dy, I had them eating out of the palm of my hand. I had them like putty. The grant was surely mine, and my research was guaranteed for another season – maybe even two. But then that fucking Yemeni bitch had to open her fucking dyke mouth: “you have an entire theory on the origins of human culture essentially based on a half a dozen unusually plump seeds,” she said. And that was it, heat death in the middle of my universe: no grant = no summer in Turkey; no research = no reason for the uni to keep paying me a salary.
Not that it mattered. I was sunk the minute I suggested – very publicly and very unsubtly, I might add – that Nadeen didn’t like my submission because she was sexually confused. It was political, I argued, and obvious: she hated men. The committee looked at me with a mixture of shock and quiet indignation. It reminded me of the looks I got when I was a kid and we had gone camping with the Scouts. I think I ate some mouldy bread or something and I started to puke. The guides decided it would be best if we went back to town. I remember everyone just looking at me as they were packing up the tents. Fuck. The university asked me to clear my shit out the next day. Double fuck.
I left a forwarding address and caught a train to my parents’ the next day, figuring to lie low for a few weeks. I was sitting in the vestibule of the train and there was an row going on in the carriage next to mine. This lady was fighting with her boyfriend or whatever, and she came up the stairs, opened the door and came into my carriage. She was so angry that she was trying to force the automatic door shut instead of letting it close on its own. The door whirred in protest but wouldn't be hurried. I closed my eyes.
I dropped my bags off at the house and took a walk along the bicycle track I used to run along for exercise. The place looked mostly the same except that the large house on the corner of my street had a new swimming pool and had been turned into a holiday house for rent. I looked up at the balcony as I walked past, and the place looked like it had been rented by a group of Muslim men: shaved heads, big beards, taqiyahs. There was this old Anglo couple standing under the balcony chatting with the men, asking them all sorts of banal questions about their religion, and I thought: if these men had been Chinese or French or Brazilian, these two old goats wouldn’t have given them another look, but because they’re Muslims… well, everyone’s keen to not look a racist.
Written on Saturday, 25 June 2011