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Chapter 1: The Well of Lions Man why did I start going out with Lucie? I need an Arab girl.

Hashem said, flicking his cigarette into a plastic cup resting on our sidewalk in Jaber complex, Amman, Jordan. The stars were glaring. "You started going out with Lucie because she was the most beautiful girl in Jordan." I said. I first met Hashem in the eighth grade, back when he used to brush his teeth every-day and put shampoo in his long blonde hair. Now he is bald and smelly, full of Arab proverbs, sad George Wassouf songs of unrequited love and squalor. When I first met him he used to stutter everytime he tried to speak Arabic. The real Arab kids used to make fun of me because I couldn't speak my own language and Hashem would stutter at them to stop. Of course no one made fun of him. "Yeah but she's gotten fatter, let herself go since we first started going out..." Hashem said. Hashem, you have to understand Arab girls come with so much baggage, they want your soul for their cunt, Lucies a nice girl I said. I couldn't see what Hashem was complaining about. He had the Arabian dream, to fuck foreign girls with funny symbols in their names, touch their pure whiteness and hear them moan in strange tongues. Girls without brothers and boyfriends who hit you on the side of a head with a metal baseball bat, I knew a kid from the American Community School who got shot in the knee. Arabs and their obsession with their sisters hymens.

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I know she's a nice girl, but she's not Palestinian, I need to find a girl I can marry. Hashem said. We were sixteen at the time. Hashem was wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh tied around his back that protruded from his brown leather jacket. Bald head glowing from the neon streetlamp, blue eyes shining pearlescent-silver. His tree-trunk forearm squeezing a bottle of 7-up and gin that we were drinking on our sidewalk in front of the American closeout store, across from the shawerma oasis. "Are you thinking about Sophie?" I said. I snorted bumps of ketamine off Sophie's slender fingers every time I saw her. Sophie who made me light up inside. Sophie with the sixteen angry boyfriends. "I took MDMA on my roof with her yesterday. It was beautiful." Hashem said, glaring back at the stars. "Did you bang?" I said. "No, I wanted to but I just laid on her boobs all night, they were so soft and creamy. I think I'm in love. I'm going to see her at the Irish Pub tonight, do you want to come?" he said. "Well I'll have to cancel my meetings with his Majesty." "Don't say things like that..," Hashem said, shaking his head. "Who's gonna be there?" I said.

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"You know, the usual expat crew, hairless Arabs, horse-back riders, Dunhill smokers, Americans, English, Africans, oh and of course your favorites, Margie and Alice. Are you ever gonna hook up with anyone besides those two girls? Do they know about each other?" I shrugged, that's what I liked about Hashem, he never pressed me for answers, sometimes I wondered about how he was before I met him. Puffing hookah with Tylenol ground in it at age eleven, Hashems dad was an atheist; he offered him his first beer at ten. We used to be healthy, incurably healthy. The Irish Pub was on a sidestreet near Jabal Amman, opposite the Egyptian Embassy, underneath the Dove hotel. It was cheap and they never asked for I.D. I moved through the haze of cigarette smoke and amateur drunks to the backroom where people were playing darts and pool while Radiohead blazed in the background. Sophie was at a table in the corner, pale skin, purple lipsick, sitting next to Margie with the emerald eyes and Alice with the French ivory cigarette holder. Margie caught my eye and got off her seat. "Come with me, I have something for you.." she said. I'd always wondered if Margie's English accent was genuine seeing as she hadn't been to England for five years. She was also only half English, she was Iraqi on the other half but she couldnt speak a word of Arabic. I wondered what it must be like having two nationalities, not knowing where you belonged. Then I realized I already knew. And I recalled when I first moved to Jordan, ten years old, little boy lost, convinced of misery and disgusted by my names association with violence. My dads co-worker asked me weather I liked America or Jordan better and I did jumping jacks like we used to do in gym class and sang U.S.A, all the way!.
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Did she fake it because guys thought it was sexy? She took my hand and I remembered how silky her skin was. She dragged me to the bathroom where she took a small plastic bottle with the label scratched off it from her purse. "How do I take it?" I said. "It's ethyl chloride, you put it on a rag and sniff it." she demonstrated and I watched her eyes go to the top of her head. I inhaled deeply, it tasted like chemicals, I could feel my brain cells dying, the world cracking at the seams. I'm bouncing back and forth watching myself bounce back and forth. Margie's lips were on mine and I could feel the nodules of her tongue. Her blonde hair smelled like windy lilacs. Her mouth was cleaner than Alice's, fresh, like spearmint and strawberries. Alices mouth was an ashtray. One time, Margie said to me: I love you Like when we were in that dingy kitchen, she was in her sisters nightgown with the moonlight glinting off her pale feet and flowers in her hair. And I wanted to say Did it hurt when you fell from heaven with those paradise eyes?. But I dont say corny things. Allergic. Or when her father kicked her out of the house and it was my first day in Jordan. We met up in the back of the Irish Pub. Her sister was standing next to her bags, crying. She was in the bathroom sniffing ethyl chloride. I licked it off her nose and lips. Then they took us to the middle of nowhere and we played the freeze game in the cool darkness, I tried to kiss her but she wouldnt. And I wondered if she was embarrassed of me in front of them. We went to the park and ate candy her sister bought with the money she stole from her dad. That night we rented that smelly apartment
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with the empty vodka bottles in the dingy kitchen and the condoms on the floors. And I wanted to carry her in that nightgown and rip it off her on that syphilis-infested mattress but I didnt have the balls. On her last night in Jordan I left Hashem and her sister locked in the balcony and we went to the roof where I reached inside her and found out she was lying. Dylan hadnt been drunk and imagined something happened, he had told the truth, at least initially. She had fucked him even though she barely knew him. And I figured out why her Iraqi Dad had kicked her to the curb. And I remembered why I dont say corny things. And I said: I adore you too. Then the high was gone and we stared at the bathroom tiles, two disappointments, tongues still, eyes hollow. For ten minutes we took turns clutching at the rag and inhaling till our nostrils were numb. I used to be so smart before I moved here, praying to Allah at five in the morning begging him to bless me with basketball skills and when I scored a three-pointer I mumbled my gratitude. Margie used to wear a hijab when she was eleven. Now look at her, eyes in the back of her head, bra poking out, tongue hanging out, mouth open, kind of like the gray Rolling Stones t-shirt she was wearing, I thought about the plastic little bottle and how different it was from the t-shirt, buy a rolling stones t-shirt and you might enjoy your mild association with Mick Jagger, but when you buy a drug, it actually does what its supposed to do, makes you feel good, the same promise made by purses and candy bars and designer clothing, drugs were not transgressive, they were the ultimate consumer object. I heard a commotion outside, people were cheering. I heard clapping and returned to the backroom with Margie giggling at my side.

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The bar was unrecognizable, pool tables deserted, dart boards ignored. I saw Hashem approaching from the bar area, Hashem must be real. His titan footsteps and mozzarella stick hands holding two foaming beers with a grimace on his face. Sophie's tongue was wriggling inside Alice's mouth and a crowd of guys was egging them on. Someone had changed the soundtrack to "I kissed a girl and I liked it.". When he saw the girls making out, he dropped the drinks, glass shattered on the cigarette butt floor, everyone turned around. Hashem pushed Alice out of the way and Sophie stared at him with puddles of fear in her pupils. He took his hand and slapped her on the cheek. Everyone was silent. The fat bartender ran in furious, his cheeks red, huffing and puffing, he pushed Hashem but Hashem didnt budge. Hashem picked up a chair and threw it at the wall of the bar, it crashed into the dartboard and broke into pieces. The bartender cowered and ran behind the bar. I grabbed Margie by the arm and went to Hashem. Hashem lets get the fuck out of here, theyre calling the police. I said. Im not going anywhere. Hashem said, smoke billowing from his ears. Hashem you stupid fuck, out of here, now. He followed Margie and I to her car, the bartender ran after us. Get back here you cowards. he yelled. What did you say? Hashem yelled back. Hashem spit on the floor.
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Hashem, move I said. We sped off into the night in Margies dad's BMW. What the fuck just happened? Margie said. I need to put some music on. Hashem said and handed her his phone to plug into the car. George Wassoufs smokey voice vibrated from the speakers. Wassouf was the last great tarab performer, the art of merging music and emotional transformation. Hashem and I had gone to a Wassouf concert a few months ago but Wassouf had decided to get drunk at his hotel instead. I apoloooogize. Hashem said, thats the only part of the song I remember. Speeding down crooked streets with my head out of the window screaming: I apoloooogize. Margie dropped us off at Hashems house. Hashem was silent. I was practicing my deep breathing, wondering if I would be able to survive in suburban New Jersey. Wondering if Id ever have another night like this, where afterwards you sit on Hashems balcony drinking straight whiskey in the cool breeze and feel like you have lived. I remembered fragments of life in America before 9/11, slivers, playing Super Smash Brothers and water-guns at my birthday party in our tiny apartment with the only two friends who had actually come. Riding rollerskate shoes down school hallways and being teased by the boys with bleached blonde hair and stainless steel earrings. Why am I so fucking melodramatic, what is the root of this masochism? Im glad this happened, something like this had to happen for our last night together. Why do you have to go? Hashem said. I shrugged

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Untitled Chapter The guidance counselor had curly blonde hair and gray eyes, ridges in her face and thin lips. Im surprised at how articulate you are, I mean coming from where youre from. she said. I went to an International School I said. She nodded. So what classes do you want? You dont want to hear about my academic interests; needless to say I was an ambitious high school senior. And despite the fact that I was forced to take two years of U.S history in one I still managed to register for too many AP classes and dropped most of them. I wandered around the labyrinth high school late for class all the time because every hallway looked the same that disgusting brown paint made me anxious. I was smoking a cigarette outside in the parking lot during recess when I decided to make a run for it. I walked home to my family friend Zeids house through suburbia and Greek diners. I passed a school bus. Nice sweater, faggot. said the kids at the back of the bus. I got back to the house and let myself in through the basement. I heard moaning. Ignored it, opened the door to the downstairs living room and found my Uncle Ali (no relation) fucking a woman who was clearly too attractive to be his wife. I closed the door and sat on the lawn waiting for him to finish. The attractive blonde sauntered out from the basement door and I went inside. My uncle Ali, Zeids father, was smoking a cigarette in his boxers. How are you Mohammed? he said, slithering.

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We talked for hours. He told me how he cheated on his wife with prostitutes. He told me how he grew up doing it. He told me how he had to. And I believed him. Then he told me about going to strip clubs with my dad. My father renting hookers while he was married to my mother. And I could not bring myself to care. All I knew was the world was exactly as bad as I thought it was. Somewhere along the line I met Christopher with the big soulless eyes. The first time I met him he was wearing red lenses in his eye, an Ash Ketchum hat and a Pokeball filled with pot. Surrounded by godly medication, we would gaze out at the suburban landscape, watch the trees dance and the lakes ripple, silent, swearing back and forth, up and down, side to side. Christopher was a garbagehead, a victim of the drug culture, eating whatever came by and the funny part was it rarely had any discernable effect on him. But it did on me, no one got as high as quickly as I did. I flunked out. I was arrested for possession of marijuana the last day of school, a convict and a failure. My parents still carry their disappointment every-day. Its something theyve begrudgingly learned to accept, to expect. And that makes me sad. After my failure, I fell into depression and self-contemplation, like Socrates. I spent a summer stumbling around Amman full of liquor and self-loathing; I used to think Id have a bright future. I drowned my inadequacy in vodka and silliness, killed off its air-supply. I went back to the States and enrolled at Raritan Valley Community College along with Christopher. My first week there Christopher and I began smoking cigarettes at the gazebo near the center of campus. The gazebo quickly turned into a cesspool. People would walk in and ask to buy a dub and the whole gazebo would pull out baggies and you could compare nug size and fatness. Everyone in the gazebo seemed to be on some sort of probation or suspension, academic or otherwise.

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I was always worried, the world was so dull and depressing, thousands of people were dying, animals oppressed, earthquakes exploding, volcanoes fuming, glaciers dissolving and souls switched off. Life was not an enjoyable adventure to be had, it was a long-clawed serpent-beast to be feared. Christopher taught me otherwise, inside forests and gazebos and smelly cars I learned that the sunshine is beautiful; the moon is stupendously sexy, that there is nothing prettier than a lake surrounded by trees. Christopher was no good Samaritan, a neurotic nonentity, but he knew he knew how to take advantage of life. I couldnt see the trees, the rivers, the sky, the icy fascination all around me that I couldnt see it because I was too busy looking for other things. I spent days rubbing furry walls and shiny benches, listening to music in smelly cars. Smiling. Genuine crows feet smiling, the best kind because it was for no reason and did not last. During finals week I lost my mind, my favorite organ wandered off and left me helpless. They took me to white rooms. There was no music, no fresh air, no forests, no sunlight, the kind of place that could kill a persons soul. I had to spend a week there, I am refurbished. I survived, battered, scared of talking to others, silent, removed, gone, not there anymore. Friends tried to help me, to turn me back into the obnoxious asshole I was before. Life, talking, drinking, loving, fucking, shitting, eating, reading, writing, I didnt want anything to do with it, it all seemed so petty and worthless. I owe a debt of gratitude to the man with sunshine hands. When I had lost my spark, his music gave me a chance to dance. Not to grind your cock against a girls nearby ass, but to reallly dance. Lose yourself in the music, compulsively moving your arms, your legs, your hands. I dont know how to dance.
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And I hung with the cool, the cigarette smokers and the players of the pool, fast-talking hustlers and dangerous druggies. We sped down suburbia, stoned, ripped, patriotic, red-blooded Americans in this foul year of our lord, two thousand something. I remember blunts in cars, dancing to EDM music in public, bowling, blowjobs from girls with tongue rings with THC in my head. Its all over now baby blue. Your mothers vagina This is perfect Dylan said as he turned around and pulled out his cock. A moment of silence ensued as we watched Dylan urinate. How big is it? Lili Ann said. Like a gazelle. Six inches of raw power. After me you can take on bull-dogs, kangaroos, horses. I like horses. Lili Ann said. I was not sober enough to hear the guards footsteps but somehow I sensed them coming. I wondered if they could tell I was an imposter. What are you doing? the guard said in Arabic, gesturing to Dylan and myself. Spitting on the pavement, the guards mustache did situps. Dylan continued urinating on the gate as if nothing was happening. Im sorry I dont speak Arabic. Dylan said, humming along. Id always felt a special kinship to Dylan though I doubt he felt the same way. He had a skip in his step and he never apologized and he would skip into parties and go straight to where the girls were sitting while we watched in awe. There was one party down the long hill, past city-mall
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next to Mukhabarat (Jordanian intelligence) headquarters. Kids from the most powerful families in Jordan were gathered there to get drunk and compare cars and clothing. We were only fifteen but there were Hummers and MLs and Range Rovers parked outside with single-digit plates, drivers licenses obtained through considerable bribes. Everyone was drinking Absolut and Grey Goose and I walked in with a 2 JD bottle of gin in my jacket pocket. People stared at me as I jabbered in English to Hannah, a girl with that phosphorous shade of blonde hair that hadn't quite become cool yet. I liked Hannah even though she was a bit like the town bicycle, everyone had taken a ride and I wondered what they would think if they knew she was Jewish. Dylan was flirting with an Arab girl which is always a dangerous proposition. I recognized her as one of those girls whose sluttiness is nationally renowned and scandalized. Jordan is a small place. A slap ricochets through the courtyard, conversations stop, drinks are put down, people run outside. Dylan was in the center whimpering. What happened? I said She had a boyfriend. he said, tears running down his face. I see the tears slowly falling down Dylans face. Someone had done something wrong, horribly wrong. I ran upstairs to where the cars were parked and recognized the boy who had slapped Dylan swaggering to his friends. I wanted to kick him and scream in barbaric merriment I did. And between the kicks he said: You dont know who I am. And I screamed:
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Cos Umaak. (Literally, your mothers vagina) I was lifted off my feet and I heard a big thunk and a crunch in the bones of my back. I was against the hood of the Hummer and a big blonde beast is yelling. His mother is dead. I felt the blood vessels in my nose burst as his knuckles stamped pain all over my swollen. My glasses were bent-up, broken on the ground and I yelled back at him. More you pussy, come on. He kicked me in the stomach and I collapsed in the gravel. The entire party was watching. I called Abdallah to come save me and stumbled back to the courtyard. Wondering why I didnt have the quickness to break my bottle of gin on the beasts head. I take a long drag on a bent-up cigarette. Dylan had stopped crying. I like to think that made it all worth it. I am seated on the pavement, head throbbing. The beast walked up to me with my broken glasses in hand. He patted me on the shoulder, kissed me on the cheeks. You my friend, have balls. he said. And then he was gone, they got into the Hummer and drove away. Five minutes later Abdallah arrived in a green minibus full of hairy scary Arabs. We got lost. What happened to your face? Abdallah said. Nothing, lets go home.

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Osama ran up to us. Osama was a kid in school who used to make fun of me. He had grown facial hair in the fifth grade and this gave him a certain status in school. I cant believe you fought Abu-AlHesh. Who? said Abdullah. Abu-alHesh, the tall blonde kid, hes like twenty-four I cant believe you fought him. Yeah. Hes pretty tough. I said Where is he from? Abdallah said. Madaba. Osama said. Madaba was a small town in southern Jordan. We will find him. Abdallah said. We never did find them, but thats not what you should pay attention to. Pay attention to the noises, the slappping, the crunching, the screams and curses, the whimpering, the sound of the cool breeze, gulps of cheap liquor, the click of a lighter. Language is irrelevant here, my literary references fall on flat ears. The reality of this country spits on all imagery. Expressed only in grunts, gun shot's, dabkas, spiced hummus, blueberry hookahs, hashish, horse tranquilizers, Mizmars, Tabblat, Wassouf, Pink Floyd. Whats Pink Floyd doing in there? Everytime I listen to Wish you were here I travel to the back-seat of the mother of storms with Hashem and Abdallah . Abdallah had given his car a name that is only appropriate for a horse: the mother of storms. I wonder if Hashem has traded his heroes for ghosts. Hashem used to always tell me we are the apples that fell from the tree and I was too stupid to ask dont all apples from the tree eventually?. All this pot has mangled my memory I cant even recall

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conversations anymore, just bits and pieces going back and forth doing somersaults in my head till I cant recognize which is which and who is who. Lili Ann and I are dancing down the potholed street, one of Jordans finest, singing Sheila goes out with her mate Stella, it gets poured all over her fella.. Dylan was dancing down the street, beady eyes locked on the horizon. We could hear more music coming from a secluded house at the end of the street with a large driveway populated by cars with single-digit license plates. There was an ornate gate with a security guard dressed in a suit and probably packing a pistol. Lili Ann was a vision in a short white dress, the guard stared at her tanned legs, I put an arm around her waist. He stared me up and down. Could he tell I had issues with authority? Did he know I was an imposter? That Id never rode in a fancy car? That my family had only one maid and one house? Could he tell I didnt belong? Behind the gate, Benny Bennasi and international school girls with dyed blonde hair and loose legs called to me. This all became irrelevant as I rubbed the small of Lili Anns back, her back arched at the end from years of dancing. I stared out at the pool, surrounded by Arabs and expatriates from the richest families in Jordan dancing off-beat to techno music. Theres a bar by the end of the pool. See you didnt have to bring that bottle. I told Dylan who had a bottle hidden in his crotch, perhaps to make it look bigger. Dylan ordered three glasses of straight vodka. The loud techno music would usually give me a headache but Lili Ann was grinding against my hips, swaying back and forth making other parts of my body ache. Come with me. she said, grabbing me by the collar.

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We take our drinks and sneak off to a dark corner. Im hoping Allah will bless me with a blowjob. Do you want a bump of K? she said pulling a small white vial from her bra. What is that? Horse tranquilizer. I stare at her sex-red lips, the highlighter ink on her fingers. Just one. She puts her finger to my nose, I sniff her finger and then put it in my mouth. I missed a spot. I say. Trying not to make her see I was foolish enough to think shed suck me off in quasi-public. I am laying on the grass, far from the pool and the dancing, counting the stars wondering how long horse tranquilizer lasts. Lili Anns been invited to the V.I.P room for jello shots, all is well, Dylan is dancing with the town bicycle, about to take her into the bedroom or so I thought. Dylan came running, panting and coughing from years of Gallouises. He fell to the floor, on his knees. Mohammed! Its Lili Ann, shes not waking up. Dylan said amidst the chaos and general idiocy of the party, the music was drowning out his screams. Where? I said, jumping up and down. How can you be dancing, my friend is dying in there. Dylan said, trying to make himself heard over the crowd to no avail.

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We ran to the V.I.P room where Lili Ann is on the floor, I checked her pulse and then I called my cousin Abdallah because I am in trouble. We drove her to the hospital in the mother of storms while white liquids poured from her mouth and I held her pretty hand. I was still holding it when she woke up in the hospital bed with IVs in her arm, pale and beautiful. Lets take that ride again. she said, blinking through her tears I loved Lili Ann. Saudi female gallivanting around Khalda at five in the morning barefoot in a white dress. How could you not fall in love with her? Tiptoeing around her Persian rug with her dancers body and her sisters drugs. Home covered in books she stands on her tiptoes to reach, nipples poking through her dress. Highlighter on her hands and a quotation in every pocket. Always in duress, crashing her sisters car and incurring her parents wrath. She is the screwup, the harlot, the shameful and the shameless. The slut who is scared of sex. They said her dreams were delusions, her wants unfathomable. Her sex-red lipstick peeks through her mask, her gazelle eyes, her jaws on your heart, teasing. How come its her flesh they eat? Lili Ann used to want to suck Hashems cock but now she thinks hes full of insecurities, holes in the wall. It takes one to know one. Lili Ann said to me: Shattered people are best expressed in bits and pieces. I wanted to say to her: You dont even know what shattered means, youre not shattered if you can find enough bits and pieces to express yourself. Shattered is when you wake up in a Brooklyn hospital and dont know who the fuck you are. Ambien-dreams down psych-ward halls at five in the morning,
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crashing into chairs, no conception of time. When the nurse has to tell you what your name is. Shattered is when you look at the wall of the padded room they put you in and see a heart and a ray of sunshine and realize you hate yourself. Before you can wish you were a zombie again the nurses come in and put you in isolation for drawing on your walls. You break your wrist knocking against the metal door because youre still too shattered to learn from your mistakes. But I am not certain that I qualify as shattered, maybe Im just broken. In a letter someone wrote to me but never sent she said I might be some sort of broken genius. Which is the worst form of praise. I asked Lili Ann to tell me something and she said: Shattered people are best expressed in bits and pieces How would she know? What if shattered people are best left unexpressed? They cut at the edges and give you infections. Lili Ann, you tried to kill yourself three days ago and I said I was sorry it didn't work. I think everyone is shattered. I think life is a techno-colored collage of disconnected moments. I guess some people just have better glue and I was too busy sniffing it to pay attention to you. And Im sorry that you have so many broken places, Im sorry that your ideals left you behind Im sorry that youre so old but Im younger than that now. And when you hear your mothers voice in your head telling you to stay away from the windows or youll jump, remember me. Remember how lucky you are that they want you dead. I want do horrible things to Lili Ann. Leave her in the fetal position, crying, her hair turned white. How can I show her the humiliation? Her absence expresses more than most peoples presence. The way she was always locked in her house, the two-steps she practiced in the room with the big mirrors. The books she read on Greek and Roman mythology, the quotes she gathered the bruises on her wrists. The horses that kept her company, the dirt that caked her feet.

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Every month or so she was allowed out of the house, desperate for flesh. She would wake up in hospital rooms with ecstasy still in her spine and they locked her up and called her histrionic. I like to think she is still at her house in the middle of nowhere, picking tulips with her toes. ----------------------------------------------------------------Hashem is like a statue in my memory. Climbing over the walls of the New English School at fourteen to go drink beer on sidewalks in Jaber complex. Smoking joints four years later on what we used to call Sunset Boulevard screaming George Wassouf songs. I aaaaam sssorrrry.. Sometime in between Hashem stared at the sky and decided there was something up there. One year he showed up to Abdallahs house and performed prayers. We were all shocked. But it didnt last, soon he was back to drinking. Still hes the most spiritual person I know, maybe thats why he turned into an alcoholic. Not that Im judging him, its his choice to drink I used to have nightmares about Abdallah dying. Standing in the corner behind the mansaf trays at the funeral, his friends kissing me on the cheek. Staring out at them, wondering what life would be like without a guardian angel. I was eleven years old when I met him, just moved to Amman, could barely speak a word of Arabic. The neighborhood kids were throwing olives at me, right off the trees when theyre hard and painful. They stopped when he showed up and started screaming, they havent thrown anything at me since. And he said to me in his broken English: You know who built this park? No. I said. Still a little shocked that he had offered me a cigarette just a few minutes earlier. Your grandfather. He was great man. he said, looking up at the sky.

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What did he do? He come to Jordan on camel and he leave in limo with bodyguard. Somehow that made everything all right. Years later as I was slowly coming to terms with what I am Abdallah would say to me You will meet us soon. As if I have even more sinister secrets lurking in the background, guns and drugs disguised as portable toilets and pomegranates. Ive seen his tired veins, the way they used to drink vodka out of plastic water bottles and smoke hashish in the mother of storms. Hashish straight from the camels asshole, my cousins would watch the smugglers pull the string out of the camels ass till the hash brick popped out of the anus, straight, uncut. Never take a small hit was what they might say. Thats when I met Tala, it is for her I compose this song, it is for her I learned to play the Mizmar, the Tabblat, the Oud. Shes the one that got away, well they all got away, but she ran away, joyfully like the queen of Wonderland. People used to ask her What is he on. and she would say Nothing, hes like this normally.. No Tala I am not like you, I would never volunteer at a refugee camp I would never star in a movie, I will never inspire people. And its not always that Im trying to save the world. Only when the world is blurry and full of color and the walls are blue and purple and I can read into the symbology of my socks. When everything is a mythology and tattooed men tell me to piss on their paintings while they take photos of my cock. But the world will always shrug its shoulders, packs its suitcases and move on. Not that you care, Tala, nothing can stop you. Sixth grade cancer survivor, loved by all. You are a light glowing orange brilliance in the delirium of discarded ideals and one-eyed ghosts. Thankfully I never got to know her that well. Her broad smile still injects me with joy. Her flesh is so nice, I studied her ass as she climbed up the dirt hill into the pine-trees. I followed her into
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the moonlight, Petra beer in hand. Petra tasted like piss and benzene and I was surprised she drank it. Then again she was full of surprises. Afterwards she took me to a cafe downtown that served beer and played Om Kolthom music while mustached men played chess and checkers all around us. At the time I was paranoid that the Mukhabarat were tracking me. Hiding in olivetrees and tracing my IPs and putting my name on lists. The dirt feels nice on my bare feet. The forest we were in really was beautiful. Id only recently started appreciating nature. Psychedelics and humping trees and dancing erratically. Tala, lets climb a tree I am on top of the tree when the horse tranquilizer hits. Tala is sitting on the branch next to me. I misremember when I was on horse tranquilizer. My friend had to tell me what hed overheard me say. I told Tala she was my soulmate and she laughed in my face. Im glad I dont remember that. And suddenly I jumped off the tree and ran through the woodland, stood on a rock and stared at the sunset, screaming obscenities, daring Allah to shoot me down. And he would, he would. A month later she said to me: Why didnt you kiss me. And I rationalized it to myself, told her I was in love with love with fairydust and fantasies, that I wanted to keep her there. But the reality is I didnt think I was good enough. I didnt kiss her cause I didnt have the balls. I didnt kiss her because I was too busy trying to save the world while the world shrugged its shoulders. Her flesh was so nice.

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Speaking of saving the world, thats what I wanted to do. Hunt Osama Bin Laden, stand between the crossfire of Israeli-Palestinian bullets raise my hands look them in the eye and they would see the bloodshed was for nothing. I was young. I had a point to prove and the world made sense. My ambitions are meager now. Flags waving in the dust, protesters holding up misspelled signs, graffiti artists running from police. It all makes me nauseous these days, like the plunking puke of a world I once knew, like black tarry resin of pot so good one hit used to drive me insane. Now I know what makes the world go round, flesh and that is all I think about. I leave the humanism to the human beings, I am a hyena, lean and hungry, I tiptoe forth to fatten myself.

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Chapter 2: The Silver Lining Jamal was black, wearing big eyeglasses that on white people are hipster glasses but on him are just thick-framed glasses. Could you do two rolls for 10? I said, looking at the mirror of the community college bathroom, emaciated, jittery, full of nervous energy, pupils wide staring at the two ecstasy pills on the sink, shining. Yeah he said, wrapping the two pills in tin foil and handing them to me, can you sell my cousin a half ounce of pot? he said. I didnt usually sell weed, sure I would occasionally hook friends up but Id never sold it. For me money and weed had only ever been incidentally related, a misfortunate product of the market system. Can I give him your number? he said. Sure. I said. I guess some stupid part of me wanted to be that kid who casually flipped hundreds of dollars worth of weed.
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I walked outside the planetarium bathroom of my New Jersey community college to the gazebo where we smoked cigarettes outside. Christopher was loudly lecturing the gypsy-crew on how to identify high quality marijuana. He pointed a cigarette at me. The most important factor is of course the smell, more important even then the look Christopher said, big eyes glowing; hair ginger in the sunlight, too strange to live, too weird to die. At our level of weed quality, smell isnt as important as long as some smell is there, it comes down to details like trim quality and crystallization. I said. Brock and slutty Sarah were snickering in the corner. Brock had laid out several lines of cocaine on aluminum foil on top of the bench. He looked at me. Do you want one? Brock said. Just give me a numbie. I said, handing him my cigarette. He placed a thin layer of cocaine on the end of the filter and I lit the cigarette on fire. Feeling the numbness spread around my mouth, bubbling confidence and the neurotic thought that it would be over in ten minutes. Well Christopher, I have some crazy pot I want to show you. Brock said, still snickering. He pulled out a packed bowl with blue psychedelic designs on it, shaped like a dragon. Enter the dragon. he said. Christopher looked at him intently. For saying something that stupid you lose your smoking privileges. Christopher said, grabbing the glass bowl from Brocks hands.

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He took a long inhale and started coughing wildly. Take another one. Brock said. Christopher obliged and began leaking saliva from his mouth, eyes closed, coughing like a ninety year old man with his throat missing. Brock was laughing. Christophers pupils widened and he started screaming. You motherfucker, that wasnt pot Christopher said, waving his cigarette around. Brock smiled. Salvia. Brock said. Christopher was staring off into space with a broken cigarette in his mouth, he put his aviator sunglasses on and tried to mouth words but nothing came out. His body looked like it was vibrating and I could see his fingers shaking. Christopher jumped from the bench onto the floor and began crawling. Like a sea-crab he crawled sideways, muttering gibberish and screeching at passersby. I glanced at the parking lot and saw a short school bus, a group of handicapped children was passing by the gazebo, some in wheelchairs and crutches like something out of an Apatow movie. Christopher was pointing at one of the children with purple eye-shadow and mahogany hair. He studied her from a distance and she caught his eye and stared back with her mouth open. Eeeh, aree you robo-tripping? Christopher said to her. People were staring; Christopher grabbed at my shoulder and looked at me, panicked

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Ive got the fear, man he said. I grabbed Christopher by the arm and took him to the bathroom to calm him down. We went into the stalls. Alright Christopher youre going to smoke some pot and calm down. Christopher was nonresponsive. I passed him the bowl and he looked at me with his lips hanging from his mouth and sweat on his forehead. Its not salvia, relax, I said. Christopher hit the bowl, closed his eyes and exhaled, he started breathing normally, it was over. Did you buy those rolls? Christopher said. All business, once more. Yes. Can I see them. I handed him the pills and he examined them. Can I take a taste? he said, while sticking his tongue out at one of the pills. Sure. He took a lick Yeah thats definitely not MDMA, tastes like Tylenol. I hope not. I said. I walked back to the gazebo with Christopher at my shoulder.
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Do you have an extra cigarette? Christopher said. I handed him a Dunhill. Where do you get these? Christopher said pointing at my pack. Jordan. I said. And I remembered rooftops and friendships like brotherhood, taking a bat in the head for each other. Smoking Winston cigarettes and Barvok vodka on sidewalks we owned. Palestine; longings for a home that did not exist, ghosting like a cloud in those antidepressant commercials. Where do you live? Christopher said and I awoke from my selfish reverie. Jordan, I said. Not where youre from. Where do you live? Christopher said. Hillsborough No way me too and your all the way from Jordan? Where you born there? I was born in Boston. I said. The Prophet Mohammed was born in Boston? I thought you came from the desert. Christopher said. I went to the desert afterwards, I lived in New Jersey when I was really young, before 9/11. So youre American? Christopher said Like ice cream and apple pie.

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Ice creams Italian. Christopher said. We smoked bowls and balloons of nitrous inhaled till the world cracked like an unlucky mirror. Christopher and I planned on hanging out after school because we lived nearby. * I ran into Christopher metallic green Honda Accord Coupe with a backpack full of Accounting 101 notes. I told my parents I was going to study Accounting at your house. I said to Christopher. The Beatles were playing Come Together in the background. So what do you want to do? Christopher said. I convinced my parents an e-cigarette costs fifty dollars so we can spend that as long as we get an electronic cigarette from the convenience store. I said. I dug in my backpack. Also I have two ecstasy pills and about a gram of weed. I said. Christopher laughed. Ive never done ecstasy Christopher said. Well tonights a good night, the stars are out. We swallowed the rolls and decided to drive to New Brunswick and buy a glass pipe to smoke the weed out of. During MGMTs Time to Pretend, we both felt a body orgasm and realized

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the MDMA had hit. The world was blurry, lights were intense and I was singing at the top of my lungs while Christopher drove at top speed. We landed in New Brunswick on Easton Ave. New Brunswick is a town populated by college kids and Mexican families who work at convenience stores and restaurants dedicated to college kids. There were smoke shops galore and people ripping blunts down the street. We walked into a smoke shop and I recognized the man behind the counters features as Jordanian, his gelled hair, his Cadillac shoes and Armani Exchange sweater, his yellow teeth and nicotine-stained fingers. Where you from? I said. Jordan, why? he said. Im from Jordan too. I said. And I remembered the cool night-time breeze and friendships of the type where words were unnecessary. Hashem translates to him with no name in Hebrew. I convinced him to give me a discount on a blue and yellow pipe with colors weaving together in the middle, supposedly it glowed in the dark. Christopher and I walked back to the car, dancing to Electric Feel and wondering why the people in the street were not dancing with us. You know were kind of the same you and I Mike said Im catholic, we were both raised in religious households and Mike went on explaining how our similarities trumped our differences. And his blonde hair and green eyes gleamed under the neon lights. We drove to an empty parking lot and I put the pot in the pipe while Passion Pits Sleepyhead played we inhaled potent smoke and chopped mountains down with our hands.

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Christopher drove to the Seven Eleven, we dug change from the car and gathered 19 dollars and ninety cents somehow. There were pennies involved. We walked into the seven-eleven and asked for an electronic cigarette. 20.30 said the Indian behind the counter. You dont think you could let it slide at 19.90 Christopher said, while the man counted the change. We had to run back to the car and look in the abyss for change until we had enough, we threw it in the mans face and as we were walking out I said: Fuck you. And Christopher laughed and I felt home. In the morning I walked to the gazebo and Tamir was waiting for me with smoke billowing from his nostrils. I got your half ounce. Tamir said. He pulled a large bag of pot out of his pocket and waved it in front of me. I dont have the money this minute. I said. Jamals cousin was coming to pick the half up in an hour. I can front it to you. Tamir said.

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Tamir was a half-Irish half-Egyptian bipolar case study, I didnt want to owe him money. At the same time I believed in Jamal for some reason. So I took the front and took out two grams to smoke with my boys. I waited in the parking lot for Jamals cousins, two black kids in an SUV. Let me see the weed said one of the black kids. I showed it to them for some reason and they showed me the money. I was charging them 220 but they only had 200. I let it slide cause I was an idiot, 200 was my cost. I walked back to the gazebo feeling stupid and showed the kids there my money. Thats definitely a fake hundred. Christopher said. Caressing the cash with his fingers. So I ran to the cafeteria and bought a sandwich. Do you have change for a hundred? I said to the ginger behind the cash register. This isnt fake is it? he said. I shook my head and he handed me real money. I ran back to Tamir and paid him back. Christopher and I became close friends, we remained clowns for months and humped aluminum benches and snorted more MDMA, we smoked medical marijuana and climbed trees in forests while our friends meditated barefoot on salvia. I once watched a bird get attacked by another bird in midair and stared down at an orange leaf during autumn and felt epiphany. Then I woke up and smoked more pot. This was before I was bipolar, the point is Molly Mondays and 2ci Tuesdays will fuck with your mind. Setting fire to our insides for fun. My heart had turned to ash and the trees were gray,

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I remember being driven to the psych ward, psychotic. They took my shoelaces. I smoked cigarettes rolled in Bible paper in four by four bathrooms. I dont want to talk about it.

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