The Ghobara Busters

Balloons are illegal in my hometown. There is no rhyme or reason behind the law; they’re simply outlawed- like flying kites, or consuming alcohol, or fucking in public.

Each morning, children are patted down by strange men and women as they enter schools. It’s become the norm. Balloon bearing children are separated from the rest, and forced to stand in various corners of various unfurnished rooms- extended time outs, if you will. They cry and cry and cry. Yet the next day there are repeat offenders. Stupid, you say? You should know better.

Do you know that the average child spends eighty seconds a day thinking about balloons? No? I thought so. Did you know that the balloon industry surpasses the condom industry by a long shot? No? You’d be surprised. Did you know that balloons account for 1/3 of the happiness of the world? No? Enlighten yourself. So on and so forth.

As fabricated as my statistics may be, the Ghobara Busters are very real! Teams of self-proclaimed vigilantes raid households and confiscate all kinds of balloons. Red balloons? Gotta go. Water balloons? I’ll take that ma’am. Foil balloons? Foiled. Weather balloons? Tut tut, you’re better off not knowing. In most cases parents are sent to rehab for balloon addictions and intent to supply balloons, while their sons and daughters are adopted by a senior GB- forever. In some cases, however, the GBs can be more lenient, allowing families to be united once the parents serve above five years in prison. This is usually because someone higher up in the GBs hierarchy vouches for the parents.

Any mention or instance of balloons in movies and television is censored out routinely. The Carl Fredricksen, in the acclaimed Up, all of a sudden seems to have an armchair that lifts off as it wills. The 1956 Albert Lamorisse featurette, The Red Balloon, simply became The Red, and makes no sense whatsoever. So on and so forth.

The GBs have slogans like “Your balloon, my terrorist” and “Make love not balloons.” They rank from “Balloon Patrol Officer” to “Supervisor Darts” to “Chief Executive Balloonmaster,” and are often seen in trios. It’s a ridiculous sight to witness and people don’t exactly know why they’re plucking out balloons from the sky with such innate marksmanship.

The GBs, without exception, wear protective clothing and blinders so they don’t get distracted easily. Once, many years ago, a group of GBs fell in love with balloons after they saw a two-year old girl playing with one that was polka-dotted. This resulted in the group releasing all balloons in their possession to a passersby. The passerby, puzzled by the situation, had scattered the balloons across town, which eventually led to the first balloon revolution. It was a media nightmare, and the GBs’ reputation suffered a massive blow. Some GBs were gunned down at public gatherings. Others were captured and put on display outside latex factories. This revolution was short lived. With new funding, and with a new code of operation, the GBs came back stronger than ever, fighting violence with violence. Sure enough, it was only a matter of time before balloons were gathered up again and set on fire. So on and so forth.

At the end of the year, the GB who nabs the most balloons gets a preemptive presidential pardon. He or she is free to commit one crime- any crime- and get amnesty. Past crimes have included bank robberies, drug trafficking, blasphemy, and fucking in public. Go figure. There’s been no murders so far, but the town anxiously awaits one.

One Ghobara Buster, in specific, was an asshole cut from a cloth above the rest of the assholes. His title “District Balloon Inspector,” was misleading. Round, sleazy and toxic, you could smell the latex (or maybe it was rubber) off him from a few blocks away. We would waddle like the Penguin in Batman, and spat regularly. Legend has it that he held balloon conventions in other towns and enticed balloon aficionados to migrate to my hometown. He would then raid them within the week. Everyone hated him the most, that pompous fucker, but with the law on his side, there was very little people could do. On he went, wobbling, beaming, spitting, flashing his badge. DBI. DBfuckingI.

Politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers have speculated for a while now. Why would something as joyful and innocent as a balloon be considered a town-wide threat? Were balloons harmful? A friend told me once that she had suffered third degree burns all over her body after lighting a hydrogen balloon on fire. But then why wasn’t hydrogen outlawed instead? Was it because there was a shortage of latex or rubber? My town was actually producing more latex and rubber than residents could possibly utilize! Was it because of environmental reasons? If so, why did they burn them to make things worse. Were people using them as condoms? Yes, but that’s besides the point; they could buy condoms from stores even if the balloons never existed in the first place. So on and so forth.

The GBs’ social media team is not helpful in addressing these speculations, remaining mostly silent on the issue. Occasionally, the team would tweet, “Fuck balloons!” or “Balloons are for losers!” The hashtag “#GBsInAction” often accompanied photographs and video footage of the GBs’ raids. The Twitter page has 400k followers. My town has 10k residents.

We’re currently hard at work, planning a second revolution, a mightier and more aligned revolution that rids this town of the Ghobara Busters once and for all. Gut ’em at the roots. Anagram International, the largest manufacturer of foil balloons in the world, has provided us with enough munitions for a small army.

Call me, email me, tweet at me- find me. Balloons were never meant to hang this low.

 

 

Identity Theft

Smoke my weed. Pet my dog. Destroy my toilet. Drink my liquor. Hide my homework. Have my fun. Fling my stones. Like my Instagram. Red my blues. Fly my kites. Prime my parties. Right my lefts. Promote my cause. Pad my ego. Rep my vibe. Chip my wood. Be my friend. Light my cig.

Hold my drink.

Light my cig. Fight my fights. Love my parents. Take my naps. Lick my wounds. Salt my steak. Use my jokes. Hurt my feelings. Crave my chocolate. Hate my Mondays. Breathe my oxygen. Stalk my Facebook. Swat my bugs. Find my iPhone. Scold my help. Sip my tea. Kick my cat. Defend my arguments. Dampen my spirits. Smile my smile. Mind my manners.

Call my number.

Mind my manners. Run my business. Lose my girlfriend. Steal my passwords. Delete my emails. Stock my cupboard. Comfort my peers. Piss my pants. Feel my skin. Spite my elders. Board my flights. Throw my fits. Cut my communications.

Scout my property.

Cut my communications. Plot my murder. Distract my dog. Say my name. Bruise my knees. Shoot my gun. Congeal my blood. Wipe my mess. Wash my face. Close my eyelids. Bump my fist. Frisk my corpse. Pocket my ID. Burn my body. Bribe my police.

Completes my blog posts.

Music and Literature

I don’t like to boast about menial things- momentous things, maybe, but certainly not ordinary things. I went through my fair share of breakups in and around the time I was in college. It had an overwhelming, almost addictive effect on me; one day I’d be lost in innumerable hours of intimate conversation, and the next- well the next would entail a cyclic melancholy I soon became vigorously attached to.

Musical allegiances would change overnight; From Portugal. The Man to Neil Young. From Noori to Tina Sani. My mind reacted almost preemptively, all set for a week of brooding with a hint of revelry as I blasted tunes; decibel counts increased as every track repeated itself, once, twice, and then if I was feeling extra miserable, a third time. I’m sure it must have been torturous for my neighbors, but I never quite heard from them- or rather, heard them- during these stints; I’m sure people plotted my eviction. But I was an island by my own volition, and quite happily so, as contradictory as this may sound. How could I do justice to someone’s effect on me if I did not mourn them?

My choice of literature also three-sixtied. Perhaps I was always attracted to nostalgic accounts of lovers in great cities, but I sure pretended that I wasn’t when things were honky-dory. I’d put the half-read Salingers and Miranda Julys down and pick up thumbed-through Nerudas, Kunderas and Murakamis. They too, it seemed then, were happy to entertain my sudden revolts. It could be that I simply read them because I missed them, but I’d like to think it was something more than that, something innate. For a short while, I’d be the guy on Facebook putting up deep and heavy statuses. I’m sure I was a bore.

I’d become calmer, less like myself, perhaps more like myself- one never knows with these things. I have to say I liked myself a bit more when I was muted. Arrogance, and the desire to appease bled right out of me. For a few days, I became tolerable. I think young love is a beast of its own and it seems socially adequate to appear grim in times of apparent turmoil. Human emotion is relative after all.

Maybe I now long for the day when this distinction between the real me and the true me becomes as binary as it once was- but maybe this is just fine.

Trying Difference

I might fit the bill.
I walk to the window and open the grill
I’m heavy on liquors Irishmen distill.

Believe me, I’m brave.
Her shirt slips away
There’s ink on her shoulders that finds its own way.

He prays for his sister.
Slumped in a corner she pleads for assistance
Called him last night then fucked with the system.

You caught my attention.
You fought me for love and broke through these fences
Hundreds of multiplicities you never dare mention.

Most people don’t care.
She resumes a hundred-year-old affair
And facts rain down on waterproof ears.

I find this pretentious.
I looked through your past and know you’re relentless
I’m thinking in voices that spread like infections.

He probably think she’s kind.
She fights for a place in his mind
Contingency plans for a place that she primed.

We fucked with the system.
Lurking and stalking we end up with blisters
If you look t0o hard you might even miss them.

How To Slap Yourself Out of Pettiness

Stagnancy frustrates me, and I often don’t even know when I’m frustrated. A couple of days ago I found myself becoming increasingly agitated with someone’s decision to post a poorly edited photo on Facebook. I couldn’t stand the thought of people not caring about what they shared on social media; it drove me nuts. I cared quite a lot, and there was no denying it. I pointed out the picture to my siblings, my parents, and my grandparents, trying to evoke the same reaction I had from them. I exaggerated trivial flaws and actively played the individual in the photo down. All of this happened because I had one too many seconds of time at my disposal- an idle mind can bring out the worst in anyone.

Then, starting to feel more and more like an idiot, I channeled my inner me like a shaman; I took a step back, a breath in, and thought, hey! Why in the f*** do I even care? I don’t even use Facebook regularly. This is the only time I’m ever going to see this picture, and it has nothing to do with me in the first place. I should think girls, food, life ambitions, food, golf- in that particular order. And so I did. It was that simple. I wrote two articles and planned my weekend out; this shit isn’t worth my two cents.

Conversations in a Stairwell

“Hellooo?”
“Hello.”
“Are you below me?”
“Depends on where you are. Are you above me?”
“Depends on where you are.”
***
“Let’s do this quick. No one’s coming.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, there’s forty floors in this building.”
***
“These cigarettes take forever to finish. Should have bought the short ones.”
“Suck it up, dude.”
***
“It’s about time they put some lights here.”
“You own the company, Bob.”
“Oh.”
***

Flatland

Precisely one year ago, scientists came to a new conclusion: that the Earth wasn’t round. It never had been. We had been wrong and 17th century Catholics had been right from the start.

All of a sudden, as if awaiting this realization, freighters and airplanes began to lose their bearings and slip into space, tumbling into a dark abyss that humanity had previously thought to have found meaning in. Satellites drifted away.

Mountains suddenly became thousands of miles tall, dwarfing everything around them. Water from the oceans began exponentially trickling off the edges.

Globes were smashed and maps were hailed.

Environmentalists began constructing boundaries to keep the water on Earth, and construction businesses boomed. Rich people started buying property near the middle of the vast expanse, where the temperatures were hot and constant, and the real estate industry boomed.

Global citizens at the edges threw out their scales, claiming that the scales were over-reporting their weight, and the fitness industry went bankrupt. Miners drilled through the crust and plummeted into nothingness, and mining companies went bankrupt.

The moon was an illusion too. After all, how could a flatland facilitate the orbit of a sphere? The revelation of these facts affected the tides, and more importantly, the Earth’s pathway around the Sun. We were hors d’oeuvres, waiting to be gobbled up. Still, in the chaos, petty arguments prevailed.

Conspiracy theories began to emerge; some claimed the Earth was round, and were thrown off the edge. Some claimed that math and kinetic theories were still valid, and were thrown off the edge. A silly man who nagged too much was thrown off the edge. Clowns, wasps, tomatoes, detritus, all off the edge.

The underside of the Earth, though, was dark, cold and inhospitable. It was widely feared; freezing temperatures and the lack of vegetation made it inhabitable for the overwhelming majority of life. Yet some stubborn and repulsive creatures still crawled out of the void. Enter Donald Trump.

Donkey Welfare

There’s a welfare society near a factory that I frequently visit. I drive by it on some mornings and have always viewed it as a remarkable establishment. It’s been around for about a decade, where before only unleveled ground lay. Now this welfare society is very peculiar: it is a welfare society for horses, mules and donkeys. Yet it is a building. A very large one at that. I can only imagine what goes on in there, since I have never seen a living soul walk in or out of it.

Do the people that run the society give these animals offices and airlift then to the fifth floor? I’d imagine so. I think of a donkey in a suit sitting behind a desk reading the morning paper, ordering his secretary around. Every now and then he kicks out at her, not because of anything she has done but because he’s plain antsy. He likes his coffee black with three sugars, even though the doctor has repeatedly asked him to keep off the sucrose. But Suit-Donkey doesn’t care, he’s a rebel. Suit-Donkey wears sunglasses indoors and cracks rather unfunny, lewd jokes that everyone at the office is obliged to laugh at in fear of his wrath. Suit-Donkey tips over the water-cooler if he’s having a bad day and makes astute yet painful comments about his wife’s bodyweight in her absence. I already hate the guy. Suit-Donkey is an ass.

First Impressions

I met Jane on a clear Saturday night, weighed down by a combination of blended scotch and homegrown marijuana. She sat on top of a stone ledge that overlooked a fire pit in the patio, legs tightly crossed. It wasn’t her beauty that got my attention, but her expression; a hybrid of sullen and calm. Almost as if she knew she was being watched, she kept her eyes discreet and focused on the flames. When I eventually made my way towards her general direction, she looked up instinctively and readjusted the hem of her silk dress, her freshly polished nails gleaming in the firelight. We locked eyes for a fraction of a second, and just as her face lightened up I stopped in my tracks. I drew out a cigarette from my pack. Turning to face the other direction after lighting my smoke, I pretended that I was just people watching.

The Battle of the Pious

The maulvi’s in the mosques around my house have five competitions every day. They try to one-up each other at the crack of dawn for about fifteen to seventeen minutes, and then pretend like it never happened. This goes on till right after sundown, after which I imagine they drink honey-lemon-water and rest their throats for the next showdown.

I see them on the streets outside strangers’ houses, discussing community betterment and righteous living, but when it’s time for the Azaan, they sneakily retreat back into their domains, rubbing their hands and clearing their throats. You can see that their eyes narrow, their pace becomes brisk and they only have one mission- to scream as loudly as they can into their microphones so people take notice.

Not to say the Azaan isn’t a calming and rejuvenating beckon. It’s harmonious and allows even the most occupied person the opportunity to self-reflect. It’s a glorious proclamation. But over where I live, some shit isn’t right.

I’d understand if there was a solitary call to prayer for a neighborhood. We would enjoy it, open our windows to hear it better even. Or even if multiple mosques did want to have separate Azaans and they coordinated so that they wouldn’t overlap. Maybe they could be spaced out at four minute intervals. Maybe they could all have walkie-talkies and start at the same time, making one synchronized mega Azaan that would rock the neighborhood to the core. I’m sure they’d like that more anyway.

I saw them carry in a stereo system into one of the smaller mosques this morning. Not just any stereo but one that you see at weddings and high-budget parties that purposely make it harder for two sane people to have a conversation. The ones that if you go close enough disrupt your heartbeat and jumpstart your system. I saw two little girls in the house next to the mosque crying as they peered over from their terrace into the mosque’s courtyard and said goodbye to their peace of mind. Doomed before damnation.