The Bitch Behind This Insanity
Samir had transformed his kitchen into a mini restaurant, and he was the sole cook.
Despite having cracked open all his windows and setting his air vent to maximum power, the entire house smelled like grilled beef. Savory smoke refused to leave; it adhered to all the surrounding fabric, the curtains, and even Samir’s skin. Samir knew that preparing banjalučki ćevapi left the house smelling like a Bosnian cookout for days, but the smile it brought to his mother’s face was worth the cost.
Cooking was an old skill he picked up out of necessity. His mother worked long nights at the hospital, and it often left her drained by the time she came home. As a consequence, Samir had to learn how to prepare food for the both of them. He could have loathed cooking. He could have viewed it as a chore, as a tedious skill needed for survival, but he became inclined to look forward to his time in the kitchen because it became something fun. It wasn’t uncommon for him to jam to Lil Uzi Vert playing in the background as he danced in his apron shirtless. To Samir, there was nothing like smoke, sizzling meat, and aprons that made him feel more like a man.
Except this time he didn’t have Lil Uzi to keep him company. His best friend Tremondre came over to use Samir’s shower.
Samir knew Tremondre Williams since eighth grade, but they did not form a close bond until after high school. In fact, it would be more precise to add that they did not regard each other in high opinion until just recently.
The two boys, now men, were as different in their dispositions as their lot in life. Samir was raised by a single mother who struggled to care for her own son while simultaneously meeting her own needs. As a result, Samir was often neglected as a child, which was why he often did things to draw attention from others (instigating fights, receiving head in the girl’s restrooms, and pissing off authority were just a mere sample of his notorious crimes). Because in his head, any attention was better than no attention at all. Samir was a troublesome child, and he thrived off of hard glares and scoldings.
Tremondre had a different story. Since the age of five, he had been passed around in the foster system, hopping from one family to the next. He thought that if he behaved well and stayed quiet, someone would eventually adopt him and he could finally live a normal life and have a place to call home.
Nevertheless, it didn’t happen.
Sweet, quiet Tremondre lived the life of a forgotten nobody until he was ejected out of the foster system on his eighteenth birthday. Ever since then, he had been living in a beat-up truck and working full time delivering pizzas. He made just enough money to survive and only relied on others to maintain his hygiene. The thought of begging people for money disgusted him to the point he would rather die than grovel for scraps. Tremondre was independent to a fault, but his heart was open just enough to accept Samir’s friendship. But that was another story to be reserved for another time.
Once Samir had told his friend about his matchmaking incident, Tremondre could not hold back from giving Samir a piece of his mind.
“Hold on. So you’re telling me that this bitch put you down Jane Austen style AND had the audacity to slut shame you for fucking other girls?”
“Yeah. Sounds about right.”
Although Samir did not want to admit it, his friend’s interpretation seemed much harsher than the version he had in his mind. He wished to argue that that was not what had happened at all but the more Samir contemplated his rejection the more evident the truth became as Fatima’s taunting voice echoed in his head.
I cannot love a man who gives his heart and his body so carelessly as he would give alms. Furthermore, you have proved yourself too flattering, too open, and lacking conviction. I believe that our differences make us incompatible, and I have no interest in you as a potential suitor.
Samir listened for any inkling of arrogance or spitefulness, anything that would give away a weakness in character but found a slight condescending attitude that could have been easily misinterpreted as pride.
But Samir knew better. He knew a proud person when he met one, and Fatima was not proud.
He remembered how she had looked at him. The moment he confessed his body count, a triumphant smile had rippled through Fatima’s countenance. She rejoiced in finding condemning evidence to convict him of being an unsuitable lover. The relief she felt was undeniable because somewhere in a dark chamber of her heart, she was afraid of finding nothing. She needed a flaw to distance herself from him, and she found it.
Samir had yet to free himself from his thoughts. Tremondre repeated himself again.
Samir snapped awake.
“Give me that.”
Tremondre took the tongs out of Samir’s hands and commenced flipping the meat. To his relief, the meat was browned to perfection. Each flip was followed by a satisfactory sizzle which unleashed clouds of savory smoke into the air.
Samir watched as Tremondre took control of the grill. He scrutinized the quality of each slab of meat. His keen eyes flit back and forth to make sure none of it was burned. Tremondre was a lot like a hawk. He wasn’t much of a talker, but his knack for observation and eye for detail compensated for his lack of social warmth. But Samir knew better than anyone that despite his austerity, Tremondre was a kind person at heart who fiercely loved anyone who gave him a chance.
“See? This is why I don’t simp over bitches. Burning meat should be a sin.”
“Sorry,” Samir said with an awkward chuckle, but Tremondre was still crossed.
“Don’t say sorry to me. Apologize to the meat. Look at this one.” Tremondre picked up a slab of meat and pointed to a patch of black char. He inspected and decided it wasn’t worth the complaining. “I guess we could scrape that part off.”
And he did.
The beef finished cooking in little time, and the young men sat down to eat their meal. Together, they demolished ten somun (round flat bread) which were stuffed to the brim with grilled beef and raw onions. It was a nourishing meal that left them both satiated and lively enough to converse.
Tremondre surprised his friend when he brought up the initial topic once more.
“That rude bitch you mentioned. Do you like her or something?”
“I do.” Samir said in between bites.
“Why though? From what you told me, it doesn’t seem like she even likes you.”
“Not yet,” Samir added with a mischievous lilt at the end.
Tremondre looked up from his plate and shook his head in disappointment.
Mirth poured forth from Samir’s throat, deepening from the chasm of his shaking chest. “Tell me something I don’t know for once.”
“Alright.” Tremondre said with a foreboding nod. “This isn’t going to end well for you. She’s just going to use you like the others.”
Samir laughed again, but Tremondre maintained his somber demeanor. His stiff countenance could not be shaped or warped by hammer and chisel. “What? Are you psychic now?”
“I don’t need to be psychic to know that you have a poor taste in women and an even poorer taste for pain. Keep this up and it’s going to be a never ending cycle for you.”
At that, Samir’s carefree smile wavered.
“What if she’s different? What if this time is different?”
“And what if she’s not? What if it’s all going to shambles like it always does? Aren’t you tired of hurting?”
The stunned silence on Tremondre’s end spoke for itself. He had had enough of watching his friend stumble down the path of self-destruction and set aside his dirty plate in frustration.
“Fine. You’re your own person. You can do whatever you want.”
“Tre.” Samir’s voice broke in half. They held each other’s hard gazes. Tremondre’s eyes were black holes, one in each iris. They seemed to suck light itself. Never ending, never full. In his darkest moments, his eyes collapsed in on themselves. It scared the living crap out of people, so much so that they often had to look away to save themselves.
“Go on your phone. Let me see the bitch behind this insanity.”
When Samir hesitated, Tre pressed him.
It took a bit of digging. Probably because Fatima was a bit of a recluse when it came to social media. Even when they did find her, they only found Fatima’s professional accounts that only contained a formal headshot, her academic achievements, and her political endeavors. What they found got them nowhere, no insight as to who Fatima Said really was.
It wasn’t until Samir suggested they look up her father, Omir Said, that they found shocking results.
Omir’s Facebook page was loaded with pictures of his family. There was even a gallery of Fatima’s photos. They ranged from baby pictures to her first day of school. Samir and Tremondre got to watch a collage of Fatima in pigtails, Fatima obsessing over her Littlest Pet Shop collection, and Fatima crying over her stolen tub of ice cream.
The Fatima they saw was entirely alien to the Fatima they thought they knew. The last picture Omir posted of his daughter dated back to when Fatima was thirteen years old, the year that her life would change forever.
Fatima was sandwiched in between her mother and father on top of a small hill. The cerulean blue sky and green grass melted into obscurity as the happy family took up the spotlight.
Omir had noticeably less under eye bags and his eyes wrinkled as they turned up into a smile. His complexion seemed far more healthier in the photo and his hair seemed less gray. His whole body, mind, and soul were at equilibrium and if he were to die in that exact moment, he would have died in the state of pure happiness.
Fatima’s mother had a head full of hair underneath her orange dupatta. Her laughter was captured and frozen in time while she was at the pinnacle of health. She seemed lively, not at all like the fragile figure sitting on the crouch that Samir remembered. If the woman in the photo was a body, then the frail woman that took her place was her shadow.
And lastly, there was Fatima. Samir leaned in with fascination at the fat girl in the photo. Her plump flesh hung off her frame in rolls. Every part of her was round and abundant from her stomach to her thighs. She was undeniably overweight, but she carried herself well. The little girl in the photo didn’t give two fucks about what she looked like.
In fact, Samir found the spacious gaps between her teeth charming, and he couldn’t help but gravitate towards the adorable sparkle in her tiny eyes. With her head tilted back towards the sun, she was beautiful like a child was supposed to be: innocent, radiant, with a fervent hunger for the world.
Now, the truth was beginning to unfold. Fatima Said used to be happy.
But a new question took place.