“You know, there’s this really good place called ‘Made by Flo’. It’s not too expensive, and the food is SUPERB. Better than P.F. Changs. Everything is good, but get the house fried rice.”
Paul often comes in to chat with me and mom, speaking with such fondness and passion for life. At a clinic in North Phoenix, he helps look after mom as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer. I won’t call him a nurse or doctor but a friend and a prince. Why a prince? Simply because of his humility, good character, and generous spirit. He treats us like friends instead of patients. Mom and I both feel he is our soul brother.
Previous to my arrival in Phoenix, mom had mentioned to him my love for travel and food. Upon meeting and discussing our common interests, storytelling set into motion, punctuated with fist bumps. As he spitballs Phoenix restaurant recommendations, I take diligent notes. Due to his stout belly and in-depth knowledge of the places he has eaten, I know his word is good.
From driving to Sedona with the windows down to spend 15 minutes among the pine trees or laying on his favorite beach in San Diego for 2 hours, he goes on with nostalgia of his favorite places to visit for a spiritual readjustment. Painting with words, he doesn’t make it easy to want to stay home.
Like a child hearing a bedtime story, I listen intently as he tells the one of how he arrived in America. Paul left Iran when he was 20 years old, accompanied by a stranger who was able to get him through various checkpoints. During the first leg of his journey to Turkey, he slept in open fields and less than ideal conditions, sometimes going whole days without eating. Once in Turkey, he picked up enough of the language in 3 weeks to do translation work. That kept him on his feet for about 8 months before he decided to move on. He assures me the rest of his journey from Turkey to America was uneventful therefore it remains untold. Still, I imagine it was no easy victory and would’ve loved for him to fill in the gaps.
Arriving in America when he was 21, he began anew in a completely foreign environment. According to Paul, in hindsight, learning English, obtaining citizenship, going to school, and moving up the work ladder were insignificant compared to the day he met his wife of 20+ years. A real lesson in serendipity. “I don’t drink, but I love to dance. It’s intoxicating enough on its own.” They met on the dance floor at a club that neither of them were meant to be at, a second choice club if you will. “Still don’t know if I believe in the whole soul mates thing, but I knew I liked her. We complement each other well.” Soon after the night that could’ve been a bust, they went on their first proper date and the rest is history. A smile crosses his face as he relives the night in his head.
He looks at me then at mom and gets up to change her IV. With a satisfied but heavy sigh…
“I see a lot of young people in here, and it breaks my heart because you shouldn’t be in here, you should be out there. Hanging with your friends, doing crazy things, you know?”