Falafel and Conversation

Updated: Jan 23

My friends and I were hungry for inexpensive food after an extensive morning of phonetics and literature. So, we stumbled down to our soon-to-be favorite, Lebanese place— serving 5£ sandwiches and baklava.

In our first visit, in the moments of ordering in our awkward and stumbling French, the owner interrupts to ask where we are from. We tell him the U.S. but again he asks, as if this was already obvious, "Where?" Isaiah answers first, "L.A." and the man begins to smile. "No kidding. I lived there for years. I miss it." He continued to ramble and story-tell in theatrical English as we tried to follow his timeline. He lived a very discrete, yet wild, youth it seemed— or at least he wanted it that way. He proceeded to list L.A. names and celebrities that he personally knew. And he demanded Isaiah look them up to prove the tiny details he knew of them. He wasn't lying. He missed the money though, more than the people. He told us, "In America, one can really do something. In Paris, he works the same amount of hours, but gets nowhere."

"Why did you leave?" The question we had been waiting to ask. "I left after the 11th of September." We stepped back in conversation to rely on side glances. "Oh." He added some hummus to the sandwich. "You know, you're young, you make one stupid mistake, and that's it, you're over, you have to leave, you're done." We didn't know what that meant but understood 9/11 changed society's view of Muslims and by extension, him. Decisions, in his discrete and wild youth, I imagine, had to be made in different ways. Yet, I cannot be sure of what he really meant. A mysterious man, he loved to talk of the luxuries of L.A. and carried on the conversation. Isaiah enjoyed the banter and I sat back, watching the words of places I have never seen, bounce back and forth. Poor man, I thought, as I realized he really believed America was the answer. This life of longing we all were trying to leave, and we didn't have to say a word to each other to understand we all were thinking it. Sometimes one does not have to agree with the belief in order to agree.

He handed us our sandwiches.

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