The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

On the New York Subway

Just arrived in New York (to finish my Masters in Middle East Studies). Spent Sunday at Coney Island, among throngs of sunburnt New Yorkers lapping up the last days of summer. On the way back, riding the F train, I sit opposite a young drunk couple. They're both baby-faced, pink from the sun, nursing big bottles in paper bags. Having a loud conversation of slurred non-sequiturs. She does most of the talking, and from what she says ("when I was in the hospital", "I'm with him 'cause I don't want to be alone," "what I can't f***ing stand is people f***ing staring at me") not to mention what look like a lot of small self-inflicted cuts on her arm, I find myself easily picturing many past and future years of drug and substance abuse, violence, bad relationships, cycles of family disfunction. 

It's a long ride from Coney Island to Williamsburg, where I'm staying. The girl knocks over her bottle. She gets aggressive with another passenger. She boy spends most of his time trying to calm her down, nuzzling in closer, making her giggle. But she seems to enjoy getting riled up--this long drunken ride, with someone paying attention her, with the whole compartment pretending not to listen and look, might be just her idea of fun. When I'm only a few stations away from my destination, I hear her say something about "getting back into the military." "I wanna go shoot some sand-niggers," she says. "That's what we call 'em. That's what I like to do. Shoot me some sand niggers. Over in ... Baghdad. In...uh...Pakistan! 'Cause I hate those people over there." The boy tries to shush her a little, but that only makes her keep going, louder--daring anyone to react. She says it over and over again--this young drunk American girl, with her hot pants and her obvious troubles--how she can't wait to go shoot "sand niggers." 

(Completely unrelated P.S.: I took a bit of a hiatus with the Arabist Review, but am back to posting now).