Learned Helplessness

by Kaleem Hawa

I leave the pool, dripping and in my swim shorts, and I stumble around the lobby, eyes searching wildly, until the hotelier comes over with a question on his face, and I ask him what happened, and he shrugs and casts about for someone to dump responsibility onto, and his eyes land on a young Algerian porter, cute with curly brown hair, and he beckons him over and asks him to take care of the problem, and as we begin to walk away a Pied-Noir comes screeching over, informing me that a pubic hair has been found on a lady’s shoe in the showers, and that after exhaustive analysis of the colour, curvature, and follicular circumference of the hair, she and the hotelier have deduced that it must belong to an Arab man, and that I am the only one of those in the hotel with access to the pool, and therefore that I must be a creep, stalking the women’s bathroom, and before I can defend myself, the lights turn off and the birthday singing begins, and I give a laugh of relief!, and my friends all emerge, and so do my enemies, and their friends, and they shake my hand, each in turn, congratulating me on another year of life, and a table is wheeled out and on it is the cake, and one man, who I had fought with for so long, takes both my hands in his own, and embraces me, kissing my cheek, and whispering, “I forgive you, I forgive you,” and all is well, and I eat my birthday cake, and I swim in the pool, and I forget the war.