“Paranoia” by Said Sayrafiezadeh is a mix of humor and friendship set to the beat of the buildup for war and the slurring words of the news-cycle. The characters are in their early twenties and setup as opposites. Roberto has lived in the United States illegally since high school. His father and mother went back to Chile when their student visas expired and left Roberto to fend for himself and finish school. Dean on the other hand is a white U.S. citizen living some vague middle class existence. Where Roberto is impulsive, innocent, and struggling to live, Dean is steady, questioning though still somewhat innocent, and doesn’t seem to have many worries.
The two characters have a great relationship. At times, it seems like they are more like brothers than friends. Of course, the inevitable happens, that’s what it does, right? Inevitably happens. Roberto is deported. The deportation feels like the subtext Sayrafiezadeh has woven into the story. The characters complain about the heat, then the cold. They talk of war, about invasion. Troops move out. All of these things happen, and the characters don’t really care about them. The weather and the war are of little consequence.
Likewise, Roberto is afraid of being deported, and then he is deported. Dean discovers this on a visit when Roberto doesn’t answer the door. Finally, Roberto’s boss beckons Dean into his shop and tells him the news. The story ends with Dean walking home, and he doesn’t seem to care. Sure, there’s a reference to Dean’s childhood, and perhaps it represents a yearning for a simpler time, or a return to innocence, but that doesn’t really come through. If Dean, Roberto’s best friend, doesn’t care, then why should the reader?