Needles in the Camel’s Eye

Photograph by Jose Padua
I have in my possession volume 2, no. 6,
of the Kurdistan Quarterly, a journal thrown at me
by Giles Warner, vice president of the Kurdistan Freedom
Foundation, when, during a job interview ten years

ago, the phone rang and he wanted to give me
something to do while he took what looked like an
important call. I watched this gangly, white-haired man
speak slowly, affectedly I thought, on the phone, leaning

back in his swivel chair as he pondered question,
response, and result with the most exaggerated
gestures for the simplest actions I’d seen since the last
time I’d watched William Shatner, as Captain Kirk

on Star Trek, put his Federation approved boots back
on, while practically licking his lips with thick and
obvious sexual satisfaction, after getting laid
by a space lady who’s astonishingly hot despite

her shiny weird hair and pupil-less eyes.
Then Giles Warner hung up the phone and looked at me
solemnly, as if he’d just gotten word that the
Supreme Commander of the Federation has just

been assassinated, and said, “The Kurds have no home
of their own.” His eyes suddenly widened, his mouth
opened in a way that looked like a cross between Munch’s
The Scream and Iggy Pop’s mad smile on the cover

of Lust for Life, before he hit me with a huge,
open-mouthed, mood shattering “Ha!”—and as if I should
immediately understand that with every horror
there was a comical irony, a blinding revelation

so obvious that only idiots needed time
to recognize it. I’d had job interviews where I
knew the interviewer hated me, looked down on me,
or thought I was a drunk and a loser but never

before, as strange as I sometimes could be, had
an interviewer out-weirded me. This was a feat,
I thought, an occasion, a cause for feast, that I’d met
someone who was much more than my match for the strangeness,

inappropriateness, and odd-duck/odd-bird bizarreness
of my mind. And we went on like this for over two
hours, waiting to meet the foundation president who
was coming in from the airport, talking about what’s

buried in the earth, what flies in the air without hindrance,
what has happened, what should happen, and what will never
happen because the world is insane and all men are
mad, so what, for God’s sake, should we do? Soon I was

saying things about myself I knew weren’t true, listing
skills I didn’t have, naming tasks I’d never completed,
even though I knew when I’d walked in the door that I’d
never be offered the job. It’s in moments like these

when music disappears, when the soundtrack to my life
turns silent. And it’s not because of fear or terror,
or the breaking of my fragile comfort zone. It’s
the selling of myself, and the corruption it brings

to the surface, gasping for air; that I may have within
me my own version of a bird of prey, going for
the kill I don’t want or can’t feed from, then burying
the bones. It’s the slice of time in which I am stranded,

where crimson can only be called red, a painting by
van Gogh a piece of cloth with a price tag, a song or
symphony a number on a popularity chart,
or a sound like a siren that tells the people it’s

time to enter the concert hall, and they follow, and
I follow and I am diminished in the silence
that follows this. And we are all people without nations,
so we lock our doors at night or sleep lightly here in

the city, in the country, or whatever state of exile
we make our bed in. And I’ve kept my copy of
the Kurdistan Quarterly these ten years, and I
open it now and then, flip through the pages and

somehow I always end up at p. 34, at the bottom of which
is a photo, from the foundation’s tenth anniversary celebration,
and there in the middle, his arms stretched elegantly
on the dance floor, his head at a sophisticated tilt, is Giles Warner,

fighting the good fight, living his beautiful strange life
like me—one phone call, one Iggy Pop smile at a time—
while laughing the sort of laugh that has the power to break the world
apart into pieces before putting it all together once again.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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