Thinking about the fact that being autistic means eye contact is difficult on a good day. Thinking about the fact that I’m a black Muslim man in America who has to navigate airports on a regular basis. Thinking about what it means to go back to Africa and what it means to come back from Africa. Thinking about John F Kennedy airport in New York City, New York State, USA. Thinking about the TSA agents that I know are waiting for me and only me at that airport and every airport like it in this country. Thinking about what it means to be seen as suspicious because of my skin, because of my faith, because of who I am, and where I was born, and what people like me have been quote unquote known to do. Thinking about the fact that people equate a lack of eye contact with distrust, negative intent. Thinking about the fact that being autistic means eye contact is very difficult on your best day. Thinking about what it means for someone like me to walk through an airport, aware of all the suspicions surrounding him. Thinking about how hard it is to make eye contact with people on a good day, let alone when I’m having a nervous anxiety breakdown in an airport. Because I’m Black. Because I’m Muslim. Because I am an alleged terrorist. Because I can’t make eye contact to save my life. Thinking about what it means to make eye contact against my will with people who want to question me against my will. Thinking about what it means to survive this country long enough to see my deathday, my casket. To die of natural causes is my biggest dream. Thinking about praying for death on a good day. Thinking about preferring death to walking through a TSA line after an international flight to a place suspicious of terrorist activities. You know, my country is suspicious of terrorist activities. You know, I was born in a country that is alleged to have committed terrorist activities by another terrorist activity committing country. Somalia, USA. Thinking about how the expletive* am I gonna get through this expletive* line? Thinking about how I wish life was easier, man. May Allah make it easy. Or easier.
*I normally cuss when this frustrated, but I didn’t think it was right for me to cuss in one breath while mentioning Allah’s name in the next. I’m human, and I do make mistakes, but print is forever. So let me not accrue any more sins than I need to. Besides, I gotta hold myself to a higher moral standard than the TSA. Can’t go out like that. OK. Imma go dissociate at the DHS Global Entry signup line. Maybe if I make myself known to the beast, in so many ways, they’ll finally stop harassing my Black Muslim Autistic Ass at Every Airport Ever. Perhaps getting a USA face tattoo, at the expense of my religion’s prohibition on face tattoos, will make my Black Muslim Autistic Velvet Soft Skin more palatable to this american** beast as it chews on my still living bones. Who cares, man, whatever lmao cry emoji.
**the a in american is intentionally minimized to give the author back some modicum of power.
Said Shaiye is an Austic Somali writer from Seattle who now lives in Minneapolis. He is an MFA Candidate & Graduate Instructor at the University of Minnesota. He has published in 580 Split, Entropy, Diagram, Rigorous, and elsewhere. His debut book, Are You Borg Now?, was recently released by Really Serious Literature. It’s an experimental memoir with elements of poetry, self-interview, photography & more. He can be reached at www.saidshaiye.com