I love, love, love my Canadian passport. My sentiment might strike you as exuberant. You have not traveled around the world with an Iraqi passport; therefore I don’t expect you to understand. I have a ritual that I follow whenever I am about to travel abroad. I take out my Canadian passport from a special hiding spot and place him in the palm of my hand. Then I stroke him across the front cover in admiration the way Gollum from Lord of the Rings stroked his precious. Gollum and ring, Elen and passport. One big happy family. I even talk to my Canadian passport. “Hello Dearie” I always begin with a soft voice. I don’t call my Canadian passport precious; I think dearie is far more endearing. “Nice to see you oh beautiful green one” I continue with a cooing whisper reserved for the most intimate of relations. “We are about to go on a trip today. Yes we are. Are you ready? Oh! I remember traveling with the other green one. Gollum and ring were never as good for each other as we are. Nasty, nasty green one. You are the one and only for me. You spare me the humiliation; make me invisible, you give me special powers that bestow dignity and respect on my poor person. Before I met you, I was one of the other ones, the suspected ones, those that get the odd looks and extra handling.” Then I place Dearie in a pocket close to my heart whilst we embark on yet another happy adventure together.
Like all passionate relationships, ours fizzled after the initial honeymoon stage.
In mid-November of 2003, I was planning a trip to Washington DC to attend a conference related to my work. Before I had the chance to wakeup Dearie, I made the mistake of listening to the morning news on CBC Radio 1. It was the day the story of Maher Arar broke on mainstream Canadian media. Mr. Arar is a Syrian born Canadian who was detained in New York on his way back to Canada only to be interrogated and shipped to Syria where he was imprisoned and tortured for a whole year. I looked at Dearie in the palm of my hand in a state of shock. His shine was gone and he seemed frayed around the edges.” Does Dearie have a treacherous side?” I found myself questioning. Images of myself getting shipped to Abu Graib prison in Baghdad were flashing in my mind. Then I imagined my husband and children protesting in front of the Canadian parliament, standing knee-high in snow, holding a placard that read: “Bring our mom home”. “Do I have the courage to venture into the world without magical powers?” I asked myself. I suddenly felt like an impish elf about to travel from Middle East …. ehm! ….. I mean middle-earth towards the Dark Tower without the aid of a magical toy. Will the watchful eye of Sauron detect me? Will I be sent to the Abu Graib dungeon? After all, isn’t it suspicious that an Iraqi is traveling to Washington a few months into the war? I looked down at my Canadian passport and I cursed him: “You two timing bastard”, throwing him into my handbag without any ceremony.
I made two resolutions for my trip that morning – I will not visit any monuments while in Washington. I will not discuss politics while there. Given my emotional devastation with the setback in my relationship with my Canadian passport, I reasoned: “I better play it safe and avoid any situation that might stir bottled up excitement.”
“So what is it like to live in Washington?” I asked a lady attending the conference, thinking this was the most non-political doorway to safe small talk. “It is so hard being a single woman in Washington” the woman responded with a heavy sigh. “All the men are too important and don’t have time.” Then she began a non-eloquent monologue describing all Washingtonian gentlemen are assholes and that reminded her of the president of all Washingtonian gentlemen -The one who ruled them all in that particular attribute. At that point, my conversation partner entered a labyrinth of discourse, at each turn she got lost deeper into describing the extent of her loathing of Mr. George Bush.
“What is it like to live in Washington?” I asked a young man at the conference. “Living in Washington sucks big time, all the women are gold diggers who expect to be wined and dined” The man responded with an air of resentment. His eyes glazed over, as someone who stops conversing and starts ranting, usually does. “Everybody I know wants to become a lawyer and then they become a corrupt self-centered human being”, the bitterness was palpable in his voice. I silently watched another soul enter the “Let me tell you why Bush is the source of all evil” maze.
I was tempted to introduce the man to the woman I was talking to earlier since they both suffered the hardships of singlehood. I worried I might be accused of participating in the Iraqi conspiracy to confuse Americans with weapons of wrongful match making (WWMM).
I tried to steer the conversational rudder towards a sunny direction. “Isn’t the weather nice today?” I waggishly started one conversation, attempting to disguise myself as a true Vancouverite. “I had a delectable salad for lunch at a nearby restaurant”, all conversations would culminate with the person raving about how much they hated George Bush. I don’t know if this reaction was the result of the raw emotional state I was in, or whether there is something about Washingtonians that makes them immune to banality.
“People! Please be sensitive” I wanted to scream. “If you say you hate George Bush, what am I supposed to say?” I wanted to plead with each Washingtonian, but I kept my silence in a flimsy attempt to stick to my resolutions. Feeling drained, I fancied solitude as my companion. I went for a walk to help calm my nerves. Allowing my legs to direct me in random directions, I found myself in front of a white house surrounded by a tall fence.“This can’t be the white house…it looks too small”, I mused to myself. Later I noticed police and security personal all over the place. “Oh Man! This is exactly the place I wanted to avoid. Dam these legs that brought me here!” I felt frustrated at having broken my second resolution. When I am angry at Dearie everything goes wrong with my life.
In a slow pace I walked around the white house contemplating the decisions that have been taken in that place that have affected my life. There was the decision to support the ba’athists in order to defeat the communists in Iraq; there was the first war, sanctions and a second war. How many have died as a result of these decisions, hundreds of thousands, millions? Yet this house looks whity white as if it has been recently bleached.
Suddenly a strange thought possessed me. I remembered the ancient Arabic superstitious belief in the evil eye. Ayn al hasud it is called in Arabic, the belief that certain people possess the psychic power to cause injury or destruction by simply looking at somebody or something with malice in their hearts. I myself never believed in hocus pocus. Yet, a dark demon whispered in my ear:” In the .01% chance that there is some credence to the evil eye theory and in the .01% percent chance that you possess this power, if there ever were a time and a place you would want to invoke it…” I tried to think of a form of wickedness that would not render me guilt ridden for the rest of my life. I combed my brain through a long list of mischief, settling on diarrhea as the object of my desire. The kind that is annoying yet lasts for one day and then goes away. I closed my eyes and tried to remember the feeling of diarrhea in my body and then projected that energy onto the white house. “I hope that George Bush gets diarrhea tonight” I said silently inside my head then opened my eyes when I heard a siren of an ambulance in the distance. A sense of panic overwhelmed me and my legs headed towards my hotel in a hurry.
On the news, I discovered that George Bush was visiting Turkey that day so he couldn’t have received the wrath of my evil eye. I lay in bed feeling tired and lonely. “I hardly recognize myself”, I thought holding back tears. “Everything I did today is not like me at all”. I act crazy and everybody around me acts crazy as well, when Dearie and I aren’t talking to each other. Even Gollum and ring had a better relationship. With a heavy heart I had to acknowledge that I was yearning for my beautiful green one. My Canadian passport. Gollum and ring were forced to part ways, must I do the same with dearie? I resolved to find a way to reconcile with Dearie despite his failings. But, that is the subject for another story.
To Be Continued.
read part 2 here
Do you have a story involving your Canadian passport? I would love to hear it. Please leave a comment below.
I turned this story of Gollum and ring into a video. You can watch it here.