No True Believers by Rabiah York Lumbard Read Online (FREE)
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Dear Mr. Epstein,
I’m writing you because you know me. U.S. mail is the only safe way I could think of to get in touch. Weren’t you the one who told me that the federal government was mostly just a postal service at first? A funny fact from a music teacher. I’ll miss those funny facts.
I have to ask two favors.
First, you know that I am not capable of doing whatever it is they say I’ve already done, and whatever is about to come next. So please tell the federal government or anyone else who comes knocking on your door that I am not the bomber of May 3. They are.
Second, you have to promise me that you’ll watch over Salma B. Her life is in danger. If you trust me as much as I trust you, then you already know that she is even less capable of this insanity than I am. Although right now I honestly don’t know what I’m capable of. I’m sure that’s what they wanted.
And I don’t care about incriminating myself with that thought, because it’s too late.
I keep thinking of the word you always use to get me to practice scales, to play the way I wanted to play, so that one day the instrument would almost feel like an extension of my body. “Discipline.” That’s what they have, on a level that I still can’t understand. Their instruments are human beings, and their music is death. I know how crazy that sounds, but if you remember it in some way, it might be enough to keep you safe. And if you think I’ve lost it, maybe that will keep you safe, too. Either way: please tear up this letter and the envelope when you’re finished and burn the scraps.
I guess that’s three favors.
Three weeks Earlier
WE NEVER SEE the world exactly as it is. We see it through whatever lens we choose. I never understood the difference until that sunny Thursday afternoon, the last day of April, when I stood face to face with Mariam in her driveway. In that moment the world became clear in all its stark ugliness. I was losing my best friend. Mariam Muhammad: my soul sister, lifelong neighbor, and general co-conspirator in all things.
My eyes fell to the driveway. It was ridiculous; even the pavement made me want to cry. We’d played hopscotch here. And there was no use spinning it as “Oh, she’ll come back to Arlington all the time.” We knew better, both of us. Seeing each other from now on would involve passports and expensive airfares, clearances and checkpoints. Also, eight time zones. The truth was that she wasn’t moving. She was fleeing. She and her whole family were now refugees—off to Dubai, the new Promised Land—an escape from Mason Terrace, a cul-de-sac so ridiculously safe and suburban that local real estate sites featured it to prove the entire neighborhood’s safety and suburban-ness.