I Call My Brothers

Jonas Hassen Khemiri

Artwork by Hidetoshi Yamada


1/AMOR: I call my brothers and say:

3: Now is the time.

2: This is the day.

4: The clock has struck.

1: Wake up!

3: Hello—Wake up!

2: It is time to get up.

4: Get out of your beds.

1: Shave your faces.

2: Put on clean, neat clothes.

3: Observe:

1: The clothes should be anonymous.

4: But the clothes should not be too anonymous.

2: They must not be so anonymous that they stick out in their anonymity.

3: Exactly.

4: The goal is to blend in.

3: The goal is to become invisible.

1: Leave your keffiyeh at home.

2: Do not carry a suspicious bag.

4: There. Now you're ready.

3: Now you can leave your homes.

1: But before you go out you must arm yourselves.

2: What?

3: No, why?

1: Bring a knife. Sharpen a screwdriver. Smuggle a razorblade in your wallet.

4: Is that really necessary?

1: Now you are ready.

2: Leave your houses.

3: Transform yourselves into representatives.

4: Smile at everyone and everything.

1: Smile at neighbors.

2: Smile at pets.

3: Smile at mannequins.

2: If someone opens a door for you—thank them VERY loudly.

1: Apologize for existing.

3: Whisper on subways.

4: Laugh quietly at movie theaters.

2: Transform into invisible gas form.

We find ourselves on the street outside AMOR's apartment.

4/SUPERVISOR (to the command center): Visual contact, over.

1/AMOR: I went out on the street.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's leaving his apartment, over.

1/AMOR: I walked toward the subway.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's moving west, over.

1/AMOR: I took out my wallet, pulled out my card, and took the escalator down to the tracks.

4/SUPERVISOR: He is on his way down into the subway system—I repeat—he is on his way down into the subway system, over.

1/AMOR: I sat down on a bench and waited.

4/SUPERVISOR: He has a backpack with him, over.

1/AMOR: I didn't look curiously at my fellow passengers. I didn't write anything down in a notebook, I didn't take any pictures with my phone.

4/SUPERVISOR: A black backpack, just the right size to contain a . . .

1/AMOR: No one felt uncomfortable when they saw me.

4/SUPERVISOR: He seems very protective of his backpack, over.

1/AMOR: The train was coming and I stood up from the bench.

4/SUPERVISOR: There's something odd about the backpack, over.

1/AMOR: The first car was pretty full so I walked toward the next one.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's trying to lose us, over.

1/AMOR: Then I rode into the city.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's trying to blend in, over.

1/AMOR: I was mostly absorbed in my own thoughts.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's pretending to be unconcerned, over.

1/AMOR: I didn't look aggressively at anyone. I didn't read a suspicious book in a foreign language.

4/SUPERVISOR: We have him in sight, over.

1/AMOR: I got off and took the escalator up to Sergels torg.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's almost downtown, over.

(We find ourselves downtown. The speed of the lines below gradually increases until AMOR gets hold of VALERIA.)

1/AMOR: I wasn't being followed.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's a few minutes from the scene of the crime, over.

1/AMOR: I didn't look anxiously over my shoulder.

4/SUPERVISOR: He looks nervous, over.

1/AMOR: I came out onto the street and started walking at the same pace as everyone else and the sun was shining and the buses were driving and the snow was melting and dropped gloves lay dripping on electrical boxes and everything seemed normal.

4/SUPERVISOR: He is moving north on Drottninggatan. I repeat: north on Drottninggatan, over.

1/AMOR: Nothing was different, nothing was new, I wasn't being followed, no one was looking at me strangely, no one was thinking: he is one of them.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's moving toward the scene of the crime, over.

1/AMOR: I was part of this city—just like everyone else, just like the girl with the Twilfit bag and the guy with the inside-out hat.

4/SUPERVISOR: He has stopped moving—I repeat, now he is standing perfectly still, over.

1/AMOR: Just like the lady with the hot dog and the father with the double stroller.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's sweating, he looks nervous, over.

1/AMOR: I was part of the city, just like the barber who was smoking outside his shop.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's adjusting his backpack, over.

1/AMOR: Just like the guys in the identical soccer scarves, in line for the ATM.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's still standing still, please advise, over.

1/AMOR: I was just as much a part of the city as the police officers who stood ready at every street corner.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's changing direction, he's turning back, he's moving south, fast, over.

1/AMOR: Police dogs and batons, visors and pistols.

4/SUPERVISOR (increased intensity): He's starting to run, over!

1/AMOR: Shields and tear gas and mouths speaking sideways into radio transmitters.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's changing directions again, he's running east, over!

1/AMOR: Hands brushing holsters.

4/SUPERVISOR: Please advise, over.

1/AMOR: Eyes staring, heads nodding.

4/SUPERVISOR: Advise, over?

1/AMOR: The sweat and the backpack and the drill head and the knife in my back pocket.


1/AMOR: Valeria's name and Valeria's number and then the dial tones. One. Two. Three.

(Pause. The speed with which lines are delivered returns to normal.)

4/SUPERVISOR: He's stopped. He's taken out his phone, over.

1/AMOR: Four. Five. She doesn't answer. She's busy. She is a traitorous fucking . . .

(3 enters the role of VALERIA. She answers and AMOR calms down, breaks into a smile.)

3/VALERIA: Hello?

1/AMOR: Hi!

3/VALERIA: How many accounts would you like today?

1/AMOR (laughing): TONS of accounts! At least twenty-five!

3/VALERIA: And who rocks the hall?

1/AMOR: Santa rocks the hall! And slaughters the studio! By the way: whose rowanberries are these?

3/VALERIA: ASK the guy who sewed the blanket!

(AMOR and VALERIA laugh for a long time at their inside jokes.)

4/SUPERVISOR: He's speaking in code, over.

1/AMOR (to VALERIA): Classic.

3/VALERIA: So how are things?

1/AMOR: Good. How about you?

3/VALERIA: Oh, fine. I'm just at work, but I can talk.

1/AMOR: You've heard, right?

3/VALERIA: About the bomb? Yes, I heard. It's creepy.

1/AMOR: Fucking creepy.

3/VALERIA: Has it begun?

1/AMOR: What?

3/VALERIA: You know what I mean.

(AMOR looks at the SUPERVISOR.)

1/AMOR: I mean. The whole city is full of cops and everything feels different, but . . .

3/VALERIA: But . . .?

1/AMOR: I'm not sure how much of it is in my head, you know?

3/VALERIA: Typical you. Wait a sec . . . (pause. VALERIA at a distance) No, I'm sorry—all the sizes are out here. On Storgatan, maybe. No, I'm sorry, I can't do that but stop by there, I think they have it. (pause. VALERIA comes back.) Fucking idiot.

1/AMOR: Who?

3/VALERIA: The customer. So, what is the mood like there?

1/AMOR: It's . . . I don't know. I . . . (Whispering.) I feel like I'm being watched somehow.

(AMOR looks at the SUPERVISOR, who tries to look invisible.)

3/VALERIA: Haha, you're just too cute.

1/AMOR: What?

1/VALERIA: Of course you're being watched!

4/SUPERVISOR (to AMOR): Don't believe her.

3/VALERIA: You've been watched all your life!

4/SUPERVISOR: She's lying.

3/VALERIA: In fact, I'm watching you at this very moment.

4/SUPERVISOR: She's just kidding.

1/AMOR: Stop joking around.

3/VALERIA: But it's true. I know exactly where you are at this very moment.

4/SUPERVISOR: Test her!

1/AMOR: Prove it.

3/VALERIA: You are standing . . . just a second . . . I have to turn on my sensors. And zoom in a little. You are standing. On a sidewalk.

1/AMOR: Correct.

3/VALERIA: Not too far from a bus stop.

1/AMOR: Mmhmm.

3/VALERIA: And within your field of vision is a parking ticket machine. A manhole. And at least one commercial sign.

1/AMOR: That's right!

4/SUPERVISOR: So? Was that so hard?

3/VALERIA: And somewhere, there's a 7-11.

1/AMOR: Well . . .

3/VALERIA: Or a Pressbyrå. Or an H&M. Admit it, I'm right.

1/AMOR: Yes, that's right.

4/SUPERVISOR: No it isn't!

3/VALERIA: Who's the best?

1/AMOR (grudgingly): You're the best.

3/VALERIA: Who sips the slushie?

1/AMOR (grudgingly): You sip the slushie.

4/SUPERVISOR (to the command center): He's speaking in code again, over.


3/VALERIA: So what are you going to do now?

1/AMOR: Me?

3/VALERIA: Yeah, you have to do something.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's sitting down on a bench, over.

1/AMOR: Like what?

3/VALERIA: Typical you. Just do something! Anything. Something to confuse them. Something to make them get it.

1/AMOR: Get what?

4/SUPERVISOR: He's getting ready for an assignment, over.

3/VALERIA: Where are you exactly?

1/AMOR: Downtown. A few blocks from the cordons.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's still sitting on the bench, over.

3/VALERIA: So go over there.

1/AMOR: Where?

3/VALERIA: Go over to the cordons.

1/AMOR: Okay.

3/VALERIA: Are you walking over?

1/AMOR: Mmhmm.

3/VALERIA: Tell me when you're there. (pause) Wait a sec (With the receiver against her chest.) What size are you . . . no, that's a small, Mmhmm, all the ones in the window are smalls. Except the men's coats. Mmhmm. Exactly. (Back.) Idiot. Where are you now?

1/AMOR: I'm there.

3/VALERIA: What does it look like?

1/AMOR: It's just a burned-out car. Inside a ring of blue and white police tape.

3/VALERIA: So are there cops all over the place?

1/AMOR: Every corner.

3/VALERIA: Then it's simple. Just go up to the closest officer and . . . (whispering) grab his dick.

1/AMOR: Why would I . . .

3/VALERIA: Yeah, do it! It'll be funny. Walk up, grab his dick and say "I knew it" and then walk away.

1/AMOR: What do I get if I do it?

3/VALERIA: You don't have to sip the slushie. Your bed will be completely free of rowanberries.

1/AMOR: And?

3/VALERIA: What, you want more?

1/AMOR: Come up and visit soon.

3/VALERIA: Okay. I promise.

(We hear AMOR collecting himself and trying to give the impression that he's approaching a policeman.)

1/AMOR: So I did it, I said wait a second to Valeria and I snuck up closer to the cordons and there were three large policeman and one skinny one and they looked at me and I looked them in the eye and at first they looked away and then they looked back and I got closer and said: Hi, how's it going? And they didn't answer, they looked off over my shoulder, all but the skinny one, and when there were just a few meters left to go I bend forward, a little like I was going to tie my shoe, about like if I had just gotten a stomachache and when I looked up the skinny one was coming closer and I stuck out my arm, I grabbed his dick, I cried: Haha, I knew it, and then I ran back toward the bench and . . .

(We hear AMOR trying to sound like he's running away.)

3/VALERIA: What, did you do it?

(AMOR is out of breath.)

1/AMOR: Yeah, I did it!

3/VALERIA: You're joking.

1/AMOR: No, I'm not joking! I did it! I went up to a policeman and pretended to trip and then I did it.

3/VALERIA: Oh, lay off.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's still sitting on the bench, over.

(We realize that AMOR has been sitting on the bench this whole time.)

1/AMOR: So . . . when are you coming up?

3/VALERIA: I don't think that's such a good idea.

4/SUPERVISOR: He seems to be crumpling up, over.

1/AMOR: Why not?

3/VALERIA: You know why. (pause) I . . . I have to go now.

1/AMOR: Okay.

3/VALERIA: The store manager will be back soon and it has to look like I'm working.

1/AMOR: Then get to work.

3/VALERIA: Talk to you soon.

1/AMOR: Absolutely.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's still sitting on the bench, over. (pause) He's putting the phone in his pocket, over. (pause) He's still sitting there on the bench, over. (pause) He's hiding his face with one hand, over.

(Pause, in which we let our imaginations decide whether or not AMOR is crying.)

4/SUPERVISOR: Permission to terminate surveillance? Over.

1/AMOR (whispering): No.

4/SUPERVISOR: He's not the one we're looking for, over.

1/AMOR (whispering): Maybe that's exactly who I am.

4/SUPERVISOR: It is 1:42 p.m. and surveillance is terminated.

1/AMOR: Don't go.

4/SUPERVISOR: Over and out.

translated from the Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles