BAB EL SAMA
By Jashi Troasien
N O T E: Again, I sing the song of old: Hidalgo be not mine. XP gets down on her knees Thank you, thank you, thank you to those who review. I love you all. runs around giving reviewers free pictures of Viggo Mortensen ...This chapter has ethnic slurs. Beware. Beware.
"Move, ya chit," drawls a man behind me and I am pushed out of the way on a cold cobblestone street. What is this "chit"? It is now just another word to place upon the list of American slang I have yet to learn
I just managed to catch the last ferry to the mainland after I left that place. So now I wander.
It is hard to see the almost-set sun behind the smog.
The streets are not paved with gold.
But Gamal is not here.
That is good, no?
And I am not Jazira, daughter of Sheik Riyadh, daughter of the grand, son-less Sheik.
I am Jazira Nasheedat, and I am in America.
I am in the "land of opportunity".
I walk and walk and walk for what seems like hours. By then the night has grown cold and the streets are nearly bare and I am lost. My feet hurt. I feel like a small child who is full of complaints. I walk into what looks like a deserted alleyway. There is a pile of wooden crates stacked against the wall. I sit next to them, trying to pull my garments around me tighter. The wind is bitter, the stones are cold. It is so cold here in America. I nearly miss the grit and sand that used to be everywhere, that used to get into everything.
I fall asleep in the cold, dreaming of the desert.
I awaken with a jerk to a loud, banging sound. I glance, startled to see a man banging two pots together in a doorway leading out to my alley.
"This ain't a place for you to sleep! Scat, you damn squatter! I keep a clean business!"
Though I do not understand what half of his words mean, I realize from his raucous manner and the growling snarls in his eyes that he wants me to leave. I grab my bundle and shuffle off into the street.
There are so many people.
So many people.
I am jostled and pushed around by the flowing multitudes of them, like I am going against the tide of the sea. I drop my baggage more than once, and I trip more than once over the jagged, uneven cobblestones. People are crying out at me from all sides, yelling at me to "Buy fresh fish, fresh fish, Madame! Freshest in the city!" or scolding children, or gossiping in such loud tones that I hear who...Jane? Jane Mc...Mc...McCracken? Jane McCracken? Who she "slept" with last night. What does it matter who you sleep with? It is just sleeping.
But as the noise escalates into an incredible crescendo of smoke and voices, I am taken for a moment back to the bazaar, where though the people speak a language I can fully understand, they are just as noisy, and just as rowdy as these Americans.
For a moment I am home.
Then I am knocked over by a boy running with a stolen apple. I know this because I can hear the vendor screaming.
I get up, and continue shuffling along. I realize after a few more minutes that I am starving. I drag myself through the people into an alley, and I fall to my knees next to a trashcan, sifting through my bundle quickly and carefully, and as I pull out my little bag of coins, I hear someone yell and it startles me, and I drop the bag. Before I blink, the bag is gone. I run my hands over the ground, whipping my head back and forth. Where is it, where is it? From Arabia to America, one standard holds true: you need money to live. My heart races, what will I do?
After a few moments of thinking, my eye spies a vendor carting red colored cloths down the street.
I must work.
I get up, steeling myself. I walk back out into the street, and wonder where to begin.
And I walk.
And I walk.
And I walk.
Finally, I walk in front of a building. A man pushes by me, running in through the doors. I hear his mutter, "I can't do this anymore, I gotta get a job, dammit."
Americans get "jobs" here?
I try to remember what this word means, as I have heard it before. Job...job...oh...job means work. I look up at the building, it holds a sign that says "Unemployment Agency".
I go through the doors. There are lines of people at tables. The people behind the tables look very frustrated. The people in the lines look tired and thin. I look around, and I spot a wall covered with tacked-up papers, tiny little clippings of gray paper. I venture over, and look.
AT BLUE RESTAURANT & BAR
NEEDED TO CLEAN ROOMS
JENKINS' BOARDING HOUSE
So many of these things. After looking at them a while, I realize these are the mysterious "jobs" Americans so desire. I pluck off the one that says "WAITRESS" and the one that says "HOUSEKEEPER". I'm not sure what either means, but I shall see.
It is in the late afternoon that I finally find my way to the Blue Restaurant and Bar. I gently knock at the door in what I think is a polite manner. After several minutes of knocking, a woman, tall, with curly hair and a large nose opens the door.
"What the hell are you doin'?"
I smile meekly. "Ah...My name is Jazira Nasheedat...I am here for job."
"For the job?" She looks me up and down, eyes small and bitter. She laughs. "Hey, Jack, think this one'll work?" She beckons me to step in.
The room is dirty and smoky, with mostly men talking in quiet, angry voices at tables. Many are sipping beer up at the counter, and the man working there peers up over their dark, scruffy heads to look at me.
"What's the name?"
I clear my throat and make my voice louder. "Ja-zi-ra Na-Shee-Dat!"
The bar becomes quiet for a moment. Men turn to look at me. Nervousness begins to climb up the back of my throat.
"...I am here...for job..." I say, my voice so much quieter than I want it to be...I want it to be loud, like a raging wind that will knock the chairs over and give me their respect.
The man steps out from behind the counter, approaching me.
"You an immigrant?"
He pauses, then sticks his face in mine and I jump back. His breathe is rancid, his eyes are wild, his hands are free and linger in the air like branches...like...like...Gamal.
"Listen, lady, we don't let no immigrants work for us. Especially not any sand niggers from faraway deserts." He spits on my shoe. "Leave."
The woman pulls me out by the shoulder and pushes me out on the street, chuckling as though I am some sort of joke. My cheeks burn. I am only a woman, once again, pushed around by a man to do what he wants. I am made to leave the building, pushed away and labeled something I do not understand...though I know it is not a complement. I am only a foreigner here, am I? I think I am a foreigner everywhere.
Even in my own country.
Even in America.