Tuesday, 6 January 2009

On the other side


By the time I enter Omar's shop, I have already forgotten what I wanted to buy. If one of my neighbours asked me why I go so often to Omar's, I wouldn't know what to answer.

Omar's groceries are just fine, his household products have nothing special, and his prices tend to be on the high side.

Omar wears the same T-shirt everyday, although I suspect that he has several of them, exact replicas of each other. It's a red T-shirt with five words printed in yellow block letters.

The five words read "My name is not Omar." It's a joke, of course, or at least, that's what I believe, since every customer calls him Omar. After midnight, customers become scarce in his shop.

When Omar sees me approach the counter, he puts down whatever book he is reading, smiles at me, and offers me a cup of green tea. "Tea is good for your health," he reminds me kindly. I nod, take a small sip, and let the cup warm up my hands. I have never told Omar how much I hate green tea and I suspect I never will.

We drink our tea slowly, while we do some small talk. Omar soon picks up the teapot, offers me a second cup, and asks me his usual question. "Did I tell you how I arrived in this country?" I nod distractedly, trying to look uninterested.

It's part of our game. Omar pretends that he has never told me his story before and I pretend that his story is not the real reason for my visit to his shop. Omar's story is no different from that of other immigrants.

In fact, Omar is a clumsy storyteller, except for the end. He always closes with the same words. "My parents stayed there and died in the war. My brother and my friends also stayed there and starved during the winter. I came here alone."

At that point, I drink some more tea and ask the question that Omar is expecting. "But what made you decide to leave?" Omar looks around the shop with mysterious airs, checking that we are alone.

"Since I was a kid, I wanted to know what was on the other side of the bridge," Omar whispers over the counter. "That's why I crossed the bridge, that's why I came to this country, to see what's on the other side."

Later, when I arrive home, I check my pockets to see what I have bought in Omar's shop. Tonight, it was garlic. Images of Omar's bridge appear in my dreams every night. In my vision, it's always me who crosses the bridge. And then, as soon as I get to the other side, I wake up.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by conner395 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

On the other side


By the time I enter Omar's shop, I have already forgotten what I wanted to buy. If one of my neighbours asked me why I go so often to Omar's, I wouldn't know what to answer.

Omar's groceries are just fine, his household products have nothing special, and his prices tend to be on the high side.

Omar wears the same T-shirt everyday, although I suspect that he has several of them, exact replicas of each other. It's a red T-shirt with five words printed in yellow block letters.

The five words read "My name is not Omar." It's a joke, of course, or at least, that's what I believe, since every customer calls him Omar. After midnight, customers become scarce in his shop.

When Omar sees me approach the counter, he puts down whatever book he is reading, smiles at me, and offers me a cup of green tea. "Tea is good for your health," he reminds me kindly. I nod, take a small sip, and let the cup warm up my hands. I have never told Omar how much I hate green tea and I suspect I never will.

We drink our tea slowly, while we do some small talk. Omar soon picks up the teapot, offers me a second cup, and asks me his usual question. "Did I tell you how I arrived in this country?" I nod distractedly, trying to look uninterested.

It's part of our game. Omar pretends that he has never told me his story before and I pretend that his story is not the real reason for my visit to his shop. Omar's story is no different from that of other immigrants.

In fact, Omar is a clumsy storyteller, except for the end. He always closes with the same words. "My parents stayed there and died in the war. My brother and my friends also stayed there and starved during the winter. I came here alone."

At that point, I drink some more tea and ask the question that Omar is expecting. "But what made you decide to leave?" Omar looks around the shop with mysterious airs, checking that we are alone.

"Since I was a kid, I wanted to know what was on the other side of the bridge," Omar whispers over the counter. "That's why I crossed the bridge, that's why I came to this country, to see what's on the other side."

Later, when I arrive home, I check my pockets to see what I have bought in Omar's shop. Tonight, it was garlic. Images of Omar's bridge appear in my dreams every night. In my vision, it's always me who crosses the bridge. And then, as soon as I get to the other side, I wake up.

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by conner395 under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]