Brown Trash

Back in April we told you Sabina England, one of Year Zero’s favourite writers in the whole world,was looking to raise funds for her first film, Wedding Night. We’re absolutely delighted that Sabina has now sailed past the $1000 funding target she was aiming at, so we’ll have the honour of seeing her debut feature in all its splendour.

Even better than that, Sabina has let us have a sneak preview of the next project after that, the launch of her novel Brown Trash, a book with which many of us fell in love over a year ago. Brown Trash tells the story of Ghaz, a young Muslim woman growing up in small town America with the twin loves of punk rock and hot guys who look like Marines. Its voice is blistering, uncompromising, heartfelt, and unlike anything else.

You can catch up with Sabina on her website, on twitter, and best of all on her amazing YouTube channel the Velma Sabina show, a series of satirical and hilarious sketches written, directed, and acted in all parts by Sabina.

This is Chapter 24 of Brown Trash


DECEMBER.

Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas and everyone knew I was a Muslim. Yet everyday at the gasless gas station, people had the nerve to ask me if I would be celebrating Christmas. It made me angry, because everyone knew that Jews didn’t celebrate Christmas, so why would we Muslims celebrate it too?

Fuck Christmas. It was nothing but a shallow, materialistic holiday for bimbos, whores, and yuppies to waste their money on, demand for gifts, and to compete for attention from their loved ones. I understood that Christmas was a time of family gathering and love for some people, but the image of Santa Claus going “ho, ho, ho” shaking a rattle and holding a huge bag of toys, just pissed me off. The gas station was splashed with Christmas decorations. Seeing the small plastic Christmas tree upheld in the corner of the shop depressed me whenever I would glance at it while working. There were various peel-off stickers of Santa’s fat bearded face on the windows, his blue eyes sparkling with silver glitter.

I hated Santa Claus and wanted him to die. He was a materialistic paedophile! Why the hell did Christmas turn into a holiday about Santa Claus, when it was originally about the birth of Jesus? Thank God there was no Santa Claus in the Muslim world. Here in Missouri, there wasn’t much fanfare during Islamic holidays, but at least they were quiet and peaceful. I then thought about many conservative Christian assholes in central Missouri and I wondered how they felt about their holiday being hijacked and turned into a materialistic day. Maybe it was a good thing that Christmas got watered down. After all, Santa Claus’s image got shoved into my face, and not that of the Holy Cross.

I tried to ignore the depressing Christmas decorations at Speedy Supplies Shop. I threw myself into my job tirelessly everyday, with longer working hours. It greatly pleased Jarrod and he praised me, promising to raise my salary wage. He acted as if the whole meeting fiasco never happened where he warned me about losing my job. In fact, he claimed I was stepping up to the plate and I was becoming a better worker. The truth was, I didn’t care about getting my wage increased. I had to make Alex go away from my memories. Working endlessly at the gas station was a huge help for me.

The pain in my foot became less worse now, but my heart was still deeply wounded. Alex was dead to me. I deleted every digital photo I had of him on my computer and erased them from my cell phone. Whenever I went to bed, I would still smell him on my pillow. I had to make every trance of Alex disappear from my life, so I washed my pillow and bedsheets. I threw out his toothbrush that he left in my bathroom.

However, I was unable to bring myself to erase Alex’s number from my cell phone address book. Deleting his number would be the ultimate cut-off and I did not want that. I wanted to keep his number just in case- what? If I had to call him in the middle of night? No. That’d never happen.

People actually noticed Alex’s absence. I ran into Moon and Terrence a few times downtown and they wanted to know where Alex was. “He’s gone out of town,” I told them simply. I didn’t want to tell them the truth. It made me feel like a loser. If they had known that I was dumped, they would think I was a bad, lousy girlfriend. Jamal swore off Alex as another stupid white boy who was out to get my pussy. “Fuck him,” he loudly declared, “he’s gonna be damned sorry for playing you… if I see him again, I’mma beat his white ass.”

I was glad to have Jamal on my side. He was my best friend, the only person I trusted in the world. He always listened when I wanted to vent my anger, my loneliness, my frustration. Of course, I never told him about how I lost my virginity to Alex—I was furious with myself for letting the dumb white kaffir boy pop my cherry. Ghaz, you fucking slut! Now I understood why many people often spoke of regretting their past sexual encounters, wishing they had waited until their wedding night. I shouldn’t have caved into my sexual needs. Alex, that dumb cracker, should have never touched my body. At the beginning of our so-called relationship, he claimed it was a privilege, an honor for him to be with me. Where did all that go?

Since I was miserable, depressed and lonely, I depended on Jamal’s optimism to keep me through those dull, cold, grey days. His hopeful musings about his future kept me from drowning. Here, he was excited about his future and was now waiting for a phone call from any of these graduate art programs. Insha Allah he will get in. If he got accepted somewhere, it would be the start of a new life for him. He’d finally be surrounded by artists and have his art be shown at galleries and maybe meet a beautiful, smart woman who would love him. His daydreaming lifted my spirits. It was never gonna happen for me but I could be happy for him. I had nothing to look forward to.

I drank beer every single night before I went to bed, in order to numb the pain. It felt good at first but then it became worse throughout the late night. My mind would wander into unspeakable territory, Alex’s face and smile would flash before me, causing me to break into tears, sobbing madly into my pillow and drunkenly calling out Alex’s name. I hated feeling so empty inside. I needed him in my bed with me. I wanted to feel his warm arms wrapped around me.

Why the fuck did I do this to myself? It was a huge mistake to go out with Alex. I should have never depended on him for my happiness. I could have had oral sex with him and then drop him from my life, like I did with various guys before. But no, I had to be a big stupid fucking whore and bring him into my life. I was tortured everyday at work, wondering what Alex was doing back home with his family, whether he still had war nightmares, or if he missed me. Seeing young couples coming inside and out of the gasless gas station, holding hands, only made me pine for Alex more.

It’s been days, weeks- no calls, no texts, no e-mails from him. I miss him.

*

“How is Ali doing, beta jaan?”

Mom was on the other end of the call. She surprised me with an unexpected phone call, and to my astonishment, I was actually happy to hear her voice. She was my mother, after all, and sometimes hearing her voice gave me a sense of comfort. After a few minutes of polite conversation and asking me how my job was and her telling me about a few engagements, graduations, and births happening in various Muslim families that I knew back home, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to ask about Ali. My stomach churned when she mentioned him.

“Uh, we broke up. It’s just not working out between us.”

She was silent for a few seconds.

“Mom?” I heard her sighing, but she said nothing in return. I repeated, “Mom? Are you there?”

“Yes, Ghazala beta, I’m here… I’m sorry to hear this… are you alright, dear?”

I laughed bitterly. “I’m great, Mom! He’s a fucking asshole and he used me. I don’t need him and I’m better off without him. He’s out of my life forever and I don’t want anything to do with him ever again.”

A pause. I listened to her gentle breathing and I knew she took offense at my swearing, which made me feel guilty. Then she spoke again.

“I was hoping to meet Ali… but sometimes things happen for reasons… if you’re not happy with him, then it’s best if you two are no longer together.”

“Yeah, I know, Mom…”

“Your father wants to speak with you, honey.”

Baba then got on the phone and asked me how everything was. He wanted to know if I had enough money and if there was any chance that I’d get a new, better job anytime in the future. It was a painful, awkward conversation. I assured him that everything was swimmingly fine, I had enough money for rent and food, and I should be promoted to assistant manager anytime soon. My life was fine, thanks, Baba, I don’t need your help. Unfortunately, he knew I was lying, because there really was no prospect of me being promoted to assistant manager. Not in the least.

“You can’t work in a gas station in Franklinville all your life,” he sternly replied, “you need to find a real job.”

“Baba, I have a real job, alright? I’ve got responsibilities, I pay bills and I can handle my life, I don’t need your help.”

That set him off. He went into a stupid rant, lecturing me about how he had to work hard once he moved to America from India, working at hotels and restaurants before he managed to land a semi-respectable job at a science lab and saving money so he could take care of my mother and I. He didn’t want me to work in a low, measly job anymore. I needed to quit and go find a real job, maybe at a company or in an office. Then he announced that he was concerned with my self-image, that he didn’t like my hair or clothes, that I need to grow up and become a mature adult. He was tired of how I always looked so dirty and trashy, why can’t I just be normal and look like a proper Indian woman. He implied that I made him and Mom feel embarrassed when I went to visit them a few weeks ago in Little Rock. That infuriated me. I’ve had it with everybody and their bullshit.

“Right, Baba, I’m sorry for being who I am, I’m sorry I don’t have long black hair or wear a saree. I’m sorry for making you feel ashamed to be my father! I’m sorry for being brown trash” I screamed and then hung up the phone. I didn’t want to hear Baba’s voice again. I don’t care what he has to say. Fuck him! He was my own father, but he was ashamed to have me as his daughter!

The stupid phone call ruined my mood for the whole day so I went outside for a long-ass walk in the cold weather to let off steam. During the walk, I thought about my parents and I felt even more angry— but this time, at myself. I can’t believe I lied to Mom about meeting a nice Muslim boy named “Ali” and I misled her into thinking I might become normal and settle down with this so-called “Ali.” Why the hell did I fool myself in the first place? Alex was a filthy cunt asshole and I wished nothing but death and pain on him. The little fucking bastard played with my heart and saw me as a breathing blow-up doll only good for having sex with him. Fucking douche-bag. I hope he eats shit.

Baba, on the other hand, was probably right. I needed to change my life and find a better, challenging job. I don’t want to be a lousy, stereotypical Indian working at a gas station for the rest of my life, in central Missouri, with nobody to come home to. I felt depressed, thinking about how I was going to be trapped here forever until I die, maybe from desolation, cancer or old age. On top of it, I was a brown trash Indian woman with dyed hair and piercings. I felt like a freak everyday in this place, with constant panges of loneliness, anger, and alienation. This can’t go on anymore.

*

Christmas arrived and it was chaotic and busy as hell. Many people came to Speedy Supplies Shop to buy lots of alcohol, mostly cheap wine and cocktail mixes. Jarrod had specially ordered for large orders of alcohol to be stored in the stockroom, so we didn’t run out of any beer even as the shelves quickly emptied.

Instead of a beautiful white snowy day that many people hoped for, Franklinville was cursed with ugly, grey, gloomy weather. It matched my mood. Rather than feeling festive, I felt even worse. People had plans to celebrate Christmas with their family and friends. I didn’t have any family or loved ones here. It was just me and Jamal. Well, at least I had a friend.

All morning, I ran around at work, mopping the floor, ringing up customers, and re-stocking new products on the shelves. Later on in the day, I caught a vaguely familiar girl who came into the store with a guy, probably her boyfriend. I’d seen the girl before, but I couldn’t remember from where or when. The girl’s boyfriend was tall and buff, with a serious, dull expression on his face. He looked like a typical small-town yuppie who loved drinking beer while watching football. They came up to the register with beer, candy, condoms, and potato chips. I hurried over to the register and began ringing up their purchases. I was busy scanning each product, paying no mind to the woman who stared intensely at me. I was used to having people stare at me— after all, not too many people were used to the sight of a brown skinned punk rocker with spiky green hair and piercings. Just then she burst out.

“Ghazala! Remember me?” she shouted excitedly. I looked up at her and I frowned, scrutinizing my memories as to where and when I met her before.

The girl, realizing I couldn’t remember her, then spoke again. “I met you at the dining hall on campus when me and Alex were studying together for a class some months ago.”

Now it all came back to me. I remembered how angry and jealous I was when I saw her laughing and flirting with Alex. She was still the same— an annoying bimbo with a trite, shrill giggling voice. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, was very quiet with no hint of personality and gave off the impression that he was a dumb jock. They seemed like an odd couple. I would have expected her to date an annoying preppy boy with blonde curls and sparkling blue eyes.

“How’s Alex doing?” she asked as I finished up scanning her purchases. Why did the dumb bitch have to mention Alex’s name? Shut your mouth, you bloody bimbo. I glared at her.

“Um, he’s fine,” I muttered, “that’ll be twenty-six dollars and forty-five cents, please…”

Her boyfriend took out his wallet and plunked down his credit card, which I then picked up, swiped into a credit machine, and entered his number into the register machine. “Alex is so nice,” she piped in, not taking the hint, “I miss him when he disappeared from class a few weeks ago. I was wondering if he’s sick.”

I decided to ignore her inquiry about Alex, it was time to change the subject.

“So, you both going to have fun together?” I asked slyly, pointing to the condoms, which were on the counter along with the girl’s other purchases. She giggled and exchanged sly glances with her boyfriend, who didn’t smile or laugh. Still no personality.

The girl shrieked, “we’re going to my parents’ house tonight for Christmas dinner, he’s staying over but he’ll be sleeping downstairs, but you know, we’re going to fool around when it’s late.” Oh, of course. Fucking behind closed doors.

“Great,” I replied, putting all her stuff in two plastic bags and handing them to her and her boyfriend. I then sarcastically added, “I hope you have safe sex tonight.”

I expected her to go away and leave the shop with her ugly, stocky boyfriend, but unfortunately, she didn’t know when to shut her mouth. She stayed in her spot like a stupid, annoying, whining dog who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. She pouted, like a hungry puppy determined for food.

“You didn’t answer my question,” she persisted.

“What question?” I asked, irritated.

“Where did Alex go?” she asked, “we’ve all been wondering why he didn’t show up to class for two weeks. He didn’t even show up for finals and the professor is probably going to flunk him for the whole semester.”

I thought hard and paused for a minute. What was I supposed to tell her? Fuck it.

“Well, he’s having some sort of a crisis in his life right now, so he dumped me, we’re no longer together and now I want nothing to do with the fucking piece of shit asshole.”

The stupid girl and her ugly boyfriend both looked startled. It was amusing, actually. Did they expect me to give them a nice, sweet, polite, rosy answer just because it’s Christmas? Fucking worthless cunts. I hoped that when they have sex tonight, the condom will break, his semen will enter her vagina, and the stupid bitch will get pregnant. Hopefully, he’ll dump her and leave her alone with an unwanted baby. And then maybe she wouldn’t be so fucking goddamned annoying and noisy.

“I’m sorry!” she shrilled in her patronizing voice, “that’s really shitty… you must be feeling depressed.”

“No, I feel great,” I replied, “my life’s so much better without him.”

“Just so you know,” she went on as her voice became smug, “me and Jeff have been together for almost four years now. We broke up a few times before, but we always got back together because we just don’t feel right with anybody else. I hope that you and Alex can still be friends.”

“Why?” I snapped, “why the fuck would I want to be friends with him? He dumped me.”

“Yeah, but he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met,” she replied, “I think it’s sad if you can’t be friends with him. Anyway, Merry Christmas!”

With that, she and her boyfriend left the shop, and my mood became worse. I didn’t need to have a goddamned conversation with a complete stranger who thought she had the right to tell me her own goddamned opinion. Yeah sure, Alex was a nice guy who took advantage of me and saw me as a whore. Nice guy, my ass.

~ by yearzerowriters on June 24, 2010.

6 Responses to “Brown Trash”

  1. thanks for featuring me on Year Zero xoxo

  2. This is completely engrossing, dragged me in fast & hard. Adore the voice.
    Penny

  3. Yeah, there is just SOMETHING about the voice Sabina writes in that’s absolutely hypnotic. It’s impossible to analyse, too, because if you take any one sentence you’d say there was something odd or wrong about it. But string them together and it’s gold dust. Ghaz is one of the best narrators I’ve ever had the pleasure to read

  4. This is really good.

    Dan’s right, you could pick it apart in isolation, but the word choice is the right way because it shows the character’s head, not the author’s. Does that make sense? Like Catcher in the Rye, where he repeats the same words over and over and the same phrases, and it’s never anything clever it’s just natural stuff like ‘really pissed me off.’ It’s exactly the way it is in real life, and with real thoughts, and it means you get much more feeling for the character, and none of it feels designed [even though it still is].

    And it’s kinda brave because a lot of people will see the word choice and claim the limits of the author, and say this is shit, but really, you can tell the word choice is intentional because it’s consistently used, and therefore nowhere near shit.

    Oli

  5. Catcher in the Rye is one of my fave novels!

    and people on authonomy DID give me shit over this novel, calling me “mentally deranged” “sick” and that I have anger issues. hahahaha

  6. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Those people won’t ever be writers because they can’t understand what you’ve done with the voice.

    Or maybe they just didn’t like the character? That would be the only valid thing they could say, the same as the people who just don’t like Holden Caulfield. I can’t really understand why, but there are people like this out there.

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