Note: I wrote this piece of fiction months before the Paris terrorist attacks in an attempt to understand what drives people to commit such horrific acts. There is no justification for terrorist acts, including being marginalized by a society or discriminated against.
My name is Paris, no, not after Paris the city, but Paris the hotel chain whore. Harsh, I know, but if you were named after a girl who is famous for the sake of being famous, you’d be unforgiving too. I’d love to say my parents conceived me while picnicking on hummus and pita chips on the banks of the Seine at night watching tourist-filled riverboats like illuminated phantoms float past the Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, and Classical eras in under an hour.
But my parents have never been to Paris. My mother’s veil is forbidden there. It’s illegal to dress like a Muslim. French authorities claim veils hinder a society that relies on facial recognition and expression in communication. Watch the eyes, Parisians. Everything you need to know is reflected in the eyes. Other features are pure distraction. The eyes are shifty if someone is deceitful; impenetrable if someone lacks compassion; dead if there’s no conscience; downcast when hurt and dejected; wide with joy and ecstasy; vacant when someone has given up.
If you don’t learn to interpret the eyes, you’ll never catch people like me.
Paris. My namesake was born into a hotelier family that bilks tourists. Does that justify snagging headlines and splashing one’s face and body parts all over digital and print media? You, the gullible, gobble up news stories about people who’ve accomplished nothing other than being the product of an egg and sperm collision, the creation of a wealthy man and a slinky opportunistic woman. Voila! Their offspring skyrockets into fame, splashed on your magazine covers, panty-less. My apologies if Paris wasn’t the one who infamously showcased her crotch in a limo. They all merge into a big blonde blur. Like people say we do: Muslims in America. But I’m no more Muslim than I am American.
I’m not as hostile toward the talentless blondes as people say. They claim I’m bitter about my black hair hidden under a hijab. But my wrath is directed toward you, the un-famous, who follow the panty-less. Have your standards plummeted so that you’ll stalk people even if they’re famous for no reason? A magic show, a juggling act, or a trapeze performance would suffice. Instead, you prefer to view splayed legs in a limo. 10 million times, if clicks don’t lie.
I’ve considered changing my name to Cheyenne, because real people sentenced to obscurity live there. No one’s a star in Cheyenne, unless they’re a rollicking hog-tying, cattle wrestling, skeet-shootin’ rodeo cowboy. And then he’s only famous in whinnying rodeo circles where women squeeze themselves into tight Wranglers and men sport hats wider than cowgirls’ hips. And even though a rodeo star’s roping skills border on animal torture, at least he has honed his talent over decades. The animals get roughed up, but they survive. Most importantly, everyone wears pants, unless we’re talking gay rodeo in chaps with nothing underneath. But gay cowboys garner respect because they’ve swum upstream in a current of ranch machoism that doesn’t tolerate same-sex sideway glances. They’re corralled into a lifetime of marginalization. Let them wear chaps with no pants. At least they’ve earned the right to go pant-less. Like we Muslims in America have, but we’d never consider it. Actually, maybe we should under our burqas. You would ever know.
Wyoming is where we trained. An outpost. A touch of the Middle East in the Wild West. Where the cloudless sky meets the open plains. It’s so wide open; you’d think no one had secrets. The wind whips the living daylights out of you until your thoughts are so jumbled you can’t remember what you believed. That’s okay because we were learning not to believe so we could do what needed to be done.
Paris. I’d like to tell people I was named after the City of Lights, but my parents never had the money to go there, even if Parisians had tolerated Muslim dress. My parents did visit the Kardashian store in LA as a tourist destination. Tourists traveling to buy stuff they don’t need from a store named after people who are famous for no reason. As American as it gets. My mom planned the trip for a year. It was the only thing she had to look forward to. Waiting in line to get into the store, my parents were pummeled with raw pork—meat Muslims are forbidden to eat. “Go home, terrorists!”
But this is their home. And it was supposed to be mine.
I thank my lucky stars I wasn’t named after the Kardashian who’s famous for butt-cleavage selfies and a step-dad who actually accomplished something back when fame required achievement. But in keeping with the times, her stepdad is now famous for transitioning from a muscle-bound Olympian to a 60-something pin-up girl with all the nips, tucks, insertions, and penis tucks any girl who used to be a boy could ever want. She’s (notice the pronoun switch) now famous for being a famous trans.
Paris. I’m an un-famous girl named after a girl who shouldn’t be famous. But I’m going to change that. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve just been commissioned to the City of Lights. I’ll travel with a parachute and the clothes on my back. I won’t need anything where I’m going. I’ll slip on my forbidden veil and jump in the midday sun at the peak of springtime in Paris. I’ll plunge the length of the Tower that is famous for being famous, then yank my vest at the last possible minute underneath the shrieks and screams.
I’ll achieve symmetry. Paris bombs Paris.
Maybe you could have stopped me if you’d have bothered to look into my eyes.