Not a word of this is true for me. But that doesn't mean it's not true for someone else.

I was in the airport the other day,
Coming back from visiting my family
In the mother country.

As I became the tail
Of the slithering line
Of humanity
Waiting to return home,
Sweat began to manifest
All over my body.

It happens every time.
Every single God damned time.

There’s no shame when I admit it,
There’s no bullshit in it.
Why not fear a man
Who can lock you away
Just because he’s having a bad day?

It’s my fate since
The skin that conceals my flesh
Just happens to perfectly mesh
With America’s idea of a terrorist.

And all I want to do
Is get through,
To get back to my baby
And my girlfriend too.

There were five customs agents
Holding the invisible line;
Four mountainous men,
One wispy woman -
I was hoping she’d be mine.

Not so I could hit on her
To help me get on by,
But so I could not hit on her
To get on her good side.

But no, it was not to be.
I was stuck with a man
Whose idea of fun
Likely consisted of crushing beer cans
On his forehead
And maybe beating up queers
On the weekend.

He took my passport
With a grunt,
Flipped it open
And asked where I was from.

I had two answers,
Both of them true.

I could have said
That desert sands
Flow through my veins,
That Allah
Is my god’s name,
That I am from
The Iraqi plains.

But instead
I said:
“I’m from Chicago, man.
Born and raised.
American, through and through -
Just like you!”

Then he wanted to know
Where my parents hailed from.
And though I had two more answers,
The truth lived in just one.

I said:
“Chicago, just like me.
My family belongs to that city
As much as the wind,
Know what I mean?”

Yeah, I lied.
Ma is from Basra,
Pa’s from Ahwaz.

But these people
Will take any excuse
To tighten the noose
That always lurks
Around our necks.
So we do
What we have to do
Just to get through.

Then another truth came to mind:
What the fuck did it matter
Where my parents were born?
Who was this man
To treat me with such scorn?

So I let pride straighten my spine,
Stared him straight in the eye
And demanded: “Why?”

And he told me:
“My wife is from Chicago too,
Same last name as yours,
And she has a little brother
She hasn’t seen in forever.
I thought I saw
Some of her in you,
But her parents were not born here,
So I guess it was too good to be true.”

I asked for her name
And he told me Nasreen.
My ears could not believe
What they were hearing.

My father had told me
She died when I was ten,
But the truth sitting before me
Said that she’d been disowned
For marrying a man
With the wrong skin tone.

I wish I could say
That the lie was set to rights
That very night,
But how could it be?
I’d just lied to a government agent
About my family.
Admit that
And there’d be no end of trouble for me.

So I said:
“I hope one day
Fate sends him your way.
Sadly, that day
Is not today.”

What else could I do?
I just wanted to get through.

The End

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