A journal of narrative writing.
Citizen’s Interruptus


Listen, listen, listen. Nobody knows nobody. I guess that’s what I’m trying to tell.

But that’s not all.



Because I didn’t have no place to stay when I first come to the United States I used to spend every night sprawled out in the back seat of a car propped ten feet in the air in case any burglars showed.

It was six straight weeks of this until I’d finally saved up enough money to move into my own second-floor apartment on the outskirts of town, one of those complexes what looks more like a cheap motel than a place where people conducts their day-to-day affairs at.

Awaking to the first few figments of consciousness certain times inside my bedroom, I’d find my mind making like I was still floating up top in that old three-ramp garage sometimes.


I didn’t know nobody when I first come to Detroit.

Well. That’s not exactly true. Not exactly.

I knowed my Uncle Mahmood, at least. Knowed of him, at least. But even after I finally knew him I didn’t know him, really. Not really.

My uncle was the one what brought me here, however. That is his role here.

I had come all the way to Detroit from Lebanon that September. A lot of peoples thought that the Israelis wouldn’t of purged their way into west Beirut like that, but they was wrong on that. The apartment building my family lived at got blowned up. Most of my family members fled to Jordan––just like Arafat––but my mother had written to her brother in the States about him getting me a job at one of his gas stations he runned over there. And so I’m here now.

So my uncle is significant in that way, I suppose.

The story is not about him, though. Not hardly.

The story.

My story. How strange.

I’d not thought myself entitled to such a thing.


My Uncle Mahmood had been in Detroit for many years longer than me. He was much more Westernized than I was, but what is that, exactly? Just some word persons like me made up, something for to explain how come it is we don’t belong. I’ve personally never felt too nationalistic myself. Everyone’s gonna assassinate everyone, anyhow. All that land of milk and honey stuff, streets paved in gold mythology––people know that’s all a buncha shit now. This is Reagan country now. Fucking Hollywood. Still beats the alternative, though.

Old Arab tradition dictates that two-thirds of a man comes from the uncle on his mother’s side. But I never seen any evidence of it. I came over much obliged, of course, but I was always more of a charity case than a nephew in his eyes. He preferred it that way, I think. He wanted everyone to be jealous of him. He wouldn’t even look customers in the eye when they come in, just tilts his chin and looks away. We did looked like most of the men in our family, though: dark, big-lipped and brooding. Nothing a man can do about what he looks like, I suppose.

He is the one who got me here. And always I am asking myself: how long must I keep grateful for?


Uncle Mahmood would show up usually about a quarter past seven every morning in his long black Cadillac and park it out at one of the pumps out front. He did this so it’d look like our first customer of the day was already pulled up the very second the lights went on.

Tricks of the trade. He liked to brag about that sorta stuff.

Sometimes I’d hear him smack the door shut in my sleep and it’d whip me outta dreamlands, dreadfully waking up to butterflies and petrol chemicals, maybe a seatbelt buckle poking me in the ribs.

He’d get in through the little storefront annex where the cash register was at and all the cigarettes lined up, candy and pops and junk all confined to this little glass box adjacent of the garage. There was a little doorway that connected them sandwiched between potato chip racks and a little white countertop where he’d get a pot of coffee going before he did nothing most times. Most times he wouldn’t even give me a warning before he reached for the lever on the wall and lowered the lift; loud, industrial grumblings chiseling lower to the ground until the thick red metal slabs slammed all the way down with a bang and bringed me back to earth again.