At the Coffee Shop

"You know I've still never seen my father's grave?"


At the Coffee Shop
by siamak vossoughi

"Well well well," said Gholamhossein Mohammadizadeh "Look what the cat dragged in." He said it in English, owing to the fact that cats did not drag anybody in in Iran.

"If this wasn't such a high-class establishment," Ali Reza Karimi said "I'd give you the one-finger salute."

The men laughed. "When'd that ever stop you before?" Gholamhossein said.

"You got a point there," Ali Reza grinned.

"I thought this guy had to work late today," said Akbar Hashemi as Ali Reza stood in line for coffee.

"Ah, you ever known him to work an honest day in his life?" Gholamhossein said. "He's the king of the two-hour lunch, this guy."

"I hear that's the way it ought to be. Scientifically speaking, I mean," said Hassan Ghorbani. "A nice leisurely lunch. 'Stead of this business of trying to eat a sandwich on the run."

"What country are you living in, fella?" Gholamhossein said. "This is the place where they invented fast food."

"You know what I like?" said Mirhossein Seyrafianpour. "A nice small lunch like a bagel and a piece of fruit. That way I don't get so tired in the afternoon."

"You want to talk about fruit," Gholamhossein said. "Any of you guys ever had a pomelo?"

"Oh sure."

"Picture this giant grapefruit, only bigger. As big as your head. My wife bought one the other day. I said, what the hell is that? She said it's a pomelo. You should've seen this thing. It's got this thin, thin peel. And sweet! You wouldn't believe how sweet this thing was."

"There's a lot of different kinds of fruit out there," said Akbar. "Hell, think of all the fruits we had over in Iran that you can't find over here. Sweet lemons!"

"Sour cherries," said Mirhossein. "Where I lived you couldn't cross the street without bumping into a sour cherry tree."

"How about quince," said Hassan. "You show a quince to a guy over here, he'll look at you funny."

Ali Reza came and sat down with a cup of coffee. "You fellows discussing fruit?" he said.

"That's right."

"One of my favorite subjects. You know, last time I went back, we went to say hello to some old orange trees I used to know."

"How were they?"

"They were fine. It was the rest of the place that was lousy."

"You guys think you'll ever go back?"

"I miss it. I miss it something fierce."

"Ah, it's too sad to think about."

"I think I'm here to stay. It's not our country any more. It's a whole 'nother generation's."

"What is our country then?"

"You're looking at it, bub."

"This place? This place where they're scared of us walking down the street?"

"It's all we got. Besides, they can't stay scared forever."

"They're going to be scared as long as that cockamamie president of ours keeps shooting his mouth off."

"All we've ever had for leaders have been cockamamie."

"Yep. Except for Mossadegh."

"That's true, except for Mossadegh."

"The funny thing is, he's the most cockamamie-looking of all of them. Showing up to work in his pajamas."

"Hell, I trust a guy in pajamas more than a lot of guys in three-piece suits. At least a guy in pajamas knows he's crazy."

"He's not trying to soft-peddle you."

"Nope. He's telling you like it is."

"And then he's gonna go back to sleep."

"I trust a guy who likes his sleep too."

"What'd I tell you about an honest day's work? You'd sleep all day if you could."

"I'm a connoisseur of sleep."

"There's a lot worse things."

"You got that right. I'm too old for women and I never could drink. What else is there?"


"Nah. I did it once, back in Tehran. It was my first job. I was working as a painter. This is just before I went into the army. I got my first week's wages and some of the older fellows invited me to their card game. Cleaned me out. I came home and told my pop what happened. He looked at me and said, that's the last time you'll do that. He was right, God rest his soul."

"You know I've still never seen my father's grave? I'd like to go back just to do that one time."

"I'd like to go back to see my mother's. She never got used to me living here. She always used to ask me when I was coming back. I'd tell her, ma, I'm married to an American woman and our kids only speak English. Can you imagine going back with two American girls? Covering their hair when they go outside?"

"I tell you, though, it's no picnic trying to raise a daughter here either. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's better in Iran. But with all the influences on girls in this society...I don't know, maybe it's because I'm from a different culture."

"But you see American families going through the same thing - look at how many of their girls get mixed up with drugs or pregnant."

"You know what gets me, is these girls with the tattoos. Some of them are so young too. It breaks my heart."

"When we were growing up, if you saw a guy with a tattoo, you steered clear of him."

"One of the young guys I work with, he said he wants to get a tattoo in Farsi. I asked him, what do you want it to say? He said he didn't know yet, but he wants to get it in Farsi. He said he likes the way it looks. I told him, just be careful at the airport. They're going to think it's some kind of secret code."

"They like the way it looks except when they think it's about them."

"They're trying though. A lot of them are at least. You saw how many Americans were at the peace march."

"That's true."

"You remember when they shot down that airliner over the Gulf? Back in '89, I think it was. Our neighbors gave us flowers. I never forgot that. They gave us flowers."

"The people are all right. The people everywhere are all right. It's the leaders that's the problem."

"Well, somebody's got to be in charge."

"I say let the women do it. We've had our chance. Let them do it."

"They're in charge at home anyway. Might as well let them be in charge of the whole thing."

"You think there'd be all these wars if women were in charge? They'd talk and talk until they agreed or until everybody was too tired to fight anybody."

"You got that right."

"And you wouldn't have these guys standing up there calling other countries evil, trying to sound like tough guys."

"Never mind women. How about just mothers? That'd put an end to war."

"Never mind mothers, how about just grandmothers."

"My grandmother would've made a great president."

"Now I know we're getting far from the subject at hand."

"Since when did we have a subject at hand?"

"We ought to have a subject at hand, shouldn't we?"

"We do. It's us. Us and the world."

"Same subject as the last seven years."

"One of these days, I'm going to come in here and make a splash. I'm going to do something bold."

"All right, just let us know ahead of time so we can prepare ourselves."

"And check with your wife first."

"Ahhh, what do you guys know?"

"Not much. I know it looks like rain."


"We could use some."

"Yep, I suppose I ought to get going. I got some things in the truck I don't want getting wet."

"Okay, boss. Take it easy, but take it."

The men rose to say goodbye, in a coffee shop in America. Each man kissed the departing fellow on both cheeks, and they sat and resumed their conversation.


Recently by siamak vossoughiCommentsDate
The Dance Class
Feb 12, 2012
The Night and Man
Feb 01, 2012
Take Our Daughters to Work Day
Jan 17, 2012
more from siamak vossoughi