1551 c/o Andrea Kneeland

Hassan Hates the Sand

Hassan hates the sand of the island on the horizon. The sand is a bright, thick orange that makes his head reel back into itself, like the seed of a migraine or like the deep, aching pit of hunger that sometimes takes hold on the sea. The water, too, is bad: turquoise and iridescent, the color of a specific sort of birds’ plume, the sort kept in the aviary by Turgut’s youngest mistress, loud and incessant and yawking. The colors of the island enrage him already, or maybe sicken him, turning about a sort of lethargy that will roil eventually into something.

It is a bored sort of lethargy that leads to a bored sort of action, ultimately. The type of action that doesn’t think about itself, but that makes the body move because that’s what the body does. Hassan gets bored easily: his wives are boring. His kids are boring. His house is boring. He has nothing there on his homeland, really, to take his mind off of the boringness. It is this boredom, and his ambivalence toward thought about this boredom that joined him to the alliance of the Barbary Corsairs. That, and a certain manual ability with cannons and their aim.

The hair of the girl lying next to him is matted and liced around her ears and her neck. She smells oily and ripe. Her belly lifts away from itself beneath tightened skin, drum-like and shining. He picks her up, presses her body against his, shifts the weight of it as he crosses the galley. She doesn’t move, opens her eyes wide and casts them dumbly across the water. She doesn’t even twitch when he rolls forward, when he unlatches his arms to drop her overboard. He watches her sink down quietly, and thinks about her belly bloating out even further, and thinks he won’t keep the next one long enough to watch the belly begin to bloat at all.

Sometimes Turgut’s gusto about the whole thing makes him feel a little bad about his own lack of drive and ambition, but that is why Hassan will never rise past the rank of cannoneer, and why Turgut gets all the pussy he wants wherever he goes, without having to rape anyone unless he feels like it.

Hassan shrinks himself against a plank of wood so he will not be noticed. Turgut busies himself with numbers and estimations of the force required to enslave 6,000 islanders. Turgut is never bored. Turgut thinks only of slaves and of trading them. Turgut loves his work, and is good at it.

Hassan tries not to think, but when he does think, he fantasizes about television and iPods and social networking and free streaming amateur pornography. If Hassan had these things, he would not be bored, and if he was not bored, he would not be on this galley, and if he were not on this galley, then he would not be slave-trading, and if he were not slave-trading, then he would not be participating in the invasion and capture of an entire island population. Hassan lets himself ponder this for a moment. He considers that it does not matter whether he is here or not, since Turgut is not fantasizing about the future or about electricity or about binary codes, and it is Turgut that is not bored and it is Turgut that excels at genocide and profit, so, really, the internet would make no difference at all. Hassan can watch YouTube videos of cats flushing toilets or Hassan can rape an adolescent girl with a bayonet before cracking her father’s skull open like a coconut, and both actions are essentially the same, because they will end in the same result – Turgut will march forward with an army, regardless.

Hassan absolves himself.

Hassan watches the island approach. A glimmer of skins on the shore. The heat of a knife. Turgut turning himself red with excitement. Hassan feels his body twist around in itself with an emotion he cannot describe and he forgets about the things he doesn’t know. Hassan disappears beneath the shadow of a cannon.