Congratulations to our winner, Aiyah Sibay, and thank you to all our contest entrants! Half of the proceeds from the contest will go to Southern Poverty Law Center.
DC and Metros
Fiction by Aiyah Sibay
A mad song pulses through his head, and he’s singing it to every white man that passes.
This is myyyy city. You hear? My owwwn beautiful, beautiful goddamn city!
The white man laughs, tells him he can have it. The singing man’s crying now. He’s kneeling over there, gathering tossed pages of the morning’s paper. He’s tripping and panting along the worn sidewalk. His breath stumbles out of the corners of his chest and bangs against the shutters of the city. The white man hurries to the entrance of his apartment. The song eases into a rough silence, and silence yields, slowly, to something like laughter. Another white man passes. The song begins again, then suddenly stops. He remembers he needs a cigarette. He turns to his sack and searches for one. Then he’s puffing on his cigarette, letting the white men pass in peace, while the early night of winter sways its thin hips across the streets until it touches the black skin of the singing man. He shivers at the touch, tries to resume his song but fails. He decides it’s time to go. He walks towards the bus stop, and the emptied womb of the city begins to scream. Its cord reaches above the ground, frantically searches for the feet of the man walking away. But the bus comes too soon. He enters and pays with quarters and dimes tossed by white men in tight suits and black phones. He finds himself a seat in the back corner. The lady in front of him holds her things tight, and singing boy rests his head against the cold metal of the night bus. On Wisconsin Avenue, he lays himself to sleep beneath the false shelter of the metro station. The city begins to dine on his black body, as it has for many nights. His mama comes too.
“Here boy, take this blanket and tuck it beneath your head.” He does as he’s told, then his mama turns away, tells him he best pretend he never tried.
A cop approaches. The black man rises without being told. He knows how to lift his hands in the air, how to tuck his brutal cards of innocence and brace for another term of captivity. He parts hesitantly from these streets, enters the cop’s car. Having departed from the object of his obsession, he surrenders to the slow hands of a tired cop leading him to his cell. Inside, he prays. He bends over, holds his hands up for the last time that night, and calls out to that wet residence where he knew no pain and knew no black city.
Aiyah Sibay is a poet and artist originally from Syria. She graduated from University of Maryland and has worked for various publications, including The Writer’s Bloc, Stories Beneath the Shell, and PublicAsian. She has also worked as a writer for the UN and the Middle Eastern publication, Barakabits, and as a columnist for The Diamondback. She was a Litfest finalist and the winner of “Writing Migration Literary Competition” at the Forming Black Britain Symposium. She has worked with Syrian, Iraqi, and Palestinian refugees over the years and is currently residing in the West Bank where she teaches English and writes.