Amir Hassan


I realize that this post might have been an enigma for many (or any) who stumbled here (and a lot of good this will do people who’ve already left), but it is about Misti and Amir Hassan. We knew Misti and Amir from student housing in UC Village. I’ve known them these last 9 years or so. I saw them the last time I was in Berkeley. When we moved Misti minded the kids and cleaned the house as we moved our belongings onto the truck to come East. Misti, it seems, killed Amir. This is not, in the least, about me. This is all about Amir’s Death and Misti’s “survival.” I think that she has entered a new. deeper. more profound level of hell with this heinous and pathetic act. For some -the troubled- there is never enough pain, scorn or opprobrium, though I think Misti’s found the mother-lode.

From My Journal:

Amir Hassan is dead. He was found dead with Misti, his mother, who had numerous non-life-threatening self-inflicted wounds. The word is that they will charge Misti in Amir’s death. I cannot begin to process the grand scale of this horror. I am so sad. He was a good person, and I wish that this hadn’t happened to him. I am overwhelmed by the finality of death. I am shocked by the capricious nature of murder. I am terrified by the possibility of filicide (killing your child). If anyone can do it, we all could do it. I won’t do it, but now that I know one who has the idea has gotten out of the genie’s bottle of possibility.

A small consolation is that there are lots of good and kind words floating around the ether (internet) about Amir, our lives in the courtyard, Misti’s pain, and the gaping maw that Amir’s death leaves in the world I knew before 7:43 pm yesterday. But there will never be Amir Hassan at my door, playing light saber Jedi with Mason, swinging a wiffle bat, studying at Chandler’s kindergarten; the world is forever incomplete.


Misti always was a self-mutilator. I remember talking to her about it. I reckon that I was probably less kind than I should have been, judgment being my character defect of choice. I tried to share my experience strength and hope, but you need a willing and hopeful person to “catch” this optimism. Misti was not that person. I know when I’m “yessed,” I think. I recall that she told me that the cutting was a way of punishing herself and reminding herself that she was alive. I know that there was a positive veneer that she put on the act of slicing her flesh. I think that I believed her. I was into the vainglorious masochism of riding my bike up Grizzly Peak repetitively at that time, so I loved pain too. It reminds me that I am alive. It reminds me that I have a choice, and that I can make anything happen, as long as I can feel: pain or pleasure.

My understanding of this whole thing is incomplete. While I can relate to the self-mutilation, self-abnegation, and self-denial, it is all based on my, well, myself. I have always had a good strong sense of my perverse sanity. While I have red-lined my life for months and years to the point where I was temporarily crazy, I was never at the point where a good night’s sleep, food, and a touch of sobriety wouldn’t clear things up. I always saw the importance of the self in society, you know, the id and the ego, the me. When I was “Thinking of committing some dreadful crimeI always had the safety net of a basically sound mind to fall back on.

I knew that Misti was trying to find that when she was cutting herself. I am sure that the sobering pain and scarlet blood of the slices on her arm always brought her back to what passed for the quotidian, the daily, the mundane. I could imagine the secret satisfaction that cutting yourself would bring when dealing with the commonplace people and problems of suburban single parenthood. (“Yes, I’m fighting for my child-support, talking with other parents, taking my kid to karate, alone again, but I can, after he’s asleep, open up this flesh that people take so seriously [Misti is a handsome woman, never forget that] and look at the inner workings and liquid mainspring that keeps it all going. I do not respect what can be seen without pain. I am deeper. I look inside.”)

My suspicion is that the pain stopped bringing her back. Simple cuts of her arm stopped bringing her back to the pedestrian world she was forced to inhabit with us. She became, I imagine, inured to the daily cuts and bruises of her little life. I am sure that she needed a bigger pain to bring her back. I know that as the little deaths of arm-wounds stopped working she began to worry that she would lose the little prince. The idea of not having your alpha and omega readily available is the most terrifying concept imaginable. Once in a while I let my dark mind go there and battle and fight the evil forces that I’d imagine could rob me of my family, but always my rational self returns, asserts supremacy and banishes the paper-maché mad fears that I build in the cave of my mind. I cannot imagine what it would be like if the “self” that I relied on stopped coming and I was left with the terrors I had created.

When Misti’s blood stopped calling her “self” back, the monsters of her mind, no doubt, became unstoppable. To rescue Amir from those who do not love him as well as she did, in the exact way proscribed by her mania, she had no choice but to send him beyond pain. To think of your child sitting in someone else’s house, at someone else’s table, on someone else’s couch, dancing to someone else’s music, while having poison poured in his ear about you, his mother is a fate to terrible to conceive of.

God I know just how the awful child-welfare-horror comes together. Stephen King writes the civil service test and holds meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Order. I know just how it feels. I can imagine the very linoleum, fluorescent lighting and cubicle where custody would be lost. I can picture the cursor on the outdated software which will perform the coup de grâce. When people say that they cannot imagine how a person, a parent, a mother could do something horrible, I say that they don’t want to know. I can imagine. It is not that Misti did it, it is that all of us could do it.

20 responses to “Amir Hassan

  1. This is a beautiful piece, Stafford. Thank you.

  2. Stafford,

    I weep at the truth and the pain of your words. We are so fragile and so flawed as human beings and meant to go on to do the best we can, in spite of it. I, too, will turn away from the computer today and try to enjoy my family in this far away place….

  3. dear stafford, i’m so sorry you lost friends like this. how devastating. amir’s death, as you say, is within imagination but beyond belief. if only there had been another way for them both, especially misti, upon whose shoulders everything fell.

    my condolences.

  4. The comments here and to my gmail are gratifying. I am glad that I am not alone, and I think of how alone in the crowd Misti must have felt and I want to hug you all so closely. God, I love life: even when it brings this pain. Thank you for the comments here.

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  7. it’s mother lode, not mother-load. Check

  8. Thanks Delphine, We can always use some help.

  9. Stafford,

    I just posted this on another of your pages but realize this is the place. I am a fellow UC Berkeley alum and a reporter for the East Bay Express newspaper, and was hoping to excerpt a bit from your blog postings about Amir. If so, would you prefer that I use your actual name or your web name? Your insights are so incredibly eloquent and would add a lot to the ongoing discussions here in Berkeley about this lost beautiful boy. Thank you — please let me know. — anneli

  10. That was unpeakably beautiful and wise, Stafford. Thank you for your inclusive sense of what is human; without that, we are lost.

    Still, though: goddammit.

  11. It is funny how often we want more drama and mystery in our lives. But when we get it, it is often horror.

  12. Stafford, I have no idea what led me to check in at another blog (I hadn’t been there in months) and then onto your piece. But I’m glad I did. This was very moving.

    I, too, was a single mother (of three) who also suffers from an anxiety disorder. Thankfully, I met my husband when I did; my youngest son was diagnosed as bipolar (and ADHD and Overanxious Disorder) at the age of 8, and it has been a constant battle of mental illness around here. Without someone here who loves and supports me boundlessly, I can’t imagine what hell life would be. I only wish Misti had felt that boundless support and love; it seems like the support was there in her friends, but she could not, for whatever reason, feel it.

  13. Wow,

    Someone reads my stuff and put it in print (or on a real website)! I am flattered. I wish my job was writing.

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  16. hey. i am an old friend of misti & amir’s. we havne’t been in touch for about 3 years, so, i randomly googled her. today october 14, 2008. in my google search, news of one year ago, almost to date, comes up. misti killed amir. i am sickened and so so saddened. what a beautiful child. i am at a complete loss.

  17. Has it been a year? While I am glad that my life moves on, I am profoundly saddened that Amir’s has ended and Misti’s is in stir.
    I will pray resolutely for them.

  18. can some one tell me whats going on who killed amir hassan what happened to him i am so curios about the death

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