United Arab Emirates

[ a f r a h ]

far too nonchalant about things i should probably care about

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reviews pLeAsE. reviews without anything constructive are honestly a waste of your time, more than anything. be harsh or whatever when you critique me, but please do.

as for comments, they help a lot lol so if you drop a few, it would be highly appreciated.

i want to quell the numbness in my chest so i get a part-time job

March 31, 2020




he plays the harmonica for suchi who is crying with her elbows glued to the white plastic table in the pantry, and i sit in the corner watching the tattoos on his sleeve breathe and suffocate under the weight of minimum wage. he plays the blues; mouth perched on the wind pipes, fingers pressed against the sleek metal body, eyes scrunched close. he is just trying to help her. in his own, coarse, uncouth, aggressive way, he is only trying to help.


the security guard at the back door is
(a) angry
(b) punjabi
(c) awfully misunderstood
and when i get past my prejudice, i stand by her desk and listen to her talk for an hour. i want to while the time away, and she wants to heal without tears clogging her throat; a woman with a future, leaving home and hearth for a man miles away, ten years of love and nothing to show for it. she tells me, "saccha pyaar zindagi mai sirf ek baar hota hai," and my mind goes blank, but i nod at her dumbly. true love does happen only once in a lifetime. 


he stays at the front of the store, round metal glasses and hyderabadi blood. he wants me to ring up the purchases with his employee code, and i tell him yes, but i put mine in anyway. he speaks like a steam train with both feet in its grave, and i tell him to hurry up with it, and i think he is just shocked by how robust my grip or how scathing my tongue is. he shakes my hand and a passing customer clicks his tongue and whispers corona under his breath, but we laugh it away. surely we'll be okay. surely 60% alcohol will shelter us.


the second security guard i meet first; tall and immensely satisfied with a 12 hour shift and no sitting allowed, how else will you spot the thieves?  she tells me anything is better than nigeria, and i wonder if it truly is that bad, but she talks about god's grace and deserved livelihood and how, in nigeria, you get killed when you get mugged. we sit in the pantry and think about our circumstances, but she has a beautiful wig on and i tell her yes, marriage isn't the only thing we are made for.


our store has three managers, each a caricature that outdoes the other. there is a tall, wiry arab - the bad cop. the short, genial indian - the good cop. the medium sized, bald indian - the cop. and today is the good cop's last day.
the home appliances section pool in ten dirhams each the day before to buy him two cakes (honey and chocolate) and we all stuff ourselves into the staff room to discuss how, in two years of working at the store, he has never once had a dissatisfied employee.
after we line up and steal cake slices (more honey than chocolate) we sit on the manager's chair and comfort the crying workers.
i cannot feel a thing.


elsa is pakistani and heartrendingly beautiful, so when she tells me chal sutta marte hai, i do not hesitate. it would be worthwhile to note that the only reason i'm not a chain smoker yet is because i simply cannot afford it. it's fun, hiding between the dimly lit cars, sitting on large metal pipes and finishing cigarettes in under two minutes. we smoke in silence. we smoke in silence. the carbon curls up into the air, but it so pretty. lung cancer suspended in my chest.


the pantry is the size of a closet. there is a white table, several white chairs, a white cupboard, lockers, a huge red dustbin, and an indefinite number of workers heaving sighs of relief the minute they step foot in. here, secrets are whispered, jokes about dying because of coronavirus carefully crafted to mask the undiluted fear under indiscernible tremors of the voice are made. we worry about the virus. thousands of people come to the store. the numbers of the  infected are rising. we invest in sanitizers and face masks and practice celibacy of the touch, but we know there is only so much we can do.
so we sit back and insult the managers and the customers and yell out every colourful cuss under the sun.


i got a part-time job, and these are some impressions i have formed of my coworkers after three days.

some phrases- 
chal, sutta marte hai - let's go smoke. sutta is a slang for cigarette in hindi.


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  • March 31, 2020 - 4:06am (Now Viewing)

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1 Comment
  • Anha

    march highlights are live, and you're in them! (all notifications aside tho, gods i love this piece. it's one of my favourite that you've ever published.)

    7 months ago