A white rose- part 1.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Having grown up in a muslim country (UAE), I find the racism toward muslims in America to be particularly harmful. This is the first part of three of my short story.

Submitted: July 15, 2013

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 15, 2013



Part 01.



After enduring two separate aeroplane flights, the first being a seven hour flight from Yasser Afarat International Airport, Palestine to London, Gatwick; the second being from London, Gatwick to JFK, New York totaling my time the air to twelve hours and 45 minutes and my waiting at airport time a total of 8 hours, meaning that this extremely long and agonizing day took a grand total of twenty hours and forty-five minutes, I was exhausted at thought of trying to pass through America's security, well-known for being almost impenetrable, just to be deemed worthy by a member of airport staff and possibly having the chance of not being allowed in. I knew that entering America would be hard, it took me 6 months alone just to have access to a visa that would allow me into the 'land of the free'; my not being a national citizen led me to a line that appeared to stretch around the entire airport, this line took a further two hours (I am now at 22 hours and 45 minutes). When I finally reached passport control, I was greeted (or not so much greeted as being looked at sideways) by a rather huge, gloomy-looking woman who looked as though meeting hundreds of people from everywhere in the world was not her calling in life.

"Passport." Her monotone made it seem as though she had said this word a thousand times today alone. I handed her my khaki green passport and prayed to Allah for the best. "Oh, you're from Palestine?" She asked, I sensed a hint of judgement. I could tell she already was uncomfortable around me simply from my appearance, but now, she looked almost scared of me, as though I was about to take out a gun a blow her brains away.

"Um, yes… yes I am from Palestine." I tried to say it as sweetly as possible, hoping to get out of this situation as soon as possible. As she looked through the little green book, I could see that she was scanning through every tiny detail just to ensure that my copy of my passport was indeed, not a fake.

"And your name is 'Jameela Naser'?" Was she trying to quiz me?


"Have you entered the United States before Ms. Naser?"

"No, I've never left Palestine until yesterday."

"Ah, very nice… Well everything seems to be in order Ms. Naser. Welcome to America."

Her welcome sounded as though she were regretting it, rather than sincerely welcome me into her country. I shuffled away from her desk, partially embarrassed that we had to go though that complicated tango known as passport control.


I was the only passenger from my flight yet to have collected their bags from the conveyer belt (disinclining a rather large British/ Indian family and a business man from tokyo whose bag had been stolen); everybody else seemed to have gotten through security without going through a painful question and answer session. I located my two medium-sized brown suitcases that I purchased as soon as I heard the news that my visa request had gone through tucked away in a corner, they were obviously the only bags left on the conveyer belt so somebody took it upon themselves to clear the bags off and make room for the next flight that had reserved that belt. I picked up the suitcases and followed the signs out of the airport until I found myself out in the heat of a New York summer and by a line of taxis waiting for arrivals. The driver of the first taxi cab in the line jumped out of his vehicle, loaded my bags into the boot of his car and asked me where I was ‘headed’ once we had both gotten into the cab. I, not knowing any place in New York, other than the Central Park, asked for him to take me the cheapest motel or hotel that will be vacant and will be in the peripheral area of a subway station.

“Oh, you wan’ Zettie’s Place, dey charge 20 dollars a‘night an’ they give you a meal in the mornin’ fo’ only 2 dollars more.”

“Then “Zettie’s Place it is, please.”

The taxi cab reeked of urine and cigarette smoke, the driver obviously did not pay any attention to the ‘no smoking’ law. The signs that were intended to instruct the passenger on the safety laws were peeling off the walls. The chairs in the cab were squeaky, which forced me to sit extremely still. I tried not to move my feet as I noticed a puddle nearby, this was presumably where the smell was coming from.

After 15 minutes had passed, it was him to break to the silence; “So where ya from? What’s yer story?”

“Um well I’m from Palestine.”

“An’ where’s tha’ one?”

“Palestine? Oh, it’s in the Middle East, next to Israel.”

“Tha’ Middle East? Man I hear a lotta shits goin’ down there, ya’ hear me?”

“Um, yes, I guess but life there is still-”

“Awh man, y’all got outta there jus’ in time, I hear Obama’s gon’ do sommat about that place ya know wha’ I mean.”

“Uhm I’m not really sure what President Obama has to d-”

“Man, the place gon’ be like a crater by tha’ time we don’ with it, I mean I’m sorry man, I really am bu’ we gotta sor’ out our shit.”

And with the delightful image of my home country being nothing but a crater in mind because America needs to sort its ‘shit’ out, my Cab driver finally stopped outside Zettie’s Place.

“Oh, well here we are, Zettie’s. That’ll be twenty dollars fitty.”

I gave him twenty one dollars as I had no change, and I guess he took it upon himself to give himself a tip as once he assisted me with me bags, he drove off.


Before me was a short, fat, red clay-brick building that looked like it could be home to hookers or to the mayor of the city; I depends on perspective, I guess. I approached the wooden door that displayed the number ‘901’ and a cheap-looking sign saying “Zettie’s Place. $20 a night. $2 extra for breakfast.”

At least my cab driver was honest. 

I pushed the door, and in return, it opened for me. As I entered the building, the door triggered a bell, alerting the receptionist that someone new had entered the building. The walls were painted and off-white, though the paint was chipping in some places to reveal the brick-work. They were decorated with paintings of quaint looking cottages and farm lands. One wall played host to a fireplace, which I assumed was fake as it seemed to stop half-way up the wall. Suddenly, I got hit with the smell of the place; a perfect combination of wood, clay and week-old roses. I was intoxicated. 

“Can I help you?”

I turned around, and there at a big wooden desk was a blonde woman with a rather long face and a birthmark just below her jaw-line.

“Yes, um, I’d like a room for the next 3 days, if possible.”

The receptionist looked me up and down, focusing on my scarf around my head.

“Are you cold?” she asked me.

“P-pardon? Um, no I’m fine.”

“If you’re not cold then why are you wearing a scarf around your head like that?”

“It’s for- I’m muslim, It’s my culture.”

“Oh! Muslim girl huh?” the way she spat her words out, it seemed as though I was vermin to her.

“Yes, so would it be possible to get that room?” the smell of Zettie’s Place was suddenly poison to me and it was getting harder to breathe.

“Let me check.” she pressed no more than four buttons on the keyboard in front of her, not enough to do check the availability of rooms. “Sorry, all booked. Maybe you should try somewhere else.” 

The place seemed to be getting smaller, the quirks of the place became its weapons to get rid of me. The smell poisoning my lungs. The fake fireplace mocked me. The paintings no longed seemed quaint, they now depicted haunted houses. And finally, the cracking paint made me think of my own skin cracking off my body. The door suddenly got heavy and I feared that I would not be able to get out. Using all my might, I managed to escape the hell that was Zettie’s Place.


It took a minute to recover. When I caught my breath and felt as normal again, I decided to move on. I walked for 20 minutes, passing around 25 blocks before a cafe caught the corner of my eye. 

It was small and white and I do not understand why I was so drawn to it; perhaps it was two pots of hanging flowers- white roses planted in each; or perhaps it was the way the white wall stood out of the normal red brick work; or perhaps in was the hand painted sign, decorated with patterns taken straight out of palestine and planted in the heart of New York. Whatever drew me to this hole-in-the-wall, I knew that I had to satisfy my curiosity and go there. 

The inside of the cafe was even more delightful than the outside. The walls were lined with a pale blue, spotty wallpaper and the floorboards were made from a light wood. There were few tables, but each was decorated with a vase of the same white roses from the front pots. I was shown to a table and looked down at my menu. The food was expensive, more than I would like to spend on a meal, but there was something about this place. I ordered a pot of jasmin tea and a caesar salad, it was then that I saw him. 

© Copyright 2020 Isabelle Ambre. All rights reserved.

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