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CITIZEN by Tariq al Haydar

Enter the ministry through the main gate (not the women’s entrance), on Olaya Street: Memorize the number on your ID card (#1072049285). Vote in the municipal elections, , so that the world may see you and celebrate the act...

After Jamaica Kincaid

 

Enter the ministry through the main gate (not the women’s entrance), on Olaya Street:

 

Memorize the number on your ID card (#1072049285)

 

Vote in the municipal elections, so that the world may see you and celebrate the act

 

Wave a green flag during football matches and weep after inevitable defeat

 

***

 

“Wave your green flag.”

“Wave your green flag.”

“Wave a green flag.

“Where’s your flag?”

I refrain from waving.

***

 

Refrain from seditious expressions

 

Buckle your seatbelt, unless you want to pay a fine

 

Read the sports page; support local teams when they play in Asian regional competitions

 

Memorize the male names in your lineage

 

***

 

“What man are you?”

he asked, repeating the oft-heard phrase.

 

“What man are you?”

“You are what man?”

“Are you man, what?”

“What man are you?”

 

***

 

Report a birth to Civil Affairs within thirty days

 

Pour coffee with your left hand and offer it to the guest with your right

 

Always wear the thobe, especially when visiting government institutions

 

Never wear shorts on airplanes; otherwise you will be barred from travel

 

***

 

At the border which separates the Kingdom from the neighboring Emirate, a young woman sat in her car—

            “What makes it hers?”

“How did she come to possess it?”

 

the woman is not permitted to cross that imaginary line dividing two countries, but neither can she be refused entry outright. Authorities respond by shrugging at the impasse, leaving her stranded for days on a strip of asphalt between worlds.

            “Why don’t you keep your mouth closed?”

“You are most beautiful when you’re silent, brother.”

 

***

 

When they announce the beginning of Ramadan, drive your mother or wife to the market to buy sambosa dough, barley and raspberry syrup

 

Express Pledge fealty to your superiors

 

Offer dates to guests

 

Acquire the required signatures in order to complete your transaction; follow the steps described on the ministry’s website, because, as you have been told, there can be no argument in the presence of the text

 

Refrain from saying the wrong thing so people don’t assume that you are the criminal you are intent on becoming

 

Identify your female relatives when called upon

 

This is how you address someone who matters; this is how you speak to a regular Saudi; this is how you speak to a South Asian; this is how you speak to a strange woman; this is how you speak to your own women in the presence of strange men, so as not to incur injury to your manhood; this is how you address someone whose importance you are unable to discern

 

Refrain from visiting suspicious websites

 

If a camera photographs your car while you are exceeding the speed limit, a violation will be sent to you via text
Avoid suspicious characters                                                                          guilty

 

***

 

so why did she have to die?

“That’s not a question one should ask.”

“What business is it of yours?”

 

***

 

Express gratitude that you exist in a state that preserves your freedom

 

Squeeze rice into a ball and stick into your mouth; stand up before you feel full; spray cologne on your palm

 

Memorize the words to the anthem

 

Serve

 

Refrain from expressing the seditious word dancing insolently on the tip of your tongue

 

Walk by the wall

 

Appreciate an extra day’s vacation and an increase in wages

 

***

 

“I pledge my undying fealty.”

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About Tariq Al Haydar

Tariq Al Haydar
Tariq al Haydar's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Threepenny Review, Down & Out, Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, The Los Angeles Review and others. He is an assistant professor of English at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia.