“You people need to understand that we are all busy. We don’t have all day to wait in this long line!” A lady sitting two seats away from me spoke in Arabic to one of the employees.
We were all in a bank waiting for our turns. I was sitting in the first line waiting for my turn, and I looked behind me, where the five rows of seats have been filled leaving a line of people standing.
“I got permission from the office to come down for thirty minutes, and it looks like I’m going to be here till nightfall,” the lady spoke again, within earshot of the employee. All the poor employee could do was turn red.
“You know something?” She continued. “You guys should fill the spot on that empty desk. It’ll get things moving.” She pointed to the first desk.
“That’s right. The unemployment rate isn’t the greatest in this country. People are begging for jobs everywhere. Wouldn’t kill you guys if you hired people.” This was the first time the old man next to me began to speak.
I noticed him walk in the bank while I was waiting for my turn. He walked in wearing a white cap, a checkered shirt, and jeans. He seemed to be over sixty with white hair and wrinkles on his face. He noticed the empty seat next to me and came to sit to wait for his turn.
After he made his comment, the old man turned to the lady. “And what office do you work in if you don’t mind me asking?”
The lady smiled at him politely and replied. “It’s a women’s studies association, really.”
“Oh, that’s something. If you guys ever need someone to write things, I can do the job.”
The old man dug into his bag and pulled out a file. “I wrote this poem during the latest Gaza war. The title is Ramadan: A Title for Glory (roughly translated from Arabic).”
“May I read it?” The lady asked. He handed her a copy, gladly.
The guy behind me also asked for one copy. Another woman asked for one, too. I even asked him if I can have a copy. He gladly and humbly passed copies around to make the long wait bearable.
“See, I write poetry. I wrote a poem called The hydrogen Bomb. It’s not what you think. It’s a metaphor.”
The lady nodded her head.
“Sir, what does addiction to pride mean?” The guy behind me asked.
“Well, I believe that if someone is addicted to themselves, egocentric and the sort, it is more dangerous than being addicted to things like weed.”
The guy nodded.
“So you always write? Where have you published?” The lady asked.
“Oh, I publish online. I’ve tried publishing things I’ve written by, you know, bigger places, but they always turn me down. My writing is too difficult for them.”
He continued. “I tell things how they are. How I see them. The truth, some may say. And some people don’t like that. They want to turn a blind eye to corruption and aches. Sometimes, when I’m on a television broadcast, they cut me off when I’m speaking, I’m not saying what they want me to say. It’s too difficult for them. More so than Mahmoud Darwish.”
My number finally popped up on the screen, and it was time for me to go.
People always say that you never know people’s stories, and you never do know. Here I was, sitting next to a poet* in a bank, and I would have never known.
*I’m keeping his name anonymous for his discretion.