Hey, bro. You packing?

No, I won’t sell you drugs. But I might fuck your girlfriend. I know it’s odd for you. I probably look like every stereotype you figured made sense. Yea, I wear a hat, and my pants fit me weird. I’m a hue of brown, and my hair is darker than the night you approached me on.

 

I probably scare you when I walk by too. It’s not hard to see. You can tell by the way your eyes droop everywhere except to meet mine. Even then, I don’t mind it. I’d probably be scared of me too.

 

What I do mind is your dumb ass assuming I have a kilogram of whatever the fuck you need to get high on right that instance because I ‘look’ the part. That my skin color robs me of all humanity and renders me into a vending machine for your habits.

 

I’m not even bothered that you think it’s weird I don’t sell drugs. No, not even that. It’s the look on your face when I tell you I’m in your same university that irks me. The shock in your voice when your assumptions that an Arab man can’t  be educated are broken, mangled and shoved right back down your khaki shorts.

 

Go, make the same mistakes you condemn me for, and get away with it. I’ll be here proving you wrong, not because you were ever right, only because you never touched on the truth.

There’s too many African shops in China Town.

The hood’s changing, and so am I. Nothing looks the same anymore, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve got this new set of eyes. See, I go to university now. Big fancy place. The classes smell like libraries, and the people look like they’ve been rich their entire lives. My neighborhood reeks of shit, and has homeless people sleeping at every corner.

Everyday I travel between both worlds. Wednesday is currently my favorite day. It used to be the same when I was fourteen and still in High-School, because it meant we stopped classes at twelve-thirty. Now I like it because my classes start at nine and end at six in the afternoon. I don’t like that it means I have to wake up at seven, and bike to central station to be there at eight-thirty, but it’s a small price to pay.

I take a special pleasure in biking through the streets in the morning. It’s quiet. Everything looks clean. People haven’t popped up like sore pimples on the streets. The drunks are still asleep, and the bottles and cans haven’t emptied yet. I pass through China Town, it’s nothing special. Just a long cobble stone road full of Chinese grocery stores and bakeries with a large arch with red and yellow dragons at the exit that drops me off near Central Station.

I jump on to the train, and the journey looks like a faint dirt road. People pass by, but never enough to develop an easy path. I get to watch the sun-rise, and sometimes sleep through it. If I’m awake, I admire the houses in the middle of the large fields. I watch horses run and sheep eat grass and clean cows.

Then I get to Leuven. A city dedicated to academia. There’s only students, and those who serve them for money. I stick out like a sore thumb with my hoodie and suspicious skin. I feel like an alien on another planet. One would think I’d adapt and get used to it, but that’s shaping up to be an impossibility.

It’s my lot to be an outsider. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a certain sense of pride in it. But even golden sheep feel like they have black wool sometimes. I walk through the streets with their beautiful gothic architecture, and I can tell I’m being watched. My focus is unbroken, and I make my way to class.

I arrive half an hour early. So I sit back and watch the people. Everyone looks weird to me. Like I’m in a different country inside a country. I feel like a tourist that stumbled into a wrong city. The music in my ears stops me from hearing them. Their glances pass me by, and my scowl welcomes them.

If I could get up, run around and kick everyone in the shin, I would. Instead, I sit back, scowl, smoke my cigarettes and get into the classes. The teacher smiles at me, and it’s the most warm smile I’ve gotten. I get up and ask her a few questions before classes start. I always have something I’m wondering about, and she loves it.

They look, but I don’t mind. I wear my apathy like a middle finger. In classes, I excel. My eyes say “Bring it”. I’m excited, I want to devour every tidbit of information coming out of my professor’s mouth, and I keep my attitude up until the last class. Then there’s no one left. It’s me again.

Me and my music. Sometimes I read a book while the sun sets. I share the details of my day with it. Then it’s dark, and I’m back on the train. My legs are pulsating with exhaustion, and my mind is throbbing. People look at me weird because I lay my legs off the side and drift into sleep. The train conductors always wake me up with a look of disgust.

Then its’ right back to China town. I walk through it, I don’t like biking back home. I smell the roads. No one looks at me wrong. It feels like I’m in the right place. I pass by the Chinese restaurants, and the grocery stores, and the loud smokers and the laughing drunks. In the past five months, seven African shops opened up. The wannabe gangsters stand outside them with their hats cocked back, and their drugs shoved somewhere in a nook for easy access.

We stare at each other. I’m not in the business of getting into fights with a gang of monkey ass assholes, but there’s no money in being a little bitch, either. They usually nod. I nod back. The street is cut in half when I reach a cross road. On one side, the blacks take the corners, nod and smile, and ask you if you want some ‘bomb ass weed’.

On the other, the Morrocans sit back, and smoke. They don’t offer you anything. You have to ask. They don’t seem as eager, and maybe that’s why the blacks are moving in and growing on their turf. I throw my hand up to the guys I know, and they ask me how my day was, and it goes something like this:

“Ewa, philosopher.” they yell. “Learn anything interesting today?”

I throw a joke their way, and sometimes share something, like the world being a simulation, or free will an illusion. They laugh, and we shake hands, and they offer me a toke of their blunt, and I say “I’m good”. I continue my walk, and I dodge the empty bottles, and the cans, and the rest of the salesmen I have nothing to do with.

Maybe things changed. Maybe I see them differently. Maybe it’s both. And maybe I’m just an African shop in the middle of China town, hungry, starving, devouring everything in my way. Maybe there’s no right place for me. Be it the train, or the class. Whether I’m supposed to be there or not, I simply am. And I’m making it my spot. If you think you’re taking it, I wish you nothing but harm. If you feel like standing with me, don’t stand on my toes.

Forgive me

I’m sorry, ma’. I never meant to be this way. I just happen to be. It was never my intention to set the bar so low that me not fucking up is an achievement. And I’m sorry I can’t seem to stop fucking up.

I didn’t tell you about this cause you kissed my hand the other day, and told me how relaxed you felt seeing me the way I am. Imagine how you’d feel if you knew that the same hand you kissed knocked a guy out tonight.

How horrible it would be to see all my hard work dragged into a police car and signed off as another mal-adapted member of society. I got lucky again, but for how long? There’s no promises here. Only regret. And shame. I never deserved you, and you never deserved this. But I’m working on it. I swear.

The drugs are gone. They’re no longer there. That’s a step forward. A leap into a different universe and it’s already exhausting enough, but I just can’t seem to get a fucking grasp on anything. It’s like everything is ticking against me. But maybe I’m the one ticking against everything else.It’s my fault. I’m taking the responsibility.

I kept feeling like you died the other night. All your pain, all our life, everything you ever were wrapped up into all the pain inside me, and I drank it away. I never drank my emotions away before, because I never had them.

I’m sorry. I just want you to see me doing great. Not well. Not good enough. Great. At least before you die. Then I can go back, I can hurt myself again, hurt others, burn every bridge I ever built. But before that, I just want you to see that you weren’t wrong for believing in me. Not for a second.

Beef wellington, well done with extra gravy. 

It’s already bad enough that I was in a hurry enough to run after the bus. I thought the world was smiling at me in the form of an amiable red light that stopped the driver I thought didn’t see me. 

It wasn’t until I tapped on his window and saw how he dodged my eyes that I realized this is just a pissed off bus driver in a position of what he considered authority. 

When we finally met faces he told me to go back to to the bus stop. He knew I ran after him, and he refused to let me on. Something inside me set ablaze. Was he racist? Did I fuck his daughter? Have I wronged this man in anyway to be treated that way? 

I figured since I was already being treated like I wronged him, that I’d wrong him properly. I flipped him the bird, but he didn’t see it. It just wasn’t enough. 

I sprinted as fast as my feet allowed me to. I reached a bike station, swiped my card, took a bike and peddled till the next bus station where I knew he would be. 

I faced the wind, traffic and my bad stamina and pushed beyond any limitations I had ever established before and reached the bus station where I waited. 

He approached and I could tell it was him. His face was imprinted into my eyes. The bus door opened, and I layed the bike on the ground, walked up, tapped the door, and when he looked at me, I launched all the phlegm that built up in my lungs from biking and running right into his Fucking face. 

He screamed and jumped out to follow me. I biked away laughing. I missed my appointment, but it was worth it. 

Sommé street.

I can’t stand the hood. But I can’t be anywhere else. No one would say it’s the best place to live in. It’s not quaint. The people are loud. The cars slam their doors fifty times a day. Toddlers run around when it’s summer and block traffic.

Women walk around at night crying, because their husbands beat them. There’s  that one weird white guy that plays loud rock music all day, and his kids seem okay with it. His Moroccan neighbors, and the brick that flew through rock man’s window in two thousand six.

There’s nothing else I can belong to. Nor do I want to. I owe it to the kid on the corner that got stabbed in the neck when he was robbing some guy’s house. My neighbor that sells weed, and goes to jail more than he changes shoes.

All I do is thanks to them. They shaped me. Only because I disliked them, but they shaped me anyway. The bald bastards outside cafes, smoking Hashish all night, drinking tea, and being a scourge on society. The fifteen year olds with their track suits, and fake gold chains, and their hair that looks like a barber’s abortion. And the hypocrite pieces of shit, walking around with their beards and short pants, selling me “Al-salam Alaykum” when I know they’re the same bastards that were with a prostitute last week.

But no one can blame a beast for its nature. That’s the only pride I can take with me when I walk these streets. Even though they make me sick. They still accept me. Never forced me to prove my humanity. Being on the same level. They’re scum but not inhuman. And I found equality in them. I found relief. Belonging. A home.