Cat Power “a hard-boiled, six-foot Somali tranny” works in a mental hospital in London reminding me of the now closed Friern Barnet Hospital. I wonder how many Black and Queer folks passed through its green metal doors and etched their names on the dirty yellow walls. Back to the story of Cat Power and the rest of her nursing crew with their fake names such as Holy Bible and Corinthians 12 – Nigerians mostly. The crew ruled the wards not giving a shit about what the patients or probably the doctors thought. After all this was a mental hospital and if the patients were deemed unfit for socialising it’s hardly surprising if the medical staff chose at least to act mentally challenged. Take the relationship between Riley [patient] and Zipporah [nurse]
He was an eighteen-year-old patient who doubled as Zipporah’s lapdog. They made for a surprisingly compatible duo. He was a rough skinhead from Stoke-on-Trent. She was a dreadlocked sadist who loved sycophants. He slobbered, she lengthened her leash.
Riley had a history of violence. He enjoyed “dancing with Snow White,” which muddled his head. He started mistaking his mother for the Treasury Department and tiefed from her ass like she was bricking blocks of gold. When she called the cops, he grabbed a knife and sliced her salami-pink face. The police busted him. But the devil danced in his eyes, which is a pretty way of saying he was Satan’s spawn. He pleaded insanity and landed here where Zipporah served as the perfect carer/drug-dealer, plying him with all the Xanax, Ativan and Valium he could need. Forget “Snow White.” Boy was now big on Benzos.
But the fun ends as Cat finds herself on the receiving end of Riley’s humiliating transphobia and sexual violence. She decides to take action in a very sweet revenge.
Using a mix of humour and irony, Diriye confronts the trope of the homophobic / transphobic muslim immigrant [Somali] whilst at the same time vividly exposes the insecurity and threat of violence which constantly lurks behind the cold yellow walls of the industrial medical complex.
Read Pavilion here or alternatively for a richer experience, listen to Diriye read the story on Sound Cloud
* Diriye Osman is a Somali-born, British writer, artist and editor. His fiction and non-fiction has been published by ‘Time Out’, ‘Attitude’, ‘Prospect’ and ‘Kwani?’ He is currently the deputy editor of ‘SCARF’ Magazine and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College, University of London. He is at work on a collection of short stories about gay and lesbian Somalis living in London and Nairobi.