Since there have been some inquiries in the past, here is a high quality clean image of the book’s cover:
Soon there will be a comic that I will be posting on here that is drawn by other artists, but written by me. In the meantime, I leave you with this quote and some samples:
Drawing gives me the opportunity to truly see. As an artist, I do not casually observe my surroundings nor take them for granted, but rather view the world as a creator and architect of my own artistic vision. I have never been interested in simplification-on the contrary it’s the complexities and how we see them that drives me to spend countless hours on a drawing. This act of drawing enables me to gain insight and understanding of intricate structure, whether it is a human figure, face, an isolated eye or a tempest of trees. Drawing pushes me to examine every aspect of what I see – every pore and hair follicle, every leaf and branch. I become immersed in my observational skills and depict my vision in a way that a casual observer could not.
Once a drawing is complete, it is no longer related merely to the artist, but becomes a starting point for the viewer’s feelings and imagination. This alignment hopefully transcends the ordinary and the overlooked to something approaching the metaphysical and sublime. Photo-realism itself does not interest me in the least; realism does, details and textures do, ultimately seeing what others fail to see, until they see it in my work. When this is achieved, the collaborative relationship between the artist and viewer reaches its climax. Ultimately, and interestingly, the climax is a humble interpretation of the greatness of nature.
“A good “rendering” represents what a person sees, but “a work of art” illuminates what others do not.”
I am naturally timid, stubborn and observant. Because I was first-born my father wanted to change that and sought to teach me how to think like a businessman from the streets. He is a first generation immigrant. When he met my mother he was working at a Greek dinner as the lead fry cook on the grill. A position he had to work up to and, consequently, deadened the nerves in his hands. My father was my mother’s first and only love. She was from a small rural town in Minnesota. When she decided to convert to Islam, her immediate family cut her off completely which was easy to do since she had moved to NY to be with my father. Around that time, he started working wholesale on Broadway. What that means is that he sold fake designer clothing and items which they produced themselves. He took pride in his work by adding his own signature to the designs and doing the best job that he can on them. My uncle and him held down all of Broadway during their prime. Instead of being on the sidewalk hustling their shit, they owned rooms in discreet buildings where they produced and sold their stuff. They had employees and partners. They got betrayed by many and were chased by the police often.
This is how he learned to think like a hustler and he sought to meld me into that image since I can remember. By all rights, within the Egyptian and Islamic culture, this meant that he raised me like he would a boy. He taught me to have free will and to stand up to anyone who tried to cut me down. Be tough and the only people that matter are family. Fuck the world. Nobody will care about you like we do.
So I stood up to teachers in Egypt when they would beat us for minor infractions with wooden sticks and rulers. When they called us miserable pieces of shits and everything else in the Arabic language for misspellings, I knew that what they thought did not matter but I felt bad for the others. Some would sit weeping in their seats. Back in the US, I stood up to bullies until high school years where I became even more introverted than before.
Empathy and kindness was missing. I was abused by a babysitter physically and verbally when I was three years old. It ended with her trying to drown me. Some of my oldest memories are of my father beating my mother and verbally abusing her for small insignificant matters like spaghetti not cooked to his liking. It was new to me so I would sit scared unable to move through most of it or lock myself up into my room (only child then) while my mother would cry. The concept of being kind and tolerant to others was not taught through example. This would manifest itself in many ways through my behavior back then. I would mutilate my Barbie dolls in fits of rage. I used to abuse my pet rabbit, the only contact with an animal that I was allowed during our time in Queens. One time, the children of the basement tenants wanted to play a master/slave game. I was chosen to be the master and I whipped them mercilessly with cold emotional detachment. After getting banned from their home and my rabbit running away, I started to wonder if something was wrong with me. Neither of my parents sat down and talked to me about either event.
I think my saving grace during that time (from three to about six years old) was the smaller things that I remember fondly. My mother’s Native American side of the family still kept contact. I remember her getting a laminated letter once and a stuffed rabbit along with it. It was the last letter she was to get from her great aunt who died and her mother did not tell her until four months after the fact. That was the day that she told me about the Cree and her memories with them only after I prodded for answers since she looked so sad. She read me the letters from her great aunt. The rabbit and letters were the only things that I had gotten from extended family of any kind. Through her letters, my distant relative showed much kindness and beauty of character. She had a grace that came across in the letters which made me wish that I had the chance to meet her at least once. I still have the stuffed rabbit.
My mother sat me down and created a quilt with me that was made just for me which I still have as well. My father would buy a bunch of mangoes and we would devour them together after dinner with our hands. He would fall asleep on the floor and I would lay on-top of him resting while listening to his heartbeat. Sometimes he would buy a bunch of crabs from China Town and we would cook them together. Once he took me with him to buy them. These are the things that taught me that there are different facets to humanity. The softer side.
These are the roots. More at a later date.
After a ton of work by Becky White, the producer, we managed to finally release the audiobook via ACX’s platform which works directly with Amazon.
Comment on this post or message me on social media to get a promotional code to download it for free on Audible. There are only 23 promo codes left!
His hands insecure and trembling knows that they expect him to finish the job. It’s always the same thing. Born a man and expected to carry everything the world has to offer with no complaints. Expected to stand with strength that he doesn’t have. The hatred he feels for himself lashes out to the world. Bitter and alone. Young and weak. Rotten before his time. Tired of the struggle so soon with nowhere to turn. Surrounded by loved ones that have no love to give. “It will end,” he says involuntarily. The words sliding past his lips, dripping down his chin, as he suffocates to death. His legs, numb and tingling, bang against all the shit he bought in his life to fill the void as his body sways with the tide of the wind. The corners of his mouth lift in a smile that belies the innocence of an inexperienced heart.
The Beatles wondered about those that embraced themselves and rejected the world. But what about those that accept neither? The truly alone. Where do they belong?
The oldest voodoo city in the New World. His home was the swamps where the women would tease the shackles of society with their freedom.
Raindrops fall and the silence beckons. Butterfly wings engulf the vision. Last breath drawn while he hides behind a smile. The nights drag on and he comes to her for her warmth and innconce. Without realizing. Without knowing. How his self-centered kindness and caution made her bloom. How his empty promises held her captive and how much he meant to her. How much his abscence filled her world with echoes of laughter faked behind a screen. The rain poured down slits of conrete being held fast by the hair of children lost within the whims of their parents. Smoldering flames between them char their skin littering the ground with ashes. Like ants pushed out of line, they wander, leaving behind the tyranny of existence. His boots crush their ashes beneath his smug gait and his wandering hands dismantles their hair from their entangled prison. The carefully stacked walls fall like carefully constructed truths whispered between lovers over torn cotton sheets covering a mattress pockmarked with cigarette burns. Faces worn with age peek in from musty curtains and so she is left to pick-up the pieces of her loneliness. The ultimate betrayal. The solace of lies.
The rain fell and washed away the years of polish. Over their eyes and trimmed nails. Under the sediment that is dragged along number fingertips. Showing off bullet wounds like medals on their sleeves. The only thing that they have to hold on to is pride to mask the weight of their sacrifice. Money slips through their fingers like it does the rest of us. No meaning in the rate race and survival is the only option. Coffee and cigarettes on a street corner avoiding eye contact. Connected by a mutual disdain for each other and the human condition. Women and their purses litter the pavement and streets. Men and their belts mill around behind newsstands and between brief cases that bulge with self-importance and dank resignation. Cigarette butts tumble from between the fingers of the homeless like…
Like the beat of boots against uneven concrete.
The soft sizzle of burning tobacco wrapped in thin paper.
Like the rustle of crows’ wings above the current of smoke.
Broken smiles hiding behind insincere eyes.
That creep between the cracks of our lives.
Brief silences surrounded by the cacophony of lies.
Whispers screaming the truth down greasy hair.
Past starched collars and torn jerseys all the same.
Beautiful how the silence makes their limbs sweat.
Just as there is a fee for everything else in life, there is a fee for opening the gates to your heart. People do not see you. You are just a flutter of wings above their heads. They will destroy you. They want nothing more than to destroy who you are. They will break you in every way. They want nothing more than to break your will and create an obedient slave. You think it’s a joke. That it can never happen to you. You toss your hair and laugh while bowing down to the same master who hides behind a smile and soft hands. Until, one day, the truth will beat you down. Your body violated and no longer your own. When you can hardly think straight, they will hammer at your mind. Every insecurity and fear will be magnified and confirmed to be true. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Your isolation and loneliness will be absolute. They will become your world. The entirety of your existence bending to their will. So, what will you do then, proud one, gaudy one, “strong” one. Oh, but it’s your fault, isn’t it? You allowed this to happen. Isn’t that what you said about the others? Yes, that was before they broke you. That was before you became a doll.
Walls of green surround us as we travel and into the moon we fall. Every detail sharp and as crisp as the weeds rustling in the wind. Her fingers trembled as she clutched her cigarette. Her past and present tumbled from her lips. Her words tripping over one another, but why? Faster and faster as Father Time drags his hands down her thighs. Our faces become our masks as we dance to the ramblings of ghosts. My heart reborn as a Ruby embedded in a fallen angel’s chest. I, the demons and I, stain her soul with paint richer than blood. The grinning moon graces innocence with pain.
She came to me dressed in sheets of white cotton. A pearl necklace around her neck. Eyes full of hope and desire. I sold her out to the Demon limping with his lacquered cane. Preaching to me about God and his angels in a cemetery surrounded by statues of Mary piously staring down at us in prayer. He came to us, lies tumbling through his loose lips and eyes cold with hatred. Would I be lying to say that I did not know what he would do? To save myself, I saved her. She left as she came, with blood stained feet and a broken heart. Our shared trauma fragmented in her mind until the day she dies.
Along the river of memory, there lies a village of song where the eyes of women meet in harmonized experience. Shared lives of duty, men, and children. But no matter who looks and pries within those encrypted hearts, they turn away or lash out in fear. Men who fall in love with the hushed tones of the wind cascading down fields of dead grass and the low pitched call of hawks competing with him for dinner. They tread through a world that they barely understand every night. Forever a visitor in a strange land. Seemingly delicate, thanks to youth, and nimble hands kneading primitive dough, she finds herself slipping along the currents of her own thoughts. In her innocence, unaware of leering gazes from the villagers following her every movement. What was once graceful fulfillment of her feminine duty becomes a lewd act. Traveling still, she finds herself wandering through back alleys entrenched with the permanent scent of the living. Beneath layers of filth, she senses the threat of scavengers and predators. There are stories left untold in the rustle of dirt encrusted sleeves and torn heavy duty khakis that have not seen the inside of an office in years adorned with more piss stains than a used cloth diaper. Uncertain steps transition into a slight sway of the hips as she readies the thin large round iron baking pan for eventual baking. But that is also a lie, she knows, as she lifts her gaze from the floor of the bus to catch a glimpse of the scene unfolding outside the window across from her.
The old man ambles down the block with the odd grace of those who wear another decade around their shoulders. It’s not just the old straw hat or the well-tailored dress jacket or the loosely fit slacks that gives it away. It’s the slight slump of the shoulders one gets when letting the mind wander too far into the past. Like a blanket the body tries to envelope itself with to block out the present that they resent so much. The ugliness of the world around them. They watch their descendants resort to drugs, alcohol, and an endless sea of faceless strangers on street corners and in abandoned buildings, inevitably becoming an active part of what they are trying so hard to forget. The young ones, they didn’t choose this existence but it chose them and it sinks its claws into their hearts with the tenacity of a rabid animal. We want to protect our children from the world, but sometimes what we want most is to protect them from ourselves.
The bus passes a woman sitting in her car checking for traffic before a right turn and she examines her face. How the artificial light illuminates her cheekbones and slides down each meeting at her lips. It dawns on her that this woman must belong to someone like most women here tend to. She imagines the woman’s face titled back against the car seat in pleasure for brief moment. Does her lover caress her neck with worship in his eyes and every feeling he holds within hanging on his breath as he runs his mouth over her ear? Does she reward him with a smile that is for his eyes only and so it will remain even if they do not? The passenger on the bus wonders and sighs to herself in resignation. The other woman’s lover does not do these things, she decides. Their love life is probably as boring and as passionless as the best porn flick that is available on tape. Fingering, blowjob, penetration, dirty talk, few position changes, and end. How she longs for passion as the bus rolls on past the woman in her car.
How she longs for life.
The routine in our house was usually that after my father would come back from dawn prayer the mosque, he would be sitting in the kitchen reading the Quran. We would wake up and be asked to turn on a recitation tape or CD and then make wadooh, ritual washing of the body, before praying morning prayer. Only after we do these things are we allowed to sit down and eat breakfast. If my mother was not up, then he would wake her, but on rare occasions he would make and serve us breakfast. Any deviation from that routine usually resulted in a long lecture about our duty to our creator. How we don’t forget to eat or go to the bathroom, but forget about the one that created us. My mother would be cranky in the morning when he would push her to do her prayers and make breakfast a lot. She could not start a day right without a cup of coffee. Light and sweet with milk and never cream. She would have several cups during the course of the day too. It was a bit of an addiction for her.
During summer break before University started, my eye sight became really bad. I used to have perfect 20/20 vision, but I noticed it deteriorating during my late high school years. My father blamed it on me watching too much TV and being on the computer too much. So, I hated myself for a while for having to wear glasses just to see the board at school. That summer we also visited Egypt for the first time since we had lived there. Cousin A, Uncle M’s only son, was enrolled in the pharmacy program and his youngest sister was enrolled in the music program due to her grades being low. Cousin A always had an interest in me since the days that we were very young and used to dance on the roof top together. We were left sometimes to “get to know” each other and he basically showed off his collection of pirated Egyptian music on his computer. We would all watch censored American movies together and I brought over a Sailor Moon tape for us all to watch. Cousin AT, his younger sister, who I used to have a short sexual tryst with when we were younger, had gained almost as much weight as I had at one point. I did not understand her decline in self-esteem, but it finally dawned on me later on what happened. My mother told me many years later that she was circumcised at the age of thirteen because she was found flirting with boys from the balcony. Her father, Uncle M, had also tried to push my father to circumcise me when I was born, but my mother advised him against it. Her reasoning was that some studies showed that being circumcised usually made a girl more promiscuous instead of curbing the desire like initially thought. Their older sister, Cousin AM, was married and it looked like it was against her will sometimes. Her husband would be over and he would put on an air of being playful and try to get me to joke with him, but I would tell him off every chance I got. Most of the people in the household would take it as humor, but we both knew that I did not like him. At all. From what I saw of how he treated his wife and from what I have heard, I gathered that he was an abusive husband. Nobody did anything about it. Cousin AM was a math teacher like our grandmother was, but he ended up making her stay home and quit her job.
We also had visits from our two male cousins that lived with Uncle S’s divorced wife. He sent her money on a semi-normal basis, but the family all claimed that she was mentally ill. They also claimed that she abused them. Uncle M would sit the children down and whisper to them the stories of how their mother would not feed them and would force them to do grueling household chores. He would force them to recount them and reenact them with demonstrations. The children would look vacant and troubled and when he did that, which was an almost impossible combination to see displayed in a person at the same time. Aunt’s S’s family rarely came over anymore because of the hate and rumors that Uncle M’s family were still perpetuating since the last time that we lived there.
Uncle M’s family was well off at that time because they were reaping the benefits of the rented properties that my father owned. They were stealing some of the profits for themselves and not telling my father about it and were not found out until my mother did the math. Not only that, but my mother had to leave some family heirlooms behind and my Uncle had thrown them away without consulting with any of my parents about it. Despite all that, their collective hatred seemed to grow and spread to everyone and everything. We only stayed a week and decided to spend the rest of our vacation at our apartment in Alexandria which was where my baby brother took his first steps.
When I went out, despite being a bigger girl, I noticed a lot of the leers and suggestive behavior that I was willfully oblivious to when I was younger. Whether that was because it wasn’t as common as it was during the time that I visited or I become more experienced and aware with age, I can’t say. That wasn’t the only thing that changed over the years. Gone was the live animals being sold on the streets, you only found those at night in the big cities like Alexandria, Tanta, or Cairo. That, or in the smaller farm villages at any time of the day. Uncle M’s family, before we left to Alexandria, bought a bunch processed meat and other supplies from a small grocery store. No more killing the animals yourself. I instantly remembered the time that my father had tried to get me to kill a duck and, when I would not, he made me hold its wings so that he could do it. Or the times when I would be fascinated watching my mother kill chickens and the bemused feeling that I would get when she would try to kill a rabbit by herself and fail. There was also a lamb that was killed on our balcony in Cairo and it was flooded with blood by the time the affair was over.
Egypt had changed and it was continuing to change while I was not there to experience any of it. Just the aftermath whenever we were able to visit. Soon my first year at Rutgers University would begin whether I was ready or not.