The strong pungent smell of petroleum crawls up my throat, it creeps up my skin, and into my bloodstream. It commandeers my head and pulls me away from the boisterous hallways of my school. I am no more in the middle of amature souls, but back five years in time in the war-struck country that I once called home.
Where the same smell of petroleum haunted my senses as the big, bad tanks pranced on the streets, our streets, looking past the casualties of their grand mission to save humanity.
Where their war against terrorism was a terror to our lives, and we lived compromised and always unhinged for the power-hungry men who yearned for world domination.
Where their battle of superiority marked down our death dates with unplanned funerals and no proper goodbyes and no hospital beds or any hospitality just plain cold dirt waiting to become one with our blood.
Where blood pooled and mixed with the mud and the sand beneath our feet and beneath the wheels of the tanks or the human bombs that fed on every ounce of our vulnerability.
Splattered on the daily newspapers right outside of our doorsteps.
Where our blood pooled with their blood, pooled with the oil and gas and the industry of the big bad goons.
Where our slit wrists went unseen, and the screams of my frightened mother went unheard even in the middle of the quiet night and the terrified day, even in the crowded streets and the vast bloody grounds, we were destined to be insignificant.
Where we woke up to a bomb or a gunshot and the mass firing became our nightly lullaby underneath the shooting starts. We ate pistol bullets for breakfast and smoked gunpowder for dinner.
Where I watched a girl, no older than six, become a victim to the atrocious monstrosity. In front of my eyes, they wiped down her smile and her smell that blossomed like the citrus orange of the spring, like the sweet lemongrass in the backyard, like the sweltering summer sun that flickered with hope.
They wiped down the sun, right in front of my eyes; the eyes of a child.
Where they killed our innocence, our adolescence, our pride, our hopes, our ambition, our houses, our paved streets, our country, and our land.
Where we first became homeless stripped down to nothingness hanging in our bare nakedness waiting for the heroes to save our life and dignity.
From country to country, home to home, one death to another waiting for the circle to end and the guns to stop firing and the screams to stop echoing.
Where good and bad were so blended in that dark gray area where every person was so exceptionally bad, we said screw morality and screw humanity and build our own freaking goodness with thornless roses and crushed tobacco.
We burned. Like fire, like the explosions, in the explosions, outside our stained windows, like the white man’s religious candlesticks we burned and yearned for the inferno of hope and a better tomorrow or just a tomorrow.
Where we turned so numb, so detached, so consumed with indifference to the noise and to the fate of our lives, that reality and religion seemed farther than the moon.
Where my father prayed and clung to all the hope, wished on every star for the fool’s paradise. But maybe because our God was different than their God, our prayers were swiftly swept away to the Foreigner’s God to dwell in His keep where they were, like us, forgotten.
My flag’s changed, my personality unrecognizable, and my memories altered.
I stand in the petroleum hallway saluting the ghosts of the soldiers I saw on the petroleum streets. My favorite teacher talks with pride, my school talks with pride, my friend talks with pride About their soldiers that did me so well.
They talk about my past, my reality, right in front of me,
but I am reduced to nothing
but dirt under their nail beds.
My home’s changed, my family’s scattered, and my friend’s skin is a different color.
My new bed is comfortable now, it is laden with white sheets and fluffy pillows
my house is cut down to an apartment with paper-thin walls,
But at least they don’t echo with gunshots or nightmares, only dirty gossip drama.
The paychecks of my parents’ have been narrowed down along with their pride.
All that is left is the silver of light
For a better future within the ruins of our lives
All along on the paved footpaths of my suburban neighborhood,
the white man walks free and so fucking proud
I am almost waiting for him to pull out the shotgun from the right pocket of his khaki pants.
Waiting. For him to take me away from this estranged road.
My virtues are changed, my God seems distant, my faith’s far away.
The girl next to me wears the cross and scrunches her nose at my prayers.
She don’t understand I don’t eat heavy breakfasts and light lunches,
I don’t go to church for Sunday brunches.
Her eyes turn wide and white, pale like her skin,
after she finds out about my previous home.
I know she is fighting the urge to say “go back to where you came from.”
I know she is scooting away from my uncleanable soil.
While I say the pledge to a foreign flag every morning, chanting that this is my home.
A home that traps me within its borders, a prison cell for the survivors.
“This is my home”
“This is my home”
“This is my home”.
But when the day ends and I have overdosed on all the PTSD pills,
I remain homeless;
a nobody in the petroleum hallways and the petroleum streets,
significance reduced to zero times infinity.
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