Christmas Eve

“Go talk to your professors, do something. The entire summer you worked for the university and they paid you nothing,” she wiped her tears.

“I owe them tuitions for the last two semesters.”

“Talk to the Foreign Students Advisor. Tell her we’ve two small kids.”

“I already did. She said that’s the university policy. If there is a balance, they garnish my income.”

“They do what to your income?”

“Garnish, I looked it up in dictionary. It means they decorate my paycheck. She said I wouldn’t graduate if all debts are not paid in full.”

“So, why are they holding your paychecks? You’re not skipping town. Where do you go without your diploma? Tell them this summer you’ll go to Chicago to drive a cab? Tell them you’ll save two thousand dollars and pay off your debts.” she was carving out the rotten parts of the potatoes.

“Listen honey. They don’t care about our problems. We’ll be lucky if they don’t increase the foreign students’ tuition before I graduate. They’re planning to have three different types, In-State, Out-of-State and Out-of- Country tuition.”

“I’m not worried about two years from now. How can we survive this winter?” she shrieked.

He took a deep breath, “Well, don’t keep your hopes high but maybe I can get a job during this Christmas break,” he restrained his excitement.

“Doing what? How much do they pay?” Her eyes shone.

“The minimum wage is $1.60 per hour. He has work for two full weeks. He got a contract from the university to clean up the brushes and broken trees on campus roads. The heavy snow knocked down so many. ”

“Oh, that’s perfect. If yo u work eight hours a day for two weeks, you’ll make $128.” she was punching numbers on the calculator.

“Before school starts, I can make enough to pay for the next month’s rent.”

“We’ll still have $38 left.” she said. “You know that Aida’s birthday is on Christmas day, don’t you?” she added.

“How can I forget? Everyone in this country celebrates our daughter’s birthday.” he grinned.

“Who is this guy? I hope he doesn’t change his mind the last minute like the last one. We need this money. ” her words blended with the steam com ing out of the boiling pot.

“He lives here in our complex, in building K. Do you remember the blonde girl you were talking to in the laundry the other day?”

“The one who was asking about our kids?”

“Yes, that’s his wife. Her husband’s name is Bruce. They’re both from Topeka. He said they were High School sweethearts. Whatever the heck that means. Americans have names for everything.” he said.

“They’ve got married last year. She loves to have children but her husband wants them to wait for both to finish school first. She’s just a junior.” she pensively added.

“When he told me about this job, he once mentioned the work permit. But I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

“Is he in your class?”

“Yes, in my Fluid Mechanics class. He’s graduating next semester though. I can’t believe this guy. He’s too prudent, always nervous about something. He pays in-state tuition which is almost half of what I pay per semester and he receives federal grants and a student loan. He has no expenses until he graduates, already had a few job interviews and received two job offers so far. He’s still worried about his future. Life is so easy for American students,” his gaze was fixated on their sleeping children.

“What do we do for a Christmas tree? Kids love to have one decorated,” she asked.

“Look! Look out the window woman. Why do you think God has planted so many trees right in our backyard? Tonight I’ll cut a nice small one,” he said.

“Didn’t you see the notice in the laundry about destruction of university properties? There is a $50 fine if they catch you,” she sighed.

“Don’t worry my dear. Law does not apply to us, we’re not from Kansas. Why do you think I’m paying Out-Of-Sate rate for my education? The penalty for cutting trees is alr eady included in my tuition.” he grinned.

“Just be careful please.”

“Where is the Christmas box full of ornaments we bought from the garage sale in summer?” he asked.

“I can’t believe we paid only fifty cents for the whole box. It’s under the bed. I looked inside it the other day. It has everything, lights, candy canes, frosted balls, a chubby Santa figurine and a shiny gold star for the top.” She was excited. “The kids will be so surprised in the morning to see the blinking lights on the tree,” she said.

“You see. There’s always hope,” he said.

“We’re running out of milk,” her voice suddenly muffled.

“Tomorrow, after the exam, I’ll walk to the Safeway to get milk. The car broke again,” he said.

“How far is it?” she asked.

“It should be about five miles. It’s on the other side of campus. The walk is not long but the damn wind is intolerable. Oh, I hate Kansas winters.”

“How much does it cost to fix the car?” she wanted to subtract this expense from his paycheck.

“If I take it to this mechanic shop at five in the morning before his boss shows up, he will do it for $25. The timing belt is out.”

“It’s leaking oil too,” she said.

“That’s too expensive to fix.”

“But It’s so embarrassing, oil is dripping everywhere in the parking lot.”

“Yes, but the mess is covered by fresh snow every day, isn’t it? God is on our side. You see, usually drivers pull into a gas station and ask the attendant to fill up the gas tank and check the oil. We just need to do the opposite and say, please fill up the oil and check the gas.” They burst in laughter.

“We don’t have much cheese and cereal either,” she sighed.

“For cheese, juice and cereal, we have to wait until the first of the month to get our WIC checks.”

“Can’t we get Food Stamps?”

“You wish. That’s for citizens. But I have good news for you. I heard there is a church on the intersection of Yuma and Juliet that gives away a loaf of Cheddar cheese to the WIC recipients, sometimes a sack of flour too,” he said.

“I can bake bread.”

“Bread? Bread is for poor people. We’ll make Pizza with free dough and free cheese.

“Pizza needs Mozzarella.”

“You’re very particular! Believe me sharp cheddar would do just=2 0fine,” he smiled.

“I guess so. Kids don’t know the difference. They love pizza.”

Two days later, he took the last exams and the fall semester ended. The entire week before Christmas, he worked on campus roads removing broken limbs, shoveling snow and cleaning isles. And at home, the little Christmas tree never failed to dazzle the kids. The lights constantly blinked red, blue and green. The chubby Santa on the limb bobbed his head to left and right and the lucky star sparkled in the dark at night.

On Christmas Eve when he finished the work, Bruce was leaning on his truck waiting for him. “I’m sorry man, but I was told foreign students on F-1 visa are not allowed to work. I don’t want to get in trouble,” he spit the black chewed tobacco out on the snow before getting in the truck.

Suddenly the cold wind slapped him, he was numb. Words froze on his tongue.

Before deriving off, Bruce said, “At the end of January, when I get my paycheck, I’ll pay you forty five dollars for this week. I’ll have to deduct 25% for income tax of course. I’m sorry man.”

He walked home on slippery sidewalks in the dusk. The bitter cold pierced through his shabby coat. His head sunk to his chest breathing inside and counting the number of pizzas he had to deliver to make ends meet this month. Where do I get twenty five dollars to fix the car and who orders pizza on Christmas Break anyway? The school is closed. The bone chilling thoughts marred his mind. Tomorrow was Christmas.

He entered the Safeway grocery store preoccupied with his daughter’s second birthday and wandered aimlessly in the isles checking prices. As he darted out of the store looking down to avoid eye contacts, he was stunned by a strong hand tapping on his shoulder.

The huge store manager searched his pockets and two small birthday candles and a little tube of cherry flavor cake icing were all he found.

Meet Iranian Singles

Iranian Singles

Recipient Of The Serena Shim Award

Serena Shim Award
Meet your Persian Love Today!
Meet your Persian Love Today!