Thursday, June 26, 2003

Without a title

I couldn't help taking a look at the car before ringing the door bell. Parked in front of the door, it looked nice enough for a Toyota Corolla 95 . A tall beefy man with unshaved beard opened the door. my 6 feet bag of bones looked so tiny beside him. His Middle Easter appearance confirmed the Arabic accent that I had detected in our short phone conversation. We didn't waste much time and headed for a test drive. He said he only had about 30 minutes to catch a class in SMU.
In the car I started a more friendly chat. I wanted to know more about the car in the middle of conversation. He was going to SMU for a part time MS program in management. It turned out that he had made his BS degree in my school in early 90s. He was as talkative as many other Middle easters. He was a frank man who didn't care much if the way he stated things would upset others.
"Where are you from?", I asked.
"Syria", He replied.
"Oh, I have been to Damascus twice."
"Really? how did you like it?"
"It was a nice city."
I didn't tell him how small and poor Damascus looked to me and how that ugly night club into which I only wanted to take a look out of curiosity, ripped me off $100 in less that an hour.
"So, where are you from?", he asked.
He tried to show up his information about my country by talking about the chances of an American invasion and the positions of reformer and hardliner politicians of Iran in that matter. He didn't show signs of being in rush anymore. I was now driving in the 635 highway, trying to push the accelerator as much as I could. But it was rush hour and too many cars didn't allow a high speed.
He had been in the US since 1978 and could remember the days of hostage crisis.
"During the hostage crisis these Americans told me 'you fukin Iranian go back home'. I told them 'I am not Iranian, I am Syrian. They said 'We don't care. You fukin Middle Easter, go back home'. I told them 'fuck you! you go back to Europe.' This country does not belong to anyone, you know. This country belongs to God."

After finishing the test drive, we talked a little bit about the price but I didn't waste much time on it. The body of the car had shaken while diving in the highway. I decided not to buy it.

My uncle got stuck in America after the 1979 revolution for political reasons. His two brothers (my other two uncles) returned but he stayed because his friends convinced him that his life would be in jeopardy in Iran for being a communist activist. He was affiliated with the American underground branch of a very extremist Iranian communist party. His job was to gather supporters among the Iranian students in the states. A graduate of mechanical engineering, he worked as a printing factory laborer, ice cream seller and similar small jobs until the 1987 general amnesty made him an American citizen. He married his Iranian girlfriend and established a decent life in South California. He has worked for the Orange county post office ever since. Today, he laughs at his communist past and is very happy that he stayed, when he compares his good economical situation with his two brothers who lived in Iran all these years. His elder son is a wild 15 years old teenager. When I go to South California to visit, he never gets tired making fun of me. I am his weird cousin.
"How did you manage to come to America? Crossed the border with a bag-pack? What will you tell the cops if they catch you? hehehe."
After September 11, as my uncle told me, he and all his teenage friends were very frustrated. They wanted revenge, or they wanted to feel powerful again. They wanted to feel safe again, or maybe they just didn't know what they really wanted. All you could say was that they were very frustrated, according to my uncle. One evening he finally started talking. He said many things. Among all he said my uncle could remember this:
"Those people are all terrorists. That region is all trash. We've got to nuke them. We've got to get rid of them all at once."
I kind of like this cousin. He is very verbal. He can make good poems and songs on the fly. He is a kind that could become a successful hip-hop singer. His own ambition though is to become rich by becoming a lawyer.

What to tell our children as to where do we come from?
For our own rights we beg, behind the closed doors of exile.

My free translation of a line of a song by Dariush, the exiled Iranian singer who has spent the past 25 years in Los Angeles.


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