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five years since I set foot on this land.

six years since I’ve seen the village.

I burned bridges for love.

I demolished blood and howled in the damp valleys full of dark sense and sadness.

but here and back now and

my grandmother is dead.

I stand at the foot of her grave and break, drown in the pink light of a setting sun.

so this is how it goes, huh?

you carve yourself into the souls of others and


and silence. cups become caverns.

warmth becomes monument.

death is survival.

I visit my grandmother’s grave three times.

she is buried next to my grandfather. I never met him.

he has kind eyes in the photographs. he was a kind person they tell me.

I stare at their white rock markers jutting out of the ground.

I pass my eyes over the black Arabic engraving.

this is it huh?

each time and it’s deeper than numb.

it’s the indifferent efficiency of non-existence.

the void lingers beyond the veil: stalking. wet. cold.

sometimes we brush against it. sometimes we embrace it.

sometimes it sends us spiraling into the hells of our memory.

the last time I spoke to her: New Years Day.

I said I was coming in summer.

she couldn’t wait.

the last time I saw her: 2011.

one billion mistakes in a lifetime and very few have the capacity to annihilate our own reflection.

who am I now? another anchor severed.

I don’t want to go home. my brother and I drive around.

night. we pick up my cousins. we put the top down.

we descend into the mountains.

I am detached. distant. full of anxiety.

I stare up at the stars. I

remember laying my head on my grandmother’s lap when we sat on the roof at night. little light in the village then. stars blazed.

‘when was the last time we were all together?’, Maen asks.

I think about it.

he spent three years working in the Congo.

his brother, Mahmoud working in France.

building my family in the US.

my brother studying in Wisconsin.

the four of us spent every summer together.

then we grew up.

‘six? seven years?’


we stop off in one of the Christian villages to buy alcohol.

we get back on the road. we crawl higher.

we pull over near a cliff.

we keep drinking. I stare into the night.

I feel it. this toxic abyss wrenching my stomach.

what have I done?

I watch the lights of distant villages sparkle across the back of this darkness.

each light a pocket of lives. each life a pocket of thought and feeling not easily understood.

this is too complicated, even for God. for any god.

it’s time to go.

I turn around. my brother turns on the car.

I get in the front seat.

Maen sits up on the back.

I can’t help it, I think about Noctis.

this is all we’ve ever known.

our existence trapped on the shores of our reintroduction surrounded by manufactured monstrosities.

no steps forward.

nowhere to return to.

we have each other, but also

we don’t.


my last night in Beirut. I sit alone on the balcony. 2 AM.

I can’t sleep yet. I am looking for something.

I watch the red lights flow across the rooftops.

I watch a Berserk AMV. Requiem for a Dream music. it ends

a profound emptiness swallows me.

bad luck to talk

I listen

on these rides
mind on the road

who am I now? this year, it’s been hard. I

your dilated eyes
watch the clouds float

I stare at my hands and I

white ferrari
had a good time

want to feel different than this for once. is this self-hate? regret?

16: how was I supposed to know anything?

when does hope walk out of our lives?

I let you out at central
I didn’t care to state the plain

remember when we used to scream through the cities? all the cities, when there was

kept my mouth closed

energy and power in these veins? where are you? or maybe

we’re both so familiar

where did you go?

white ferrari

I put my head between my knees. I am a father now, but

I’m sure we’re taller in another dimension

what does that mean in these shadows? 11 months in and

you say we’re smaller and not worth the mention

I am still terrified and how good of a job could I be doing when

you’re tired of moving, your body’s aching

my grandmother never held my children. they will never understand her touch. what have I done?

we could vacay, there’s places to go
clearly this isn’t all that there is

I slam my fist against the side of my head. again. again. again.

can’t take what’s been given
but we’re so okay here, we’re doing fine

I haven’t done anything, amounted to anything. where have I been?

I’m up and naked
you dream of walls that hold us in prison

I press my head against the cold railing and cry. I have no answer.

it’s just a scar, at least that’s what they call it

I lift my head up. I breathe heavily into my wrist. I stare at the blazing red UNESCO sign on the horizon.

and we’re free to fall

I stand up. I look up. can’t see the stars here.

I look down at my feet. I don’t know what I am anymore.

I exhale.

maybe tomorrow will be better.

is that hope?

I don’t know.

I go back inside.

I lay down next to my wife and children.

I listen to their breathing. the hum of the AC in the dark.

I close my eyes.

let go.

let it go.

no. it’s too soon.

maybe one day. but not now.

I exhale and slip away.

tomorrow though?


we’ll see.


we will see.







morning after.

get dressed.

in the kitchen. stare down the grey trees at the bottom of the hill.

little sleep. broken shuffling. ambivalent shock.

my work shoes on. in my car

I drive. I think about us.

about a study from Princeton: America is an oligarchy.

when hasn’t this been true?

what happened?

we lost.

America is dead.

11 9 2016.

in the office people panic about their jobs.

people call. panic about their healthcare.

executives send out a communication of reassurance.

no one knows.

I smile and congratulate the faithful and faithless.

I tumble through their prism of white light losing

sight of my own spine but oh their teeth are raw stunning.

I sit in my office with the lights off.

so this is fascism huh? the undying, wretched face of the obliterated

released from the heart of this grotesque machine.

I suppose we are due.

Blue Lives Matter
White Genocide

bloodied brown and black

gasps from the gutter.

that’s how it must look huh?

through the shimmering light of blue-eyed victory

the uncertain march toward national self-immolation.

the Fourth Reich has and will always be self-sustaining

like greed. envy. horror.

like some bloated failure of a man becoming President

while our institutions bow into their graves with no words spoken and

no love lost.

The Great Experiment is shuttered.

this lab is quarantined.

the core of America is founded on the defense and ascension of the weak.

Hollywood is built on biblical illusions of the underdog.

like the tech industry.

like the resurgent plague of male chauvinism.

power processes and mirrors the weak to shroud an indifferent system with false morality.

this is the final truth.

I think about games in the aftermath.

what devours this void besides escapism?

I trudge through FFXV and its World of Ruin laughing.

I glide into the inorganic decay of Abzu.

I cry in the afternoon dark alone in my living room.

how many universes have I kissed?

how many windows transform into mirrors under the right kind of light?

I lean back in my chair.

I keep a sealed copy of Rez on my desk.

the dream of the virtual body.

the boundlessness of digital space.

2014: GamerGate.

2016: the founder of modern VR caught bankrolling alt-right trolls.

2017: fashwave enters mainstream awareness.

in between: unironic talk of Muslim internment camps.

the American Dream.

I hold my infant daughters close now.

I worry about their world.

it should have been better than this.

we should have been better than this.

we should have been the actual execution of our mythological assumptions.


now all we are – a choice:

fight or burn quietly.

become a memory or

vanish into forgotten dust twisting in the light of nightmares.







I am 32 years old.

born in California 1983.

born to immigrant parents. Arab. Muslim. escaping war.

32 years as an American.

32 years of that honor and distinction.

of dancing around the world with the most valuable passport in human history.

32 years of watching this experiment fail and collapse into itself.

I remember the Berlin Wall. watching it fall on television. Peter Jennings reporting.

I remember joy wrapping the world so tight no one could breathe.

we won. love won. unity won. openness won. democracy won.

the narrative was convenient.

America spent its century both freeing and dominating the world.

freeing. torturing. humiliating its own.

what was the civil rights movement if not a fight for basic dignity?

what was Vietnam if not abuse?

and America survived both with minimal adaptation.

an empire of systems. always acting to preserve those systems.

whether breeding right-wing assassins to destroy civil rights leaders or to pretend that you, as a citizen, are heard.

the collapse of the Berlin Wall, of the USSR, became propaganda to keep this network functioning.

we won. we’re still here. we run the world.

and three years later Rodney King is beaten mercilessly by police. it’s recorded. the police are tried and found Not Guilty.

and LA burns. and I am too young to understand why. to understand what it means.

and nothing changes. the systems function through it all as they always do.

America’s platinum respirator.

over 20 years since then.

people that look like me, talk like me, have parents like mine are ripped apart halfway across the world by America’s nihilistic shadow.

over 20 years since and Americans darker than me are exterminated en masse by a system that has become too efficient at maintaining the status quo.

that’s probably its only fault: it works too well.

when the extremist right disproportionately controls America’s governments…

when the choice of President comes down to a hawkish neoliberal willing to endorse the extermination of Arabs on behalf of Israel and a megalomaniacal tyrant that cannot discuss anything beyond a second-grade reading level…

when black Americans can be gunned down, broken, stomped on, have it all recorded, broadcast, and have nothing change…

that is America’s empire of systems working too well.

and that’s the sick genius of it.

this kind of oppression has no symbol. no joints.

no center.

it is a titanic sea of ghost limbs heaving in the dark.

you might be able to see it with the right kind of eyes, but it’s not like before.

it’s careful. quiet. thick. flaccid.

it’s not black students blasted with a fire hose in small-town America.

it’s not Kent State.

it’s not police tanks.

it’s rhetoric.

it’s Fox News, casual racism, microaggressions, the necessity to listen to what the Nazis have to say in pursuit of some theoretical objectivity.

America can handle a riot or 10.

it’s done it before when it was much less sophisticated.

and I don’t know what the solution is.

I don’t know what I can even say that other, better, people haven’t already and I don’t need to add commentary to the overwhelming body of recorded, state-sanctioned violence.

I can only say that America is the most complex mask ever invented.

the face you see depends on who you are, where you’re from, who you know, how you look, how you got here.

and in 2016 all I can be sure of is the glistening furnace staring down the end of us, sweating with anticipation like so many cops stuck in their fearful fever dreams of violent heroism.

welcome to the land of Don Quixote.

happy shooting.







This is not about video games.

This is about the inhuman horror of a world on top of a world.

This is about our own genial depravity in the era of cold love.

This is about the pain that we consistently devalue. Our own and others’.

I have lived through both sides of this: A refugee and a war zone.

2006 and abandoned in Syria while Lebanon is demolished.

Two decades earlier and stuck in an occupied Lebanon with its nightly skirmishes in some not-so-distant valleys.

While born in California, Lebanon is the ghost of my origin. Always hovering in the shadows of my bones.

2006. I am stuck. I wander downtown Damascus. For once, I don’t mind its filth. I feel polluted anyway.

I stumble beneath giant banners of Hafez Al-Assad. I linger beneath the lights of the old markets.

Everyone reminding me how ancient it all is while I get text messages from my girlfriend  in Europe about how much of an asshole I am.

I don’t care.

Terror has always hung around the sharp, intimate edges of my living.

My parents’ constant arguments.

Gunfire keeping me up at night.

The mindless, distant droning of aircraft.

I’ve never found a piece of media that properly conveyed the feeling of terror.

They all fail because they try to push a narrative. The story softens the blow.

No, the most horrifying aspect of terror is the meaningless indifference of it.

A plane engine and you are incinerated in your sleep.

A discarded toy and your body is ripped apart.

Packing a suitcase and an artillery shell demolishes your home.

(Two of these nearly happened to me).

No sense to it. No story. You exist until you don’t.

At some point, there is a decision you have to make: leave or stay?

And staying is always easier. Even when faced with the deliberate, hard fear of being obliterated, staying is still easier.

Every time I was forced to abandon Lebanon, a piece of me broke.

Stuck in Syria in 2006, I am nothing but pieces.

Today’s refugees are nothing but pieces. Tired, broken, bent, haunted.

Terror driving them from their homes only to meet that same terror hundreds and thousands of miles away driving fear and violence into their welcoming.

9/11. 7/7. 11/13.

No one has learned anything. People only have compassion when it suits them. When they are comfortable. When they are unconcerned and need a cause to flesh out their identity as Good People.

Inconvenient compassion has no place in today’s rhetoric or action.

The media, the world only cared about Beirut’s ISIS bombings through the lens of Paris. Without the pain of France, the pain of Lebanon was insubstantial.

Without the pain of France, the refugees might’ve had a better chance.

Now, mosques are burned down, immigrants are attacked, and 30 states (so far) in the U.S. have stated they do not wish to assist in resettling refugees.

Our species has become a parody of decency and compassion.

This is a world of rhetorical games being played by billionaires to sway an assumed idiot public to hate as much as they possibly can.

To hate with crazed, religious zeal.

It is tempting. It feels decent and right in the moment, but the cost is too high to be sustainable.

I have lived every side of conflict. I carry with me the Hell of resignation.

Of being resigned to a devalued life. That numbness is unforgettable.

ISIS devalues life. ISIS is an amoral, vindictive force.


May the world not become its mirror.