Detroit Do Mind Dying by Hassan Mahamdallie

He stumbled out from in between two corrugated-iron and wooden huts, onto the pavement and spun round to face me. I was walking towards him along one of the miles-long straight highways that bisect Detroit’s suburbs. Detroit: Motor City – built by cars and built for cars. Home of Ford, GM, Chrysler, Motown records and the Nation of Islam.There was no one else on the Rustbelt stretch of road, only him and me.

He came into focus as I got nearer to him. White guy in his late sixties, swaying gently, wearing loud check golfing trousers hiked up round his belly button and a dirty-coloured T-shirt through which his scrawny arms poked. A few yards further and I could make out his creased and stubbled face, with yellow flecks of spit dried at the corners of his thin lips.

He wants some money. The story pours out – he was homeless and had been sleeping on the sofa of his nephew’s shack (or ‘holiday home’ as the improbable sign facing the road would have passers-by believe) but his nephew was a crack-head and he had beaten him up and stole his monthly social security cheque to score some rocks and now he was properly homeless, but his sister on the other side of the city had said she would put him up and he needed five dollars for the bus. I gave him the $5. I asked him his name – it was John – and he asked me mine. ‘Hassan? – are you a Muslim?’ I realised he hadn’t had a proper conversation for a long time. ‘I was in Vietnam. I would never go to Afghanistan or Iraq – those fuckin’ bastards have really messed it up for the Arabs. I know you are good people, I don’t care what they say – Mohammed was a good man and I believe he ascended to heaven’… Read more