Pull the trigger; set me free for I am a monster. As you can see, I have killed someone I love.
As this blood drips from my fingertips, my heart pounds with euphoria. I can’t help it; passion and cruelty lie within the same formless realm in my mind. To watch blood hiss through the mouth, lights go out in the eyes, that final quiver – it makes me explode with desire. It’s out of my control. This pulsating thirst has been with me from the very beginning. In a way, the more I’ve tried to escape it, the more I’ve become its prisoner.
Death arrived in this room well before you did. In fact, I lured her in. But you already know that. I heard you coming for me. As your fingers tremble upon that trigger I can see rage in your eyes. I’ve seen that look before. It speaks of only one thing. That people like me should be destroyed. And you’re right; for I demolish what I love and in the ruins of destruction, I find rapture.
As you stand above me, your boot on my chest, gun aimed at my face, your eyes glisten with hesitation. You’re wondering whether I’d be better off behind bars. No.
Like I said: pull the trigger, set me free.
Part I: The Rebirth of Timur Aibak Laaldin
The Beginning: Summer, 1998
We are all junkies in life. The fortunate ones find the drug that finally kills them. In that regard, I was one lucky fuck.
I have ended many lives. Some kills were swift and painless, others, drawn out and vicious. Some, I admit, I can’t even remember. But I recall one in particular – I did it out of devotion. And it made me realize the one important truth in life; in order to destroy, you first need to love. Murder. There’s a reason they call it an act of passion.
So, you want to know more? Come with me then. To where it all began, to the time I fell in love with my drug of choice.
Jamaica: Queens, New York. It was where the world came to take a shit. We could almost smell these indigent little turds rattling overhead in the Air Tran, looping endlessly from JFK’s Terminal Four straight into the elevated train stations of our neighborhood. Down below, we hobbled through a tapestry of communes: where people from lost empires were bound together by the promises of tomorrow; where teeming herds crammed their antiquities into tiny spaces. They arrived from everywhere: from anarchy to system, from bloodshed to tranquility, from conquered empires to freedom, shuffling with astonished faces and third-world body odor. Their vacant eyes soaked up the city like the millions that came before them. They settled. Some longed for vanished homelands, rebuilding their inconsolable pasts in gift shops and tea stalls; others escaped, forging new identities with convenient stores and Burger Kings. But almost all of them, as it were, remained bitter about the present; their faces wrought with melancholy.
And fuck me, was it noisy here – we had our own kind of commotion. That’s how life was in the honeycomb.
My father was from India and my mother Mary was a full blooded corn-fed gal from the Midwest. At least that’s how she might’ve been perceived, like a dazed white woman who got off the wrong stop on the E train. But she wasn’t misplaced or anything – just molded. You see, my old man had a warped perception of how wives should be; I’m talking good Muslim wives—not the debauched skanks in wanton Indian movies—the kind that hunch in living room corners under white headscarves praying to the God of the East. My father imposed such things on my beautiful Mary. That was the kind of man Harry was. He sculpted things as though he were God himself.
Harry wasn’t his real name of course. He was born, Hussain Younis Laaldin, in a small fishing village in Gujarat a few miles east of the Pakistan border. It was a miracle birth. When the midwife, according to him, had declared him dead and sobs of sorrow filled the room, he tumbled forth into the world with his fist raised in anger. Hands had shot up to gasping mouths as he declared his incredible arrival. His mother, her eyes swelling with pride, immediately named him after the valiant seventh century commander Hussain, son of the Caliph, Ali: Hussain the courageous, Hussain the warrior. But nothing about him would suggest the words ‘warrior’ or ‘courage’. Because he looked like a fucking Harry (if Harry’s were bald brown dudes with bulging potbellies that is).
But like I said, shit was boisterous in the honeycomb. And it was as if Sundays were special. Things just got louder.
My mother’s impassioned wailing wasn’t what woke me that particular morning though; it was Harry’s voice.
“Maryam, for God sake, why you cry? Your son is alright. Oh bloody what’s-your-name? Timmy! Timur Aibak Laaldin, get down here now bastard!”
My eyes flew open at those loving words as I stared at the grey clouds that had gathered outside my window. I knew something was up when the old man took the effort to use my whole name. The last time my labels (first, middle, and last) travelled in such a fervent cry was when I had successfully lit firecrackers by the toilet while Harry took a shit. He had charged down the stairs, boxers around his ankles, cursing my existence – that was epic. My best work yet. But this time, I could tell from the fucker’s tone that it was serious.
I slipped downstairs in my pajamas while music thundered through the thin walls of our house: Nirvana Nevermind. Cobain’s boundless lungs exuded more than the usual fury that morning. My best friend and neighbor Abdullah Darweesh – spawn of the former Egyptian squash champion and current limo operator Ramy Darweesh – had just installed new Bose speakers. He’d bought them from the hustlers on Jamaica Avenue and couldn’t wait to show them off even if it was ten in the fucking morning.
“What happened now, Harry? Why you screaming the house down?” I yelled, stepping into the kitchen.
“Bloody fool! Look what your bastard brother done!”
My gaze fell to the kitchen table where my ten-year-old brother Shiraz’s head was wrapped in my mother’s arms as she dabbed a bloody cloth above his brow.
“Mom, what happened? Harry, why is he bleeding?”
“You bastard,” he cried, slapping the back of my neck, “told you to keep car keys in my room after you park at night. This bastard, only ten years old, took girlfriend on joyride, smashed my cab straight into park fence. Quickly bring car back and fix fence before bloody police come!”
I hunched over Shiraz who looked back at me from under my mother’s headscarf.
“You alright, dumbass?” I asked. He gave me wink, smiling devilishly. The gash was small – small enough to avoid a trip to the ER that is. Not that Harry would ever take any of us to the hospital. ‘It too bloody expensive,’ he would say.
(The music changed: I could almost hear Abdullah’s fat fingers flipping the CDs: Metallica, The Black Album.)
“Harry, I don’t have my license. If the cops see me, they will drag me to jail.”
“Bloody fool, look at this bastard Mary,” he said pointing his palm at Mom. “When I was twelve I was rowing my own fishing boat in India, and this one telling me he too young? Every day he parks cars in the neighborhood, but now Saab has got problem with my cab!”
My mother’s crying softened as she held my brother closer to her chest.
“Timmy, go see if Uncle Junior will bring in the car,” she sniffled.
“Screw that nigger. I’ll get it myself in this bloody cold! What am I going to tell the company now, that my ten-year-old son thinking it was bumper car at the fair?”
Harry stormed out the front door barefoot, swaying his hands above his head, mumbling to himself. As soon as he was gone, we all looked at each other as giggles dropped from our mouths.
“What were you thinking, man?” I asked.
“I wanted to take Cassie for a drive.”
“You’re ten bro, she’s nine. Where were you going to take her, the opera?”
“Let him be Timmy. Thank God they are both fine,” Mom said.
And that was how a typical Sunday began at home. Disaster seeped through the windows before sunlight; sometimes, things were a bit serious, but mostly it was just routine calamity.
Soon after, Harry returned cursing in Gujarati, rubbing his shoulders, wiping the gentle drizzle that sparkled on his bald spot. Then he put on his shoes and fucked off to his shift, reversing his dented cab violently on the wet streets.
I took Shiraz upstairs and cleaned his cut with rubbing alcohol, Mom vacuumed the living room, and Abdullah kept the music at absurd levels. But that day was special to me for something completely unrelated to all of this.
Memories can be deceiving. But I can recall clearly that this particular June morning was preposterously cold. This recollection is supplemented by the image of Harry shaking like a leaf in the kitchen, pleading his Indus Valley gods to declare summer in New York.
“Bastard, it’s freezing! Go find my side-view mirror and fix bloody fence before police come!”
So I decided, due more to my father’s beleaguered hounding than anything else, to check out the scene of the crime at the elementary school park.
Three blocks down, I stood assessing the damage: the metal fence was bent inwards, depressed by the exact width of a 1990 Caprice, but other than that there was not much cause for alarm. Behind the fence, however, as I squinted through the drizzle that peppered my brow, I saw her for the first time, sitting alone on a swing. She looked down on the matted floor below, her hair cascading over her face. I don’t recall what it was about her that made me stop dead in the rain, but that’s exactly what I did, like a Central Park mime – frozen. And as if it were God himself toying with the strings of my destiny, the clouds disappeared and the rain stopped as her eyes floated towards me. They revealed a wetness of a different sort; a personal kind that spreads over pillows and friendly shoulders. Either way, the first time I saw Patience Liu, her eyes stole me from me.
I rushed my hand through my hair, pointed at the sky, and wiped invisible tears off my cheek mouthing: Rain gone, don’t cry.
Then magic happened. I had managed, for a moment, to lift her from the wind of her desolation. The corners of her lips curled up – it was a smile that could bend destinies and I knew right away that my fate was forever sealed.
The creases in her sweatshirt, her untied shoes, and those worn out eyes revealed the urgency with which she’d left her home that morning, to withdraw to a personal retreat. Yet here she was, in a wet, barren park, among the rubble of her chaos – exposed. I could see then that there were depths to her which would take me a lifetime to conquer. Bring it on, I said.
That is why I chose this exact moment to begin my story, my rebirth if you will, because I can’t remember what life was like before I saw Patience Liu. At that precise moment, I knew that I would become a mere spectator, observing myself sniffing the drug that would eventually kill me.
And the last thing I wanted at that instant was to hear the aggravating voice of Juan Camilo, the bastard.
“Timmy! Timur, look, I found your dad’s side-view mirror!” he yelled waving a yellow brick above his head. And for the split second that I turned away to shut the bastard up, Patience was gone and a vacant swing waved back at me.
Then, almost deliberately, the drizzle returned.