Maybe I should move to Egypt

I’d been writing all day. Covered in sweat. Somewhere around 6PM I started to get lightheaded. I thought about the last time I ate. I remembered eating lunch but was it today? Or yesterday? I have a habit of forgetting to eat. I don’t do it on purpose like those cute little ana girls, god bless them. No. But somehow being hungry gives me energy and fervor. Usually I would’ve kept going with the writing. It was going well today. But it was too hot. And I had collapsed from not eating several months before and I really didn’t need to spend another day in the emergency room eating fluids from the IVs in my arms for 8 hours.I got up from my chair. Looked down to make sure I had pants and shoes on and left the apartment.

I walked down Motor toward Venice. A new Mediterranean place had just opened up in the strip mall at the corner there. On my way I passed a homeless guy sitting at the bus stop with his back straight as a board flipping through what must’ve been… I dunno 200, maybe more, Mega Millions lottery tickets. His brows were furrowed. He looked intelligent and calm. Something told me he’d make a good president. Not great. But damn good.

I rounded the corner and walked into the kebab place. I smiled at the rotation of 5 old Persian guys who’s 9-5 seemed to be sitting outside playing backgammon. A nice looking bald man with glasses said hello to me as I entered and smiled. His skin was tan and his accent told me he was from somewhere over there. Israel or Lebanon though, I could never tell. Good thing I was ambiguous too. I had the feeling that he was a good guy because he had a kind face. But who knows? For all I know the guy might be into raping little boys after work and playing gloryhole at the local truck stops on the weekend.

I knew what I wanted so I just ordered – a beef kebab schawarma, baba ganoush and the fried kibbeh. “That’ll be 23.74” he smiled. I handed him my credit card. It was one of those titanium jobs. The ones that weigh more and you can’t really destroy em. They had a good sign up offer and I have good credit because I always pay my balance in full. Call me stupid but I fear debt more than death some days. He looked at the card with curiosity. Weighed it in his hand.

“What kind of card is that?” “Its a Chase… Sapphire” “oh a sapphire? Like a stone?” “Yeah like a sapphire stone” “it is like a diamond but not eh…” “Yeah exactly.” “What they give you?” “It’s a good deal if you spend like 1500 a month for 3 months, then they give you like 500 bucks.” “500?” “Yeah.” “Oh that’s very nice. I like this card! Can anyone get it?” “Well… I dunno you probably have to have a pretty good credit history and…” “No.” “No?” “No.” I looked at him a few seconds. He took a last long look at the card and swiped it in the machine. I don’t know why, but I sensed nostalgia in the act. Like he was saying goodbye to someone he had met very briefly but developed very strong feelings for. He had done this before. This always happened to him. Maybe it was just some weird empathetic déjà vu. “No. I do not have a history.” He said wistfully. “I come here just 2 month ago and now I start over. Everywhere they ask for credit score and check and I don’t have. I have cash but no history.” “Shit…” “Yes its shit!” Now we’re speaking the same language. “It backward here you know? In Egypt, where I’m from…” I knew it “…its opposite of here. There we have job, we have house, we have car but…” he trailed off. His hands waived wildly. I searched for the word that must’ve been on the tip of his tongue. An empathic presque vu. Fuck it. Just start over dude. “You know… problem is you cannot enjoy what you have you know? You have car but you can’t drive in de street! No one move! Traffic here? In LA? It’s amazing! In comparison! There you have goat in the streets and the other cars they hit you no problem. You hit them too! It’s like toys! If you buy new car you don’t want to drive! Your car not new for long. But… Here… problem is you have mortgage and loan and more and more… and house not yours… and finally it yours. When you are 60! And I don’t have credit history. You need credit history. I can’t even rent apartment so until I get a green card I have to work here. Make pita and hummus. Hey not bad but…” He shrugged as if convincing himself to become indifferent about it all. But he couldn’t. Not yet. “Over there I was engineer. I didn’t do anything. Just had job. Over there is no worries. You have money, you have food, you have house. No one worry about rent there. If you have education. But you know…” No I didn’t know and I wanted to know. “So why did you leave?” I asked him. “To me it sounds incredible then.”

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  1. Josh says:

    Alex, I think this story is very well written.

    Given the dialogue I’m left wondering why you titled it “Maybe I should move to Egypt.” After that conversation were you debating whether poor health/a shorter life is worth tolerating if it means a a simpler, more care free life?

    Credit scores were born from a drive toward standardization, towards a construct within which society can more efficiently operate. I believe a similar drive (ex emission standards) has resulted in the wonderful health standards we enjoy in the US compared to other parts of the world.

    There are tremendous shortfalls with many of our country’s systems, credit scoring having some of the most egregious. One of the biggest issues with massive systems like credit and emission standards is how and when to make exceptions. An exception by nature makes a system more complicated, more bulky, more prone to error. So although our friend Hummus probably warrants some exception, introducing that exception means setting new precedents which weigh the system down by introducing the extremely expensive variable of subjectivity.

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