Saturday, May 21, 2005

His son was eight months old

He came in looking for books in Arabic, or maybe something on Anwar Sadat. We had no Arabic, but I found him a book on Sadat, and we started to talk. He was visiting friends in the area, thinking of moving here, starting a small business. He has a convenience store in Sacramento, downtown, in the hood. Didn't think a convenience store would do well here, in our town of 1400 people, and I told him he was probably right. He was born in Egypt, his father Egyptian, his mother from Scotland, and came to the US as a 17 year old some 12 years ago. "I want a better life for my son" he told me, and showed me a photo of the baby, 8 months old, named Aly (not, he said, Ali). He'd had a hard time growing up in Egypt, Muslim at a Catholic school, half "white" amongst the full Egyptians. They made fun of his light skin, his light hair. But his father was a general, his uncle a chemical engineer. We talked about the Koran, about Israel, about having children and how quickly they grow up. "These wars, they are terrible" he said. I agreed, and wished him well. In Sacramento, after 9/11, customers came to his store and yelled at him. "They call me sandnigger. They call me towel head. But I am quiet." His bright eyed son stared up at me from the photograph. "I'm sorry, " I said. "Oh, it is nothing" said he. And he told me that recently scientists found the stars made sounds, like knock, knock, knock. He showed me patterns, knocking on a bookshelf. In the Koran, he said, it talks of the knocking stars. For centuries the wise people didn't know what this meant--but now! How can you say this is not true? I smiled in a certain delight, and wished him well as he went out into the sunlight.


Blogger Doaa Samir said...

I came upon ur blog & I like these encounters with Ali’s father & the poor artist whose story touched me highly.
I think meeting different people sometimes opens new windows in one’s mind, brings up various thoughts & hidden feelings. And it may turns into a far bright memory although it has no roots & it does not take time. It happens just like that.
I do believe that. I love observing ordinary people with such a reflective look & writing down my reflections that always get further.
But I couldn’t hear ur voice as u didn’t interact with the experience fully.
I hope u’ll edit ur profile soon.
I’m glad to pass by ur blog

8:24 AM, May 26, 2005  

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