by Christopher Williams
My name is Mahir and I do not exist. I feel. I feel air and pain and heat. But I’m not here anymore. Or maybe I never was. Dramatic, but effective. I am the middle child of Senator Jalil Carter, an American politician and Dr. Sana Carter, a Lebanese immigrant child therapist. My brothers, Irfan and Karim are both gifted. Irfan speaks 3 languages and is about to attend Howard for philosophy AND applied physics. Ridiculous. Karim, the eldest is an incredible dancer and singer and I’m pretty sure he wants to be on Broadway but as far as our parents are concerned, he needs a serious ambition and let performing be his hobby. I like Karim slightly more than Irfan. Not only because we’re closer in age but I feel like he’s the only one who sees me. I never thought I was hard to miss. Sea foam green curly hair, shaved completely on the right side and back. A Tupac nose piercing with a traditional Indian bridal nose chain. Pink shirts and leather jackets. Upper thigh grey patterned shorts that I made myself. And a pair of dark sea green Docs. My light brown skin compliments everything in my closet and my black eyes are, in my humble opinion, mysterious and enchanting. But none of it matters because I’m clearly invisible and even as I speak I feel my body dissolving. The only time I remember being seen is when my father was first elected. Daddy was so proud the day he was sworn in…well, until he saw what I was wearing that day: a three piece peach suit with leather biker gloves and a studded bow tie. Senator Carter wasn’t pleased. “Must you wear that TODAY? There will be photographers…” He reminded me. Mommy vanished upstairs and returned with a quaint white dress and black heels– the outfit I wore my first week at Spelman before I transferred. “Now that should work.” My physicality fizzled away yet again. I changed my clothes to wear the outfit my mother picked out but kept my black oxfords on. I hated heels just as much as local journalists hated seeing me in them. Reports would say I walked like a newborn giraffe or a broken deer. But it’s not like they talked about me often so they had to really reach to write something about me. Which they’d write…then erase. They usually talked about the boys and their accomplishments. Karim’s degree from UCLA or Irfan’s linguistic talents. If they talked about me it was only because of what I was wearing. “Amal Carter shocked attendees with her distracting new haircut this evening…” They truly refuse to call me by ‘Mahir’ even though my driver’s license even says it now. I can’t help but think they’d list my accomplishments if I was as “classy” as my mother. “Dr. Sana Carter recently published a book on child cognitive development and the public school system…” blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book and mommy is absolutely genius but I deserve just a little recognition too. Hell, at least 5 chapters in that book are about me! I really do have my own accomplishments though. I’ve not fully finished yet, but I’ll be presenting an entire collection at Fashion Week in a few months and, honestly, besides Karim, no one could care any less. I am to be hidden. Locked away. High up in the bell tower with stone gargoyles and pigeons. Just a shadowy figure. There’s no place for the Carter’s queer daughter. Irfan tried to get me to look at it differently– “Pop’s Black and mom wasn’t even born here, do you know how hard it is for them to get any positive attention as it is? They love you as you are. Just tone it down a bit.” Toned down Mahir was no Mahir at all. So here I am, talking to yet ANOTHER reporter and hoping to be seen as ‘Mahir, the artistic child of the Carter power couple’ and not ‘Amal, the gender confused daughter of a senator and an immigrant. When exactly will Mahir get to be seen?