It’s not easy being Muslim in a country that thinks you’re Mexican
by Ibrahim Ahmed
Now that fiction counts as news it’s getting harder to know the difference, or why it even matters.
I doubt anyone knows when I’m reporting news or creating fiction that traffics as “news,” and it doesn’t seem to matter, not when you can create your own story, your own version of the “facts,” and make money and increase your followers on Twitter. I do it all the time.
I’ve been telling my wife, for example, all kinds of stories, some factual, some not, and she, in turn, has been making up stories about me. I’ve been cherry-picking bits and pieces of these stories and posting them as “news,” some of which have gone viral.
My wife’s not impressed, however, and she’s started sending me turd and foot fetish emojis in response.
Recently, she got pissed about my drinking and bar-hopping, and turned me over to the feds by telling them I’ve run off to Syria to meet with ISIS recruiters. She thinks I’m hiding out in Fresno. She thinks I’m a no-good bum, drinking, carousing and running from the law.
She threatened to vote for Trump if I didn’t come home immediately. I told her she’d regret it, and she’d get deported, and she’d just have to wait until I take care of some personal business before I come home.
“Personal business?” she mocked. “You call masturbation ‘personal business’.”
Contrary to rumors, I’m not working the streets of Las Vegas, posing as a high-rent hooker and robbing people once I get them into their motel rooms, nor have I given up my manhood, nor do I plan to come out as the world’s first Muslim transvestite who’s about to have the “procedure.”
In fact, I’ve been hiding out in Orange County, Calif., living briefly with a Mormon couple that took pity on me after the election. I’ve been haunting Laguna Beach bars.
I met them at the bar down the street from their home in Irvine. I could tell right away they were good people. Nice shoes, nice clothes, prim and proper, hair in all of the right places, although they’d come, they told me, to let their “hair down a little,” even though Mormons don’t ordinarily drink.
“Ah, no, I’m recently from Fresno, where I lived in a ramshackle trailer for a few weeks and worked with a crew of Mexicans as a farmhand because the rancher thought I was…”
“Oh, you poor fella!” the wife interjected. “You’re a migrant worker!”
They told me about their love of canning and building a family, and the husband winked, after his second beer, when he hinted at the possibilities of a heaven populated with many wives. He seemed to know I’d like that idea. We downed a few more beers and pretty soon they were inviting me to come stay with them “until the heat dies down, maybe after they build that wall.”
I moved into an extra room, which they had turned into a pantry, its walls lined with canned goods and basic staples. I quickly scored a job with Uber. The couple thought I was a Mexican immigrant until, after a week of living with them, they saw my “morning prayers.”
I’d left the door cracked a little and was on the floor, kneeling down, looking under the cot for my car keys, and blurted out in a panic: “Please, Allah, just let me find my keys and get back home to Grover Beach before my wife, or some alt-right kook, kills me first.”
The wife was standing there and she was horrified. “Would you mind handing me that bag of flour above your head, please?” she asked, pretending she hadn’t seen me kneeling on the floor or heard my pitiful supplication. Then, “Are you Mexican and Muslim?”
“Well, sort of….” I didn’t know what to tell her. I’d made up so many stories, I didn’t know where to begin. If Facebook can destroy the world of thought and conversation by doling out unfettered lies and fake news, I mused, then I will start by telling the truth. “…I’m on the run, actually.…”
“OH.MY.GOD!” She dropped the bag of flour on the floor and it burst into a white Jackson Pollock mess all over the tiles. “You’re a Mexican terrorist?!”
“No, ma’am, I’m not a Mexican and I’m not a terrorist, I’m a Muslim, a not-so-good Muslim, on the run from my wife, who’s turned me into the feds, and now she wants me back…”
“Get out!” the husband shouted. He stood behind me, shotgun cradled in his arm. “GET OUT!” With his free hand, he waved me out of the house. “Get your things and get out!”
“Leave! You’re not welcome here anymore.”
I grabbed my belongings and I as walked out the door, I heard the wife on her phone, “Yes, homeland security?”
I drove straight to the nearest used car lot and made a quick transaction, trading in my Honda for a VW bus and headed south to Laguna Beach to have a few drinks at the Marine Room Tavern where a live band was playing the blues.
I found a place at the bar and ordered a whisky.The place was jumping and between songs an old man playing the trombone slammed down his vodka tonic, grabbed the mic and shouted: “Let’s all get drunk and be somebody!” §
Ibrahim Ahmed is a poet and essayist who has been hiding from the feds, sending dispatches from the road about what it’s like to be a Muslim in America.