I go see Raied. Everyone calls him ‘Ray.” He’s Chaldean, though occasionally is hit with slurs like, ‘Fucking camel jockey”, “Goddamn Muslim” despite the fact that he doesn’t dispense religion (nor is Muslim); he just dispenses wares at the corner market.
You should get to know this guy.
“Hey, Thom–how’re you doing?” he says in his classically raspy voice; we clasp hands.
“Doing great, Ray!”
“You work today?”
“Did my thing, sure. Just tending to the kids tonight.”
“Sounds great, my friend,” he says. “Family first.”
“Absolutely, Ray.”
He’s got four kids.
Ray fled Iraq in 1991 during the first Gulf War, was detained in Jordan for two years because his paperwork got destroyed in the bombings.
2001 made things tough for him. He couldn’t find a job once in America; he took buses and didn’t know the language.
“Just this tonight, Thom?” he says, packing my business.
“I’m simple–yes.”
Raied has a simply-shaved head, a near-forgotten mustache, and soulful eyes. He’s all Tom Waits gravel.
“You doing ok, Ray?”
He shrugs. “Yah–you know, Thom.”
(I probably don’t).
He smiles, and his body relaxes, and he points: ‘Take care of your kids.’
And he’s the most upbeat guy I know.
We’ll take care of each other. Yes we will.

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