A light was on in the living room which was why Dr. Zain Uddin Khan found himself peering in through the pocket doors that separated it from the dining room on his way to a fancy dress party. He and two friends were going as a sort of Italian three musketeers in fancy dress Carabinieri uniforms. He had worn this costume once before and had been delighted to find out that it offended people as at first glance it was mistaken for a Nazi uniform. Not that he was sympathetic to the detestable Nazi dogma but he occasionally enjoyed putting people on edge. It was satisfying to sporadically turn the tables.
As a Muslim doctor who worked tirelessly for the community, there was a constant expectation that he take the higher ground in the face of relentless insensitivity and sometimes downright discrimination. The costume represented a sort of social rebellion. It called people out on their ignorance and highlighted the ultimate outcome of ignorance.
As he peered into the unusually illuminated room, he saw the culprit curled up on the couch. It was his son home from his adventures as a street urchin. The fog had swept in to chill the evening and so Zain tucked his son Kyle in with the luxurious sitting room throw – placed neatly in the room for just such an occasion. He stopped to admire his son in that warm paternal way known only to fathers which starts with a tingle in the head and scalp and moves slowly down the spine.
He wished he would stop this street performing nonsense and go back to school, but he understood why he did not. In his last year of high school a hysterical girl had overheard a chance statement by a momentarily frustrated Kyle said with the drama and exaggeration of youth. “I’m going to blow this place up”.
Apparently this had been enough to activate the powers of Home Land Security and as Kyle had recently turned 18 they had apprehended him and incarcerated him and then proceeded to raid Dr. Khan’s house. Thank God years of being detained at customs for hours on end when returning to his country from foreign lands was a routine experience he had accustomed himself to. It had trained him to remain calm through the whole humiliating crisis. While the best lawyers that money could provide had sorted the authorities out within the week, the damage had been done.
In interviews from now on, how was he to honestly answer the question “have you ever been arrested”? Was he to tell the truth and say “Yes, I was mistakenly taken for a terrorist once but the charges were dropped and my record expunged”. While this statement was certainly a conversation starter, it wasn’t the sort of thing that put you at the top of any desirable list. Was his son to learn to lie? What was his moral obligation?
Zain still hoped that his son would find himself. His mother might have found a way to fix it, he thought assuredly. While her death had allowed him to live a life and explore a part of himself he probably wouldn’t have, he missed her acutely right now.