Welcome to Chevron
Vast, impersonal, intense loneliness of America
February 20, 2001
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
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.