Life is memory in motion, and who we are blends into that. This project explores each letter of the alphabet through memory and identity. I am but a brain with a body, with something snarky to tell.
When I think about home I point to where my thumb meets my upturned palm and say ‘Detroit’ to keep my secret safe. The smell of shawarma then overcomes me and I am taken into the little helouw shops (sweet shops) and bakeries with their freshly baked bread, fold over pies stuffed with cheese, pistachio ice cream and older scarfed women carrying plastic bags of contraband grape leaves delicately lifted from neighbors’ yards. It is filled with screaming children and too many cousins, brown boys with toothy grins standing at corners in the night cajoling the quiet with their fireworks no matter the time of year.
Home is where business signs mimic my diaspora feels, splitting their mismatched names in English and Arabic—Super Greenland where Bill Clinton cycled this election season is ‘Store of Mustapha’ and where my father Salim is forever ‘Sam’ to his in-laws. Dearborn is where I feel safely out of place in this larger than life land of America, where the stares and whispers of “el-nas” (the people) are a bigger threat to livelihood than the NSA. When I was nine the FBI raided my neighbor’s house one morning and all I could think about was Um Ruby’s eyes. She spotted me down the street up on the roof and in the next blink she was telling my parents. My car broke down in the middle of Ford Road when we were ‘studying at the library’ and my friend rolled her seat all the way back as we waited to die, immortalized Arab Girls.
Home is where business signs mimic my diaspora feels…
Dearborn is in my Teta’s yogurt bag hanging in the deep rectangular sink, steaming from her pitch-black coffee in blue demitasses served on silver trays—to the echo of my grandfather’s dice hitting the back of the backgammon board. It’s in the cream cheese my mother spreads on her bagel as she sings along to her blaring phone; “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.” My mom was a redheaded choir girl of the holy roller church, and my dad a staunch bearded stoic with 1970’s soul, so think Farid El-Atrash meets Blondie and the world spits out me. Home is where all my uncles are, who are not actually my uncles. Family includes father’s sisters’ brothers’ cousins and friends, men that are too old and proud to have no title — Amo Syndrome is when people say family, I think of men shaking hands and kissing on the cheek.
The stove radiating heat in your mother’s garage kitchen, the plastic pickled formal furniture in the room where dust does not even dare to touch, Ford Mustang’s revving in the paved distance, the smell of shawarma on any given day; Dearborn is Home.