Nonfiction Feature: “kafir 1 & 2” By Tarfia Faizullah

 

kafir 1

 

It’s been twenty years since my sister died in the car accident. For twenty years I’ve been telling slightly different versions of her death and the aftermath. None of them are true. All of them are true.

*

Kufrul-‘Inaad is disbelief out of stubbornness. This applies to someone who knows the truth and admits to knowing the truth, and knows it with his or her tongue, but refuses to accept it and refrains from making a declaration.

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One night during college at a party in someone’s dark dorm room, someone decided it would be fun to make a drinking game out of how many things in common we had with our siblings. The lava lamp in the corner made our faces seem like the topographies of far- away planets. “What about you, Tarfia?” he asked.

*

“Throw into hell every obstinate disbeliever,” Allah says a few verses later. “Why are you so stubborn?” everyone in my life who has ever loved me has asked. “Why is it so hard for you to back down?”

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“I don’t have any siblings,” I said, thrumming the amber neck of the beer bottle with my fingers.

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In verse 50:19 of the Qur’an, Allah says to the disbeliever, “And the intoxication of death will bring the truth; that is what you were trying to avoid.”

*

“She’s not dead,” I said when my parents came to visit me in the hospital a few days after my sister had gone into cardiac arrest. My arm was in a sling, freshly plastered hours after surgery that was meant to correct the damage done to my shoulder during the car accident. My mother’s face was a map of bruises. I couldn’t look directly at any of the new countries of her ruptured skin. “She can’t be.”

*

How can death simultaneously intoxicate and bring truth? If the very cells that allow us to experience intoxication stop functioning, how do our brains process, allow, or deny truth? That is to say, truth is like memory in that it is not so much a set of discrete memories as much as it is a set of processes by which we encode, store, and retrieve information.

*

“It’s just me and my sister,” I say to the lipsticked and rouged woman ringing up the bottle of perfume I’m buying for my mother at the makeup counter at Dillard’s. It is strange how easy it is to not continue with “…but she hasn’t been alive for twenty years.” “I’m about five years older,” I say, and she lights up. “That’s the age difference between me and my sister!” she says, and I smile and sign my name on the credit card slip with a flourish.

*

In many ways, kufr is synonymous with atheism, which is the rejection of a belief in the existence of deity. But is it still disbelief if you are rejecting belief in someone or something that no longer exists?

 

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Mirror Neurons: Interview with Nuar Alsadir

 

Indiana Review is accepting submissions to the Poetry Prize until March 31, 2019. Final judge Nuar Alsadir will select a winner to receive $1000 and publication. Hannah Kesling, our current Poetry Editor, chats with her about the genre, empathy, unconventional ways of “finding” poems. Listen to some of Alsadir’s work here: https://vimeo.com/283671638.

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“At the Center”: Interview with R.O. Kwon

 

Indiana Review is accepting submissions to the Fiction Prize until March 31, 2019. Final judge R.O. Kwon will select a winner to receive $1000 and publication. Soo Jin, our current Fiction Editor, asks her to talk about the “‘default’ gaze” of literary audiences, what she’s reading now, and a couple other things. Find out more about Kwon here: https://ro-kwon.com/

 

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2019 Poetry & Fiction Twitter Contest #IRDelights

 

Our 2019 Poetry & Fiction Prize is open until March 18!

With our Blue Light series approaching, we want to draw inspiration from one of our authors and announce our latest Twitter contest! Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, a collection of meditations on the things that bring him joy, was released February 12, 2019.

For this contest, we’re asking you to tweet us a “delight” of your own. For an example, check out “Loitering is Delightful” and the sample tweets below. To get your own copy of The Book of Delights, click here.

One lucky (and clever) winner will receive a free entry into our 2019 Fiction & Poetry Prize and an IR Prize Pack. Our favorite runner-ups will also receive IR Prize packs and, most importantly, be forever immortalized in our blog posts and on our Twitter page. They will also have the divine privilege of having their work read by Ross himself! Who would pass that up?

Delight us with your keen observations, and don’t miss out on your opportunity to apply to our Fiction and Poetry Prize by March 31!

 

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Fiction Feature: “Self-Portrait” By Halimah Marcus

 

Self-Portrait

 

Going to the Frick was Mabel’s idea. The purpose was for her and I to get to know one another—me, the new wife, her, the old friend. Or not that old, really. She and Daniel had become close in the last year, which was unusual, given his moratorium on new friendships. Friends were demanding. Friends required time. Friends were a threat to the next drawer-bound novel.

            On the Q train he stood above me, feet apart, my knees between his. Daniel never sat on trains unless they were empty. How he considered the needs of others before his own, before mine, it made me feel inferior but I also respected it.

            “I used to have a company pass to the Frick,” Daniel said. That was back when he worked at the hedge fund, before he saved enough money to quit. “Maybe it still works.”

            I held the back of his knee and grinned up at him. “Either way,” I said.

            The three of us met on 70th street on a lukewarm spring day. I wore a short skirt with a crochet scarf—I didn’t like the outfit but suspected Mabel would, based on pictures of jewelry she’d made that I’d seen on her website, crafty stuff. If Daniel was anxious I couldn’t tell—anxiousness was not one of the qualities he displayed visibly. Those were limited to anger, satisfaction, and resolve. Most days, lust wasn’t even on the list. He made love almost entirely with a straight face, buried the lede on orgasms.

            As we milled about the galleries it was difficult for all three of us to stay together, so I drifted apart to the far wall or the next room. Whenever I looked for Daniel he seemed always to be with Mabel, their tolerance for each painting exactly matched. I sulked by pretending to be more independent than I felt, charting my own course through the wooden and white rooms.

            Truthfully, I wasn’t all that interested in paintings. I was practical—I appreciated culture but I didn’t confuse art as passion and I think Daniel liked that about me. I left room for him to be the creative one.

            Eventually Mabel came and brought me to stand in front of Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait” where Daniel was waiting. It was a brushy number with a lot of affectionate self-loathing in brown paint.

            I thought I was standing next to Daniel but then somehow Mabel was between us. “Peter Schjeldhal says this is the best painting in all of New York,” she said.

            I let her stay there. “And what does he say is the best pizza?”

            Daniel intervened. “I think he posed it as a question—is Rembrandt’s ‘Self-Portrait’ the best painting in New York?”

            “Well, I think it is,” Mabel said.

            “Have you seen them all?” I couldn’t help it.

            “At least the permanent collections.”

            We sidestepped to the adjacent painting, which was also a Rembrandt, and I asked her to send me the article. At least I was trying. “The Polish Rider” had more hope to it, an out-of-sight sun that was either rising or setting and a white horse that caught the light.

            “I will,” she said. “And I brought something to read about this one. But I’ll save it for dinner.”

            “You’ve made quite a syllabus.” A comment that Daniel, poor guy, let me get away with.

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