Club Tomorrow's Hope
February 6, 2004
It was in my second week at the camp when I met Ali.
He was standing in front of me in the queue, to collect his daily
ration of food.
He introduced me to Rasoul, who stood in front of him; also his
roommate. They invited me for a cup of tea in their room.
Ali and Rasoul shared their room with Essy, the
third, illusive, Iranian refugee that hardly ever stayed there.
I became quite curious
when Ali referred to Essy with the acronym D.E.P. "Essy D.E.P."
they called him. Essy was staying in London with a girlfriend of
and came to the camp once a month, only to collect his mail and
sell his secondhand clothes to the refugees. He'd told the guys
that he was going to get married to his girlfriend and together
they're going to open up a language school in London. And
that very soon he'd be out of the camp for good.
'What does D.E.P. mean?' I asked Ali.
'D for Doctor, E for Engineer and P for Pilot,' he
one of the oldest refugees in the camp, smiled facetiously and
said, 'You'll meet him, he's due back any
day now. He'd open your eyes to the endless possibility of
'Those titles are what he claims to be,' Ali said,
'in fact we've only chosen the best three. He tells us he's got
many more: he's a psychologist, martial arts instructor, interpreter,
English teacher, novelist, and wrestler. And many more beside,'
'How old is Essy anyway?' I asked with cynicism.
Thinking no one is able to achieve so much unless he's at least
of hundred years old.
'He tells us that he's in his mid 30s. It's hard
to be sure about anything with Essy. He's never showed us any
certificate about any of his qualifications that he boasts about.'
'Is this guy for real?' I asked, hoping to hear
their dismissal of him.
'So far we haven't been able to prove him wrong.
He's either the biggest liar or genuine.' Rasoul asserted.
asked him on flight and navigation, since I was a co-pilot with
the Iranian Royal Air Force, and man he knows it all. I can't
contradict him, he's got the knowledge all right,' Ali
said disappointedly, for not being able to discredit him.
'Wait till you meet him. He's very hard to describe.
Trying to describe Essy is like trying to describe a Dada painting.'
said, conjuring up a mysterious picture of Essy.
I wasn't able to makeup my mind about Essy. My
natural tendency was to write him off as a fake. Since my departure
from Iran I've
come across so many bullshit artists that I'd become very
cautious in believing anybody, particularly the ones who persistently
wanted you to believe them.
'Essy was the first Iranian refugee in the camp,'
Ali said, 'When I arrived here he was in middle of a war with
some other refugees. I remember the first time I saw him, this
figure sprinted across
the field into the dormitory. Moments later he came out squeezing
the ear of a Pakistani refugee, walking him out, like a teacher
does to a naughty pupil. He kicked him hard on his rear and told
him not to enter his room when he's not there. Essy suspects
most people of stealing. He doesn't trust any body with his
possession. He'd changed rooms five times in the first six
months. He then ended up with us. The only reason it's working
out with us is because he's hardly ever here. Do you see
Ali points to the cupboard in the corner
of the room which has a massive padlock on it. 'That's
his. Most probably there's nothing in it either. Once he accused
us of tampering with the lock. He said he once
worked for Savak so he knows when a lock has been tampered with.'
Ali said, pouting his lips like a child.
'Thank God he doesn't hang around here. He's trouble,'
Rasoul said, 'he caused so much strife with the Arabs that I
ever meeting him. You hang around Essy for more than five minutes
you'll find yourself in middle of a crossfire.'
'It wasn't just his problem with the Arabs but
with the police too'. Ali added.
How can a man who's list of 'qualifications' are
as long as the silk road be such a bellicose character? Whoever
this Essy guy was I wanted to meet him. I was quite confident in
my judgment of people's characters and I knew I could work
him out after a few minutes of close observation. For now, I wanted
to gather as much information about him as possible, so that I'd
be able to scrutinize him better when I met him, face to face.
'Tell me about his problems with the Arabs?' I
asked like a sleuth on the case.
'Essy was firstly put in a room with a handsome
Syrian refugee by the name of Faiz. By the way, please don't
ever tell him I
called him handsome, Essy will kill me', Ali continued, 'Faiz
had a reputation as a Casanova. He was the only refugee who could
chat up a girl from the town and bring her to the camp. Many of
the single, young refugees respected him and wanted to learn from
him. I've got to say he snubbed them all off and only hung
around his fellow Arab friends. Anyhow, first they hit it off all
right. But when the Syrian brought a girl in and asked Essy to
leave the room, Essy got offended. He grabbed him by his ear and
threw him out and kept the girl in the room with him. Faiz got
so furious that he brought back a few friends of his to beat him
Ali poured himself some more tea from the pot
and put a cube sugar in his mouth. I wondered why he stopped
at such a crucial point.
'Yeah, and what happened then?' I asked, impatiently.
'You tell him the rest Rasoul, you saw the whole
thing.' Ali tapping Rasoul on the shoulder with his fingers.
'I was outside having a cigarette when suddenly
I saw four bodies appearing out of nowhere in the dark, like
bats in the night.
I had no idea who was who. At first I heard some shouting and screaming.
There was also a perpetual leisurely whistle at the same time.
Then the figures thudded one after another and the noises got muffled
and whining. Later I found out it was Essy who was whistling in
order to humiliate his foes. Once they're all down Essy's
voice said to them, 'I have to go gentlemen. I am entertaining
a girl in my room.'
'Essy had a habit of humiliating his enemies,
always with a parting shot.' Ali said.
'The story doesn't end there either.' Rasoul continued,
'Faiz who's reputation was severely damaged in front of his friends,
although no other refugees except me saw the incident, vowed to
teach Essy a lesson that he would never forget for the rest of
his living days. Essy wasn't even ruffled by his threat.
Instead he said, "no one has the right to ask me to leave
my room." I hate to think what it'd be like living
with him on daily bases. You've to watch your step with him
all the time, not knowing what might upset him.' Rasoul said.
I asked about Faiz's vow for revenge. Ali picked up the thread
'When Faiz's attempt failed one more time to crush
Essy, he hired a ruffian from London to get even with him. Essy
time had become aware of the plan. He even went to the police.
But because of his past problems with them, they deliberately ignored
him. They're probably quite happy to see him beaten up too.' Ali
filled his mug up with more tea and said, 'Tell him Rasoul
you saw the whole thing.'
'I was having a cigarette out in the open-this
time it wasn't dark by the way, it was about four in the afternoon-when
a stranger walking with Faiz toward Essy's window. The man
had blond, curly hair and looked very stocky. His muscle-bound
arms and thighs looked intimidating, like a heavy weightlifter's.
When Faiz turned to him murmuring something pointing to Essy's
window I knew instantly something sinister was going on. I said
to myself, could this be the man who's finally going to beat
Essy up and teach him the lesson of his life? Faiz stood back watching
with gloating eyes. Curly walked to Essy's window banging
on his window with his clenched fist, and shouted, "Come out
you chicken shit, I've come to piss on you. Come on out of
your dirty little hole, you miserable little fly." Essy's
curtains were drawn, but they had intelligence that Essy was
in. Within minutes I noticed other refugees had lined up next to
me like spectators to watch the fight. Essy all of a sudden appeared
from the other side of the building facing the curly from behind.
As soon as he turned around Essy pounced in front of him, punching
him left and right. It happened so quickly that it took not just
him, but even all of us by surprise. The curly took the punches
smiled back at him instead, as if Essy just feather dusted his
face for him. Then, Essy did something really strange. He turned
around and slowly began to walk away from him. I thought he was
chickening out. But everything about him is so unpredictable. The
curly scurried after him thinking it was time to grab him and finish
him off. It was the second before his hands reached him that Essy
turned around with a roundhouse kick and hit him on his forehead.
This time the curly couldn't laugh it off. For a few seconds
he went blank. And that's when Essy quickly put his arms
pass the curly's armpits and joined his hands in the nape
of his neck.'
Rasoul paused for a second here. 'It was
a nelson hold all right. He then pushed him near the pine tree
and banged his head several times on its bark as hard as he could.
As soon as he let go of him the man flopped on the ground like
a corpse. Then he sat on his chest. To everybody's surprise
he began a form of interview with his half conscious opponent.
"Are you from north London? I think the accent is?" He asked
him politely, as if he was interviewing him for a job. "Have
ever read a book by me called 'The Art of Fighting in the
Bitchy World'?" he asked him, "I'll give you a
signed copy if you'd like'."
It was here that all the refugees watching began
to cheer and applaud. No one liked a stranger walking into
the camp and bashing a refugee,
even if it was Essy. Essy upheld our integrity.' Rasoul heaved
a sigh of relief.
I was just drawing my conclusions out of all these
anecdotal evidence that the door unexpectedly opened and a handsome
in front of us.
'You don't expect me to knock on my own door do
you?' He said with cheeky smile.
It was him, Essy D.E.P. the legend,
with a sack of secondhand clothes over his shoulder.
'You guys have been telling tales about me again.
I can see it in your sassy, little eyes. God why can't I ever
country men.' He told us more as answer than a question.
Essy walked into the room and opened his sack
and spread the merchandise over the bed and told us that we've
the first pick
'Who's the kid?' He asked Ali and Rasoul.
'He's a new refugee.' Ali answered.
He browsed at me as if I was going to be auctioned
off by him one day.
'There's so much that you're going to learn. Welcome
to the real world, the mean world kid. It's the title of
my book. By the way, what size are you? I got great cotton socks
and underwear. Have a look for yourself. You guys get to pick
first and I'll give you a discount. You see, we Iranians should
look after each other. Nationalist zeal is seeping out of our
We need to change nappy everyday. We only make some mistakes
every now and then, only minor mistakes, like giving our country
to the lovers of imam. Cyrus, sleep tight for we have shit all
over your land. But I'm serious, I'm proving my love
for my countrymen, 50% discounts on everything, but you only
have fifteen minutes to pick what you want.'
It was hard to interject while Essy talked. He
jumped from one subject to another. And very much dominated the
and Ali began rummaging through his secondhand clothing, which
probably had picked up from some Salvation Army depot in London.
'You don't want anything kid?' he asked me with
his shrill voice that projected itself everywhere omnipotently.
'No thanks. I got everything I need'. I replied.
'Where're you from? Let me guess. Downtown Tehran.
Mokhtari or Molavi. I know the accent.'
I was dumbfounded with his pinpoint accuracy,
only after the utterance of so few words.
'Molavi', I replied.
'You might not know, because you're too young,
but Molavi once was the paragon for valor. Most of those brave
the country in 70s to U.S. and Europe. One day I'd like to write
a book about them. My grandparents are from Molavi. They've
told me all about them.'
Essy had his eyes on Rasoul and Ali as
he spoke to me, thinking they might steal a few of his secondhand
'You've got five minutes left, otherwise the discount
will be lowered,' he told them sternly.
After an urgent knock,
the door to the room opened and a young African man entered.
He turned to Essy and told him that the
police are here looking for him. Essy went straight to the window
'How did they know I'm here? I know why, there're
too many stool pigeons in this place.' He tried not to appear
nervous. He went to his cupboard and unlocked the padlock, pulling
out a black leather handbag. He thanked the African man and told
him that he'd see him later on.
'Hey kid, come with me.' He asked
of me demandingly.
'Who me?' I asked.
'Come on I'll tell you later. You can
Haven't I heard that word before, trust? I wanted
to say why should I trust you, for I've just met you? Essy with
all his domineering presence couldn't convince me to go with
him at first. But there was a subtle element of pleading detectable
in his tone of voice, despite his imperative vocabulary. It was
also my own curiosity about who Essy really was that made me
nod my head in agreement. Now, it was my chance to find out more
him, when he's in need and somewhat desperate. The fact that
he chose me, out of us three was another motivating factor. Why
'I'll be back guys. Look after my clothing. Don't
get any funny idea, I've counted them all.' Essy told them.
walked with Essy out of the room. We descended the stairs to
the ground floor and from there Essy led me to the back of the
building through the garbage room. We sneaked pass the police
car, parked outside the camp, and wandered into town.
why they're after me. I've filed a lawsuit against them. They
attacked me in my room and my left eardrum got ruptured
in the scuffle. I don't want to confront them again. I promised
Janet not to get myself into another fight. I promised her. They
want me to stay in the camp. I'm not going to stay here.
They want to force me to stay here. They don't know I'm
getting married next month and I'll be gone for good.'
Why was he telling me all this I don't know. But
Essy all of a sudden was a different person to what he was short
ago in the room, trying to wheedle money out of us.
'I'm a law abiding citizen, but I'm not going
to follow the rule which forces me to stay in the camp. You'll
here. I met my future wife in London. Now you tell me how'd
I've met her if I'd remained here? Impossible. Only
another month to go before our papers go through. Another lousy
month. I promised her not to get myself into any more trouble.
If I don't see them I won't hurt them. I don't
want to sabotage my future for bunch of rednecks.'
It was getting
dark and we're meandering the streets like two old friends touching
base after a long separation. The small
town was getting ready for its perfunctory Friday night bash.
It was also the night most refugees stayed in to avoid the violent,
drunkard behavior of English men that beat them and exclude from
their social gatherings.
'As long as they don't find me they can't hurt
me.' Essy tells me. 'I know why they're here, because I got too
many enemies who spy on me. They report to the police my every
move. Half the camp lives and work in London, how come they don't
clamp down on them? Hey let's go to the pub, drinks on me.' Essy
told me capriciously.
We entered the first pub we happen to pass and
took our seats half way between the entrance and the poker machines.
at us with an unwelcoming gaze as he washed the beer glasses.
'I don't think we should've come here. Refugees
aren't welcomed in public places like this. Particularly on busy
I told Essy, expressing my uneasiness, thinking that I might
have ventured out too far.
'You call yourself a man from Molavi, shame on
you. When I lived here, I went everywhere and did everything
that I wanted to do.
As long as you're with me no one dares to offend us in any
way. If only you'd have been told about the heroic deeds
of Molavi men you'd have acted differently.' Essy told
me, making me feeling both guilty and proud. But I was relieved
that he called me a man and not kid any more.
Essy was unclassifiable. He was impervious to
the outside world. There was no trace of self-pity in his outré mannerism.
His mind was impossible to read. There was an exciting aura about
him though. I admired his courage, but not his hardheadedness.
Now that we're sitting together face to face, only a small
round table separating us, I began my closer observation of him.
I noticed some gray hair that had regained their
true hue from the previous dye on his temples. He looked like
someone in his
40s rather than early 30s. His jugular veins protruded whenever
he talked about something that he felt angry or passionate
about. He'd a svelte body. His face was cleaned shaven with no
scars on it. His dark, small eyes, like his shrill voice, looked
untamed and evasive at the same time. His philtrum deep and
straight, ending on his full lip giving him a masculine and sexy
'I trust you,' he told me again. 'I want you keep
all my personal stuff in case something happened to me. I don't
want the police to look into them. You hang on to them for
me.' His voice for the first time was friendlier and his
Was there more to the police pursuit? Something
he's done in London perhaps? Was he hiding something more than
gray hair from he? How can I ever trust someone whom I've
It goes against all the rules. It's stupid. What was in
his black leather handbag that he wanted me to keep guard of?
What if there was drugs in it?
'Take my advice, don't stay in the camp. Go to
London and make friends and stay there. In London you could be
It's a huge city. Very cosmopolitan. You can meet a girl
waste your time in the camp. You're different than Ali
and Rasoul. These guys live in the camp as if it's their final
destination. They've had their lives. But you, you're
young, just at the beginning of your journey in life.
the great guys from Molavi left and made it big. And
make it too.'
His avuncular kindness was beginning to get to me.
Why was he showing concerns about me anyway? Was it just because
I was from Molavi
where his grandparents where from? His hortatory speech about
Molavi was also making me think about where I was from and why
never told me about where I grew up. Dad only told me, how disgusting
Molavi had become, meaning it was once good.
* * *
Essy's voice was echoing loudly in the pub. He couldn't
or didn't want to lower his voice. The three people who were
sitting at the next table, moved further up to another table,
not wanting to hear foreigners intrude on their conversation.
with an unfriendly, somewhat hostile stare, finally accosted
us. He was a medium built, in his late 20s, very tall with
sparkling, self-assured eyes.
'We want you to leave.' He told us blatantly, 'foreigners
are not welcomed here.'
'Who's we?' Essy asked him.
'Me and the staff.' He replied.
'Who're the staff. Ask them to come out and show
their faces. I'd like to meet them.'
'Listen forget the staff. I want you to leave. I'm
the manager' The man told him firmly.
'So it's you,' he looked at him accusingly, pausing
for some few seconds. 'Okay, here is a proposal for
you. As long as we're having a drink I want you to
not come in.' Essy told him. 'By the way before you
do that I want you to get a few beers for us, please'.
He stressed deliberately on the last word, facing
me while talking
The barman looked for some seconds puzzled not knowing
how to react to Essy's so called proposal. He could
same confidence he once exhibited in his eyes.
There was more anger in them. I wasn't sure what was going
the bluffing type. That much I knew about him.
But he didn't leave the barman much option; leave his
couldn't imagine him staying outside waiting for
us to finish our drinks.
It was a ludicrous and provocative proposal.
As Essy started to talk to me, ignoring him standing
right next to our table, the barman reached for
Essy's arm, hoping
lead him out of the bar by force if he had to.
Essy slipped his hand out of his grip and grabbed
wrist and twisted
around his back really hard. With his other arm
he performed half nelson and pushed him easily
and kicked him
So many things went through my mind, within those
brief moments that Essy walked back from the
door to sit
down. Why on earth
I came along with him? What was going to happen
next? What the barman
was going to do now? But Essy spoke to me as
if nothing had happened.
'I never use more than a few simple techniques
on these pathetic racist bastards. They're
it. At Club Tomorrow's
Hope, that's where I learned everything.
One day I'll show you a few tricks. You have to
this mean world, the title of my next book.'
Essy straightened his navy wool and vinyl
donkey jacket. Buttoned the top of his
shirt and began
a tap with the
heavy heal of his leather boots on the
pub's wooden floor, accompanied
with a triumphant whistle.
I glanced outside to see what the barman
was up to, but couldn't see him. A few
people who were
pub were staring
at us in the most peculiar way. Some
left. The other
female bartender looked agitated and
distressed not knowing what
to do. She was
going back and forth into the kitchen
talking to somebody. Essy went up to the bar and
couple of beers.
poured it out of the tap, avoiding any
eye to eye contact with him.
'No one can ask me to leave for racist reasons, no
one. ' Essy
said to me.
I looked out the window, seeing a police car just
pulling in. Essy who's already seen them, pushed the black leather
'Look after this for me? When they're finished with
me I'll collect it from you. You're my witness; he first tried
to grab me if they asked you. I'll have one more lousy month
to go before leaving this petty little town for good. I'm
going to startup my own language school in London. I'll show
them who I'm. And what I'm capable of. My roots are
from Molavi. I'll make the world my stamping ground, not
just this little island. I'll show them.' Essy was
pepping himself up.
I picked up the handbag and sipped my beer. Three
policemen entered and as soon as they saw Essy, remained by the
doorway. They most
likely recognized him and were getting ready for any nasty outcome.
Essy told me he wouldn't do anything crazy, because he'd
promised Janet not to get into any more trouble. Essy stood up
and walked toward them. After a few minutes of dialogue Essy walked
out with them, getting into their car. The barman walked back in
and resumed his position behind the bar. He gave me a dirty look
as I finished my beer and walked out.
It was a pleasant spring evening, with a fresh sea
breeze blowing on my flushed, warm skin. The English youth were
out and about,
interacting merrily with one another. I felt the weight of the
black leather handbag in my hand. I'd lost all my inquisitiveness
to open it up and check on its content. I had a feeling that
I knew Essy, intimately. Instead, I reflected back on that combination
of half nelson and the twist of the arm. It was a unique, effective
technique. I called it the Essy Hold..................... Say
goodbye to spam!
Farid Parsa left Iran in 1981 and lived in Europe
for three years. He immigrated to Sydney in June 1984,
where he has lived eversince. He has studied mass
communication, theology and Theatre at tertiary level. He
is currently employed as senior staff with the State
Library of NSW, Sydney.
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