Peace, everyone. I hope you all are well, staying healthy, and enjoying these last bits of Summer we’ve got left, (if it is Summer where you live).
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I’ve got something special for this week’s newsletter that I am really excited about because I promised you all new kinds of material this time around, however, executing that is not always promised or at all easy.
With that said, what I have prepared for this week, is some short fiction! I haven’t always been the best fiction writer, in fact, for a long time I’ve been a sh*t fiction writer, but have always found inspiration through my writer friends and my favorite authors to practice. So, when I actually sit down to write and try to come up with something I am thankful to say that I am slowly finding it easier to create what I find to be interesting scenarios, stories, and characters and also finding it easier to edit and point out mistakes or issues in my writing. I am thankful for my writer friends who are always there for me willing to read the work before I share it and give me unparalleled feedback and encouragement, so to you all I give endless thanks, and thank Allah who helps me write things I am proud of.
Before you read my short (almost flash fiction) piece, I want you to recognize that fiction is just that — fiction. Sure it can be based on true stories, real people and situations, and that is often the case, but we make things up as we go. It’s funny when people read my work and immediately attribute a character to me, and while it is sometimes slightly true, it is largely incorrect, and we shouldn’t do that. Writers create stories, if this was an essay I would categorize it as so, but it is not. So please, for my sake lol, read it as it is, as a story, as fiction, removed from me, though I did write it!
Without rambling endlessly, here is the piece, (I recorded myself reading it so you can listen and read along!) —
“Sand, It Gets in Everything”
By Bilal Mohamed
It was summer in Los Angeles. The iPhone weather app forecasted 85 degrees and clear skies. It said it felt like 85 degrees, but it did not feel like 85. It felt like the atmosphere had taken the day off, the sun’s rays penetrating through even the most solid of structures with a profound heat exclusively prescribed to this city.
They sat beside each other in a quiet little juice bar in East Hollywood. The chrome stools they sat on allowing them to rotate their seats to face one another when they spoke and to turn away when silence overcame them. Sweat glistened on her now tanned face after a long morning in the park with the sun peeking through the leaves she’d laid beneath. He, overcome with exhaustion, felt a potent juice would wake him up, or at the very least cool him down, so they stopped for one on the way back to their Airbnb. This juice bar was the only one they found without a line creating a perimeter around the whole block. He looked through the window towards the restaurant across the street where a line extended down into the gas station near the crosswalk.
“You think people enjoy waiting in lines here?” he asked. She lifted her head from her straw, replying sluggishly, her words rather full, “I don’t know if they enjoy it, more so they don’t mind waiting for something they enjoy?” “Like delayed gratification?” he proposed. “Delayed gratification, right,” she replied. “I don’t know if I’d agree,” he said. “I can’t help but feel like Los Angeles residents are not the very patient type.” “Yeah, I guess, but you never really know,” she said, swirling her cup in the air before taking another long sip.
He could tell there was something on her mind, but they both had not the energy nor intention to discuss their affair that day. It was Sunday. They were traveling. They had an unwritten agreement that they’d keep the peace for the time being, though it seemed her concerns were now brimming at the surface. They drank mostly in silence after that, if not in observance of one another’s facial features then in observance of the scenes outside the window.
She didn’t mind him looking at her, in fact, she felt admiration in his gaze. He’d passionately enter her deep brown eyes attempting to uncover any hints she left situated or concealed. He’d count the freckles on the tip of her nose that he now questioned as to whether they were sunspots or had always been there. And usually, she’d meet his gaze with her own, revealing a smirk or little chuckle that followed a rose-colored tint in her plump, soft cheeks he loved to caress. She cherished the translatability of their eyes for words, but sometimes, she’d look away simply to test if she had any real words to say, only to find herself emptied. She’d kept her eyes down just then and let him watch her knowing that his flirtatious tendencies would not then be reciprocated. It’d been some years since they sat together like this. In fact, they’d never spent as much time together as they had on this trip.
She sipped slow and he carefully maneuvered his straw, cleaning the leftover juice hidden between the ice cubes. Cars drifted and honked haphazardly in the street before them. Traffic in LA was not only menacing, but ambiance. You were either stuck, sitting in it, or you were watching and hearing it persist from afar.
Some girls outside who he thought resembled influencers crossed the window before entering the juice bar. It seemed they drank juice often because they ordered instantly despite the intricate recipes they demanded from the juicer. One by one they joined them at the bar, only to quickly find discomfort and opt to sit outside under the gazebo. “We’ll be outside!” a blonde one yelled out. He wasn’t sure why they didn’t want to sit there, but he appreciated his space, so he paid no mind.
Despite his exhaustion, the heat, and her increasingly contemplative mood, he still breathed a certain air of lightness and enthusiasm that she just didn’t seem to possess. He placed his emptied cup on the bar where she rested her propped up elbow.
“Is there anything you want to talk about?” he asked. The question roused her from some daze. “What? No, not really,” she passed on with a small laugh. “I mean, isn’t there always something to talk about? I feel like we’re always talking.” “Yeah, that’s true. Just thought I’d ask while we’re here, you know, together,” he said. “I can see that,” she replied. “I think I’m okay for now though. Thanks.”
She straightened her posture and took a deep breath through her nose into her belly. She held it there for a few seconds, then let it out very slowly from her mouth. ‘That’s how they teach you to breathe in acting class,’ he thought. ‘In through the nose and out of the mouth. Four seconds in, eight seconds out.’
She pulled her forearm across her temple stickily dragging it as it accumulated all the sweat from her forehead. He was hot, but he did not mind the heat. Some days, in fact, most days lately, he would go to beaches in San Diego and spend time wading through the water to cool down. He’d read on the shore, journal at cafes on the promenade, sometimes rent a bike and cruise the boardwalk.
“When’s the last time you went to the beach?” he asked. She perked her head up in surprise at his question. “I don’t know, maybe a week or two ago. What about you?”, she asked. “I went a few times about two weeks ago, but I’d like to go again soon. This heat wave just won’t let up,” he said. She turned her head to the side in confusion. “I thought you said you didn’t like the beach?” “When did I say that? I love the beach,” he replied. “Every time I used to ask you to come with me to the beach you’d say, ‘I don’t like the sand. And that ‘it gets in everything’”, she said. “Really? I used to say that?” he asked. “Yes,” she replied. “Hmm,” he said as he began rubbing his chin. “I’m not sure what happened then, I just know I like the beach now,” he said. “Well, that’s good to know,” she said. “I guess that means we can go to the beach together now!” a smile then appeared on her face. He paused. “Yeah, maybe. I don’t see why not,” he said.
He surveyed the street where the line was a bit shorter now and traffic had finally quieted. He lifted his cup off the counter and sipped mindlessly at the now melted ice as she sat there and adored his perspiring face.
Thanks for reading this short piece. I would love to hear your thoughts on it, if any! Leave a comment on this, email me, hit me on instagram or text me, whatever works! If ya’ll like it and want more stuff like this let me know, I intend to experiment more with short fiction insha’Allah.
Films I’ve Watched Recently
The Green Knight
By David Lowery
I really enjoyed The Green Knight. I must say, I was lucky to have known before watching it that this film was not going to be your average medieval adventure, battle film, and instead a very slow, rather straightforward one, that in my opinion, is fitting of its mythology and ancient storytelling techniques with easy to understand themes and messages. But also, one must remember, this is an A24 film! Of course its not going to be a film you can anticipate! You’re going to leave a bit confused or weirded out as with any A24 film. They definitely tricked everyone with the marketing on this, but I was not disappointed! It’s very different, well produced, and enjoyable if you are open. Its just long af!
I wrote a longer review on the film on my Letterboxd account you can read here: https://letterboxd.com/bilalmohamed/film/the-green-knight/
By Benedict Andrews
I did not ever need to see Anthony Mackie (playing Hakim Jamal) and Kristen Stewart (playing Jean Seberg) together in a film, not to mention this nigga cheated on his wife Dorothy Jamal (who is played Zazie Beetz!) for her???
Lol anyways, this is the classic situation of a white person doing the absolute most thinking they’re helping Black people but don’t realize the harm they’re actually causing by the approach they take. Reckless and oblivious, and when they feel targeted and oppressed by authorities they think they’re helping and doing the right thing when really they just making things worst for themselves simultaneously. I think Kristen Stewart was perfect for such a role. And Anthony Mackie was perfect as well cuz that nigga do be engaging in questionable activities already lmfao. I really enjoyed this though to be honest, it’s rather comical, unreal, and crazy to think it’s based on factual events.
I mustn't forget, they really try and have you sympathize with the FBI agent who wreaked all that havoc on Jean’s life?! This nigga really turned around after her life was wrecked and said, “My bad, I messed up” lmao like nah man it doesn’t work like that! Not to mention the fact that SHE, (THE WHITE WOMAN) was THE ONLY person he sympathized with. Not the Black children who had their school destroyed. Not the Black students shot by the feds. Not the Black Panthers who he was happily bugging and spying on. Only her, because she was... say it with me... WHITE! Insane. If this movie wasn’t so funny for how absurd it was I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But it’s a good laugh if you want to see a sad attempt at making the feds look like they have hearts.
By Wim Wenders
The best film I have seen in a long time. You’ll walk away from it broken, at least I did.
I recommend Paris, Texas to anyone who wants to witness film doing what it does best. Even looking at these stills as I write this transports me back to the film, causing me to feel reminiscent of a time and feeling where potential happiness and romanticism was viciously stripped away. I want to run away from the reality of its sadness as soon as possible, despite it only being a film. But at the same time, it’s not just a film, this is life, and it’s very real. Watch this if you haven’t, please.
Recent Dictionary Entries
Caryatids - a stone carving of a draped female figure, used as a pillar to support the entablature of a Greek or Greek-style building.
Ndidi Emefiele - Drawing on cultural, gendered and personal references, Ndidi Emefiele creates layered figurative compositions that, dynamic in brush stroke and in juxtaposition of colour, conjure the complexity of contemporary experience and female identity.
Pleasure Garden. 2021
Anamorphic - Anamorphic format is the cinematography technique of shooting a widescreen picture on standard 35 mm film or other visual recording media with a non-widescreen native aspect ratio.
Guyenne - Guyenne, also spelled Guienne, former region of southwestern France, merged with Gascony for the last centuries before the French Revolution in the gouvernement of Guyenne and Gascony (Guyenne-et-Gascogne). The Guyenne region corresponds to the modern département of Gironde and to most of the départements of Lot-et-Garonne, Dordogne, Lot, and Aveyron. The region was under English control during much of the later European Middle Ages.
Vagaries - an unexpected and inexplicable change in a situation or in someone's behavior.
The Gutenberg Bible - The Gutenberg Bible was the earliest major book printed using mass-produced movable metal type in Europe. It marked the start of the "Gutenberg Revolution" and the age of printed books in the West. The book is valued and revered for its high aesthetic and artistic qualities as well as its historic significance.
Damnatio Memorae - is a modern Latin phrase meaning "condemnation of memory", indicating that a person is to be excluded from official accounts.
That's all from me for this one. Thank you for reading. And please drop a like, comment, or even send a personal reply to these emails if you feel inclined to. I'll be here.