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Welcome to Chevron
Vast, impersonal, intense loneliness of America

February 20, 2001
The Iranian

He arrived in New York City six months ago just before winter. An Iranian from Izmir, Turkey; the Ottoman city between East and West, largest port and best natural harbor in Turkey where he ate at Alioli's Mediterranean Grill on the Aegean Bay in his fair youth.

Twenty-six-years old, a doctor, general practitioner, the new Iranian immigrant to America on a tourist visa recalling the song America the Beautiful. His heart beat violently. He was not going back.

Past was the cup that clears today of past regrets. He would not be himself again for seven thousand years. Starting from New York covered with early snow and ice, the future began to lose some strength in smog and struggle in the American system of foreigners.

Kambiz had struggled before. His parents had spirited him away to Izmir to escape the war with Iraq that snatched all the boys and men to serve in the military. He had gone when he was fourteen-years old. Learned to live alone, learned Turkish and cooked his own meals.

It was a long while before the door was opened. After the third or fourth ring a light gleamed in the window, and there was the sound of steps, coughing and whispering. At last the door was unlocked and he entered the sweet Turkish delight of Izmir all the way through medical school.

In order to specialize in surgery he needed money. He felt his father,70, a dermatologist in Tehran had sacrificed enough and he should try to obtain his specialization in America on his own.

It was at his sister's house in New York that his first sunken feeling of apprehension and loss of paradise, Izmir, came over him. The entry into the vast, impersonal, intense loneliness of America took over. When he wanted to hide forever the prophecy of cold blue skies; the change of climate, faces, names, thoughts, words ... everything -- everything was now anonymous.

He decided secretly, because no one in his family would believe that he wanted to be a dehati villager and live in Izmir instead of New York City. He decided to regard his stay in America as a two-year military conscription. His suffering would be acceptable if he could save 25,000 dollars and return to Izmir to specialize in plastic surgery and earn 5,000 dollars a month. An excellent salary and successful life without insurance.

He stumbled on a job at the gas station paying six dollars an hour. And the clock on the table softly struck one at the moment. With a tourist visa no one would hire him. He was unrelieved by one ray of light; in solitary confinement.

A job delivering newspapers required his sister's Social Security card and that the person with the card be present at pick up of papers at 3am and end of delivery 7am. Kambiz felt this was too much to ask of his sister.

The sun does not rise twice a day, and life is not given us again -- clutch at what is left of your life and save it. Maybe it was a dream, a horrible nightmare, and he would wake up renewed, pure, strong. A terrible longing for Izmir clutched his heart.

I met him in Annapolis on the Bay on 17th February. He laughed and said even Valentine's Day is celebrated by cold hearts. He had come down to see his cousin who would try and help him extend his tourist visa and try to get him a job in the computer field.

We drove to Rockville, Maryland, to Sam's Cafe owned by a Bakhtiari and ate chicken kabab and ghormeh sabzi. Night came quickly with a touch of spring. Norooz after all was only roozes away.

It was dark. I felt the table and began to write. I must have stumbled against the furniture in the dark and made a noise, "Who is there?" I heard an alarmed voice say from the living room.

"Welcome to Chevron," I said.

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