Arrivals Unwelcome


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Peter Mallett is a university professor and writer based in Japan. He has written for The Asahi Evening News, Gramophone Japan, Opera News, The New Internationalist etc. His short stories have  [+]

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I smell the spices on the skin of the young man in the window seat next to me, the acrid odour of fear permeating his shabby robes. Essences of unbelonging.
His anxiety unnerves me. I hate myself for my prejudice, legacy of a ravaged history.

“Excuse me, sir. Is New York?” The young man points excitedly at the skyscrapers in the distance.

“Yes.” The sky is as clear as on that September morning. Soon we’ll fly over the site where extremists sacrificed my brother to an unshared cause. “Is this your first visit?”

“My new home. I am soon American. Like you, sir.”

Like me. “And what are you now?”

“I Afghanistan.”

“Oh.” I glance uneasily at his shalwar kameez, trying to suppress the suspicion that he’s a jihadi. “Do you have family in America?”

“I not have family. All killed by Taliban bomb.”

His answer silences me.

“I twelve then. I wait five years for new life. Kind people in your country invite me.”

“You speak English very well.”

“Thank you, sir. I studying very hard. I wanting succeed in your country.”

Just like my parents. Refugees from the Holocaust, arriving with nothing but the scars of memory and dreams in gestation, welcomed to the Land of the Free.

I fold my newspaper in preparation for landing. The leading article shames my fear of this hopeful escapee from a damaged past – the president’s latest executive order: "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States."
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