaki Theater to write a review on our rendition of Euripides’ Medea. After the show, you snuck into the dressing room to tell me no one in the past twenty-five centuries could act Medea’s insanity better than me.

AMIR

How could I tell if you were better than some Greek actress twenty-five centuries ago? I was just trying to get into your pants. I had no idea you’d be like this in your personal life.

SHERRY

(wears a serious face again.)

But you liked it, didn’t you?

AMIR

For the stage, yes. Not here.

SHERRY

I don’t have a good feeling Amir. What am I supposed to do? Something is wrong, I don’t know what.

AMIR

The wrong is that you’re going on a trip and you’re already missing me.

SHERRY

I’m going crazy. I feel like we’re turning into two strangers under the same roof. Because of my travels, maybe? Or because of the things you do—

AMIR

Things I do? What did I do wrong? Well, other than this. (He lifts the paper and flaps it) It’s my job to write. In fact, if it wasn’t for my writing we wouldn’t have met. The way I praised you, no one has ever praised Brando.

SHERRY

Maybe that’s why.

AMIR

Because you don’t want me to name other women in my reviews? To admire them? I’m supposed to only write about you?

(SHERRY is silent.)

No, it’s not that Sherry. I’ve been writing for years and you’ve never complained.

SHERRY

Amir, it’s not something to rationalize.

AMIR

I’m a critic, that’s my language.

SHERRY

And I’m an actress.

AMIR

To hell with stereotypes. Tell me what you want? You want me to remove all the references to Irene Jacob? Or, do you want me to write she was the film’s Achilles heel?

SHERRY

My problem with you is that you take every serious thing as a joke.

AMIR

And you take jokes seriously.

SHERRY

Amir, it’s not a joke. It’s not a joke.

AMIR

I offered to change the text.

SHERRY

It’s not about Irene Jacob.

AMIR

But you started with her. Didn’t you say I told Elnaz she looked like her? Then, didn’t you say I brought her name in my review? And then—

SHERRY

Amir, let it go. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, okay?

AMIR

I know what’s wrong with you. You’ve grown sensitive. Not only with me. With everyone. Why don’t you go out with your friends anymore? Why do you prefer to be alone? That’s why you look for an excuse to rummage through my work.

SHERRY

Nowadays, no one can stand themselves, let alone see me. I’ve turned into a whiny woman. Even Elnaz is drifting away. Well, she has her own issues.

AMIR

If you know this why do you bring tension into our life over nothing?

SHERRY

It’s not nothing. Something is wrong. Something is not in its right place.

AMIR

Okay. Find it and then we can fix it together.

(AMIR extends his hand and puts it on hers. Unsettled, SHERRY draws away.)

SHERRY

Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me.

(She keeps repeating don’t-touch-me until the consonants join together and turn into a hissing sound. She notices AMIR’s surprised face. She licks her lips and swallows.)

Why did you come to bed so late last night? You wanted me to fall asleep first?

AMIR

(Rolls his eyes.)

I was working.

SHERRY

What was so important?

(She glances at the papers on the table and takes a deep breath)

Of course. It was important.

(They look at each other, frustrated, as if they both realize they’re stuck in a vicious circle. SHERRY lifts the pan and throws the leftover into the garbage bin and drops the pan in the sink and then turns the tap forcefully to rinse it.)

AMIR

Sherry. Darling. Stop it. You have a flight tonight. You have a performance tomorrow. And it’s not Medea. Stop acting out the part of Medea. Medea is done. Medea is dead.

(SHERRY tries to interrupt him with a chuckle, but he doesn’t let her. He gathers the papers and aligns them.)

I have to type the final version. And you should take a break and go for a stroll. The weather is nice today. Pick up Elnaz on your way perhaps.

SHERRY

(Slides the cheese grater under the running water)

Elnaz’ back pain has returned. This time it’s more severe than ever. Her doctor has advised her to stay home. It’s so serious he forbade her from using Iranian-style toilets which is why they—

(SHERRY freezes mid-sentence. She balances her gaze on AMIR who is leaning on the counter, holding the papers with one hand. He’s silent, as if observing her next move. SHERRY tries to say something but only gasps. AMIR takes one step and shuts the running tap. When AMIR makes sure of SHERRY’s indecision, he approaches and grasps her arms.)

AMIR

Sherry! Darling!

(SHERRY pushes AMIR with all her might.)

SHERRY

    (Screams.)

I SAID, DON’T TOUCH ME.

(AMIR jumps back and puts a hand on the stove to keep his balance. The stove surface is still hot and pushes him further back. TV broadcasts news on the recent wildfire in Canada. AMIR picks up a pen on the coffee table and draws a line on the paper.)

AMIR

There you go! Irene Jacob is gone. Ceases to exist. Stop it now.

SHERRY

(still nonplused. Almost moaning)

Elnaz? Elnaz?

(AMIR drops the pen and raises his hands. SHERRY begins to cough, incessantly to fight off nausea. She presses her chest and retches a few times. Her mouth and eyes are wide open. She takes two steps back, her eyes still on AMIR. Without looking back her hand searches for something to lean on. AMIR gestures as if he’ll move towards her, but she waves her hand to stop him. She can’t take it any longer and dashes to the bathroom. The bathroom lights turn on to reveal its interior through the glass. SHERRY kneels in front of the Western-style toilet, hugs it and throws up. AMIR is motionless, standing in the kitchen and hearing her gag. He turns on the oven vent hood to muffle SHERRY’s disturbing retches. The hood whirl is too loud now, unusually so. Curtain drops.)

The End


Mehdi M. Kashani lives and writes in Toronto, Canada. His fiction and nonfiction can be found in Passages North, The Rumpus, Catapult, The Malahat Review, Wigleaf, The Walrus, Bellevue Literary Review, Four Way Review, The Minnesota Review, Emrys Journal (for which he won 2019 Sue Lile Inman Fiction Award), The Fiddlehead among others. He has work forthcoming in Epiphany. To learn more about him, visit his website: http://www.mehdimkashani.com

Ticketed People

Ticketed People

By the time Ella Henderson snuck into her two hundred and fifty seventh free movie at the Greensboro AMC, she was almost hoping to get caught. The sneaking wasn’t done out of financial necessity — her paralegal salary was comfortable enough. It was a hobby, 

Just Wait

Just Wait

JUST WAIT I know what the law says. Plus, the SSO makes me repeat it after her, every Tuesday afternoon, inside her office. “Let’s say you see your mom, Eva. What do you do now?” I say: “Push the alarm.” Every time, Ms. L gives 

What’s Flammable

What’s Flammable

For Refugio Ramirez and his family and Mary Turner and her unborn child

For you, I’d do it

#It’s common knowledge that we need it

#You deserve justice

#the time has come

#God will not stop it because after all an eye for an eye

I’d do it if fire, once lit, did not sow destruction

even to cradles, even to warm bottles, even to Tootsie rolls, even first vows, even

quinceañeras, even animal shelters, even to family tables

#I would burn change into being.

I would start with flammable things, such as:

The penises of white men who fetishize brown skin. The meth that killed my friend
Cassandra. The devil in my cousin that tells him he deserves to die. King Leopold’s
body at the stake. The supposed “apology” to the Indigenous Peoples of America. My
mother’s fear of my brother being shot. Donald Trump’s June 5th, 2013 Twitter post. The
scars on my right wrist from my first suicide attempt. The cages of Louisiana State
Penitentiary. The fragile guilt of white women. The Dred Scott case. The internment
camps at the border. The blaspheming lips of every homophobic preacher. Wall Street.
The teacher who struck my father as a child for being sad and hungry. Every white robe
in America. The statues of Christopher Columbus. Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the
United States Constitution. I would burn

# I would burn until the smoke floated to space

#when God looked down, They would see S.O.S smoldering above Earth

#I would burn

Until the banner of our agony unfurled like an orchid.


Kia Addison is a community activist with a BA in English Literature. She has interned for the Portland branch of Literary Arts and Silk Road, a Literary crossroads, and given presentations for the Seattle Holocaust Museum and Walter Arts Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

OF MEN

OF MEN

steel shoulders, stone jawstrying to be. a man carves, peeling back to that layer oflove only for things rather than pouring his soulhe is one piece of himself my skin was too soft,no plan to reconstruct the world, i cast myself in iron,slicing his self