by Lauri Fraser
I hardly knew Kourosh. I had heard him speak at one of those meetings for people trying to control their eating habits. He is a very handsome Iranian man. Looks kind of like Omar Sharif. Black hair with shots of silver, nice dresser mostly suits. Very articulate, Warms you with his smile. He had lost something like 70lbs., and although I didn't have lots of weight to lose I felt I identified with the people in the meetings. It turns out that the Twelve Steps aren't just for alcoholics. If you have a habit, there's a meeting for it. In this case, food addictions, or just plain over-eating. Like my Labrador Annie and me. Anything for a biscuit.
Part of the twelve steps says, that when you reach out to another, you help yourself. Ok. So I put my name and number on the phone list and took one home with me. This was an Outreach list so that you could call someone when you were feeling hungry, which for me, was most of the time, and they might provide some sort of support or insight to help you deal with that void that no amount of food could fill. Anything to stop those emotions that sent me running for shelter into that food abyss called the refrigerator. I was deep into writing a story when the phone rang. "Hello Lauri this is Kourosh." "Oh hi Kourosh. (Who's Kourosh? Then I remembered. Oh shit, he's from the meeting. The list. "How are you?" "I am really hungry." Yeah. I know those words. Must have said them 1,000 times after eating a full plate of spaghetti, and anxiousness, before settling in with a bag of low self-esteem brand potato chips. Now what am I suppose to say? Oh I know. No, you're not hungry. It's just a void that no amount of food can fill".
"Thank you very much, that's a good point, but I'm really hungry. Again with the hungry, " "And I'm stressing out. I am moving and I have this chance to live in a great place. I am used to living with my family", as many Iranians, East Indians, Hispanics, just to name a few, do, at least until 52 (or so). This way they can focus on business as opposed to rent. Smart idea. Unlike my Uncle Irv. Who kicked my cousin Lenny the couch (cuz he never got off of it), out at 18 only to have him move back home at 47. My poor Aunt. But that's another story. "Well perhaps if you make the place your own. Clear the energy American Indian style." "I don't understand".
"You can get a little table and make it your spiritual table and put it somewhere that when you walk by it, reminds you to connect to God or your higher power, whatever that is for you, and it can be very grounding. You know. A puja table. An alter."
"It sounds great but I am not 100% clear about what you mean." Before I could suck the words back into my mouth I heard myself offer to come over on Monday before my class and show Kourosh how to "clear his space" American Indian style. The following Monday I put the Sage, a candle, a crystal and a toy, a slinky (every guy needs a toy), in a bag and headed to Westwood to create a ceremony in 1/2 an hour, before my 7pm improv class. "Would you like something to drink?" He opened the fridge revealing three rows 27 sugar free Snapple's, 27 diet Pepsis and vegetables. "I'm a bit obsessive compulsive" "Okay...I'll have a Snapple!"
We sat down "This is a great place Kourosh". "Isn't it? Can you believe it? I have this place for a year and a half, RENT FREE." "Wow? How did you do that?" "Tell me about the table what did you call it?" "Oh a puja table. An alter." "What do you put on yours?" "Well I have a piece of silk, a candle a fresh flower, and you can put a picture of your family or, things that are important to you. Whatever religion you are or what beliefs you have. Perhaps a cross, or" "I am a Jew". "Really? Funny you don't look Jewish? Ok. Well. I'm a Jew too. I just don't usually say so right away." "Why don't you say so right away Lauri?" "Well...you never know what you're going to get. I'm often mistaken for Italian and my name isn't Jewish and to tell you the truth, people sometimes say things and.... oh.... well.... when I was little I was thrown into a ditch just because I was Jewish and I remember looking at the walls and worms were coming out and the kids were looking down at me and well... Kourosh, look I was born a Jew and I'm going to die a Jew and I'm good with that, it really wasn't always easy growing up a Jew. " " You think it was tough being Jew in America? Try being Jew in Iran. I fought everyday when I was young, it was very hard. "When I was 17, I was arrested and put into prison" "Because you were Jewish?" "Because I was a Jew. Lauri, the things that happened. . They said they would let me go if I turned Muslim, I said nothing doing. So they beat me and knocked out my tooth. He shows me a scar that runs the length of his forearm. "They took a knife and cut me again and again. Very painful. Then they went and got my father and my poor father, an old man, and they put him in the cell next to me and I could not see him but they beat him so that I could hear him screaming and it made me cry." "Just because you wouldn't become a Muslim?""You see this" He was showing me his front teeth that when he put them together had an almond shaped gap that you could have put two fingers through. "They put a metal bar between my teeth and made me bite down and put my chin on the table and then they pushed down on my head over and over. It hurt so bad, but I'm going to get it fixed, he said with a smile, don't you worry". Now, I was brought up in Suburban Southern California. I can barely imagine what he's telling me. If this was a book I could put it down, but this was life. His life and He was sharing it with me because he was hungry. I was shocked, fascinated, curious and grateful for my own life and the fact that at that moment I WASN'T hungry. "Ok. Stop. I can't hear anymore. I can't even listen to the news these days. Honestly. You know KFWB? You give them 22 minutes, they give you the world? I can only give them 11 minutes now. How long were you in there? ": Six months." "What?!" "I tell you Lauri, I wanted to die. I decided to make a plan. I was going to make guards so angry that they would shoot me, and then I could die. This plan gave me some relief. But it's crazy what happened. I see this guy. He is an important guy. Comes over to my cell. He says to guard. "Is this Jew who cannot be broken?" Guard says yes. "Bring him out I want to talk to him? They blindfold me, handcuff me and bring me to other room and tie my legs to chair. "What is your name?" I tell him to "Remove the blindfold so that you can see my eyes and I will tell you my name." "What is your name!" "Remove the blindfold so that you can see my eyes and I will tell you my name." They remove the blindfold. I say to him "You call yourself a Muslim? I am human being. You think this is how Koran says to treat people? After you beat me and feed me bread and filthy water? I am Kosher and I don't eat your food, and you think that after all this time, that I can hurt you with 2 guards standing behind you with guns? You think that this is how Koran tells you to Live? You are LOUSY Muslim You don't even practice teachings of Koran." I know that I am insulting him and pretty soon he will tell guards to shoot me and this will be good, but this world is crazy and he tells guard to untie me and then guard puts me in room. He gives me fresh water. He gives me clean clothes, and pots and pans so that I may cook my own kosher food. He puts food in and then he puts my father in same room with me. He leaves us with all that we need for one week and then Lauri, he releases us." "My God, Korosh. I don't even know what to say. But how did you get here?" "Revolution comes and we have to leave Iran. We have to get out quick. I leave with two friends. Eight years later I am living with a guy. He is a Jewish guy. The guy he works for, his boss is a Muslim. My roommate doesn't tell him that he is Jew. Like you Lauri, he thinks why say anything. But Muslim knows he's Jew even though he denies it. Every night my roommate comes home from work and goes out with Muslim. Nightclubs or something. Muslim calls house. I answer. "Hi is Joseph there?" "No. I hang up. I hate Muslim. I hate Muslim like Muslim hates Jew. Now in those days, he pauses and smiles reminiscently, I am into little drugs." "Lauri I have been into many things. Most of them legal, some not exactly legal. One night my roommate comes home and Leaves. Muslim calls. "Is Joseph there?" "No. Joseph is not here." Well he was suppose to meet me and he's not here." I get this idea to invite Muslim over and mess with his mind. I say "Joseph is not here but I am here smoking Opium and you are welcome to come over and smoke some with me." " To my surprise, Muslim says yes to my offer. I think. This is my opportunity to torture Muslim. This becomes my sole intention. " He comes over and we smoke a little. We talk. This guy is pretty cool. Over two year period I become good friends with Muslim. My roommate is out of the picture. One night, Muslim, who is now my friend, calls me. "Hey Korosh Why don't you come out with me tonight. I met these two beautiful girls. I say ok. My intention was to go out and sleep with one and then go home. That's it. Well I meet her and she's very nice. Sweet girl. Not that kind of girl. I tell my friend, "she is not for me but she's very nice. Perhaps you will like her." Two years later Muslim marries dis girl. Two years later they have two beautiful kids. Lauri, I am Godfather to these kids and this house that I have rent-free for one and one half years, is owned by Muslim! I tell you Lauri, this is crazy world. I love this guy. If you had told me that I would become best friends with Muslim I would have shot you and then shot myself. This guy is my best friend. I am like you. I am proud to be Jew. I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew, but Lauri there is something much bigger going on. Much bigger than Christian, then Muslim than Jew. Ok. Let's make your table." I stare at Korosh, My world of peace, love, and energy clearing seems so lame, so soft, like a big cloud of denial and sugar coated hope. I don't have a clue about this world. . . "Korosh." "Yes Lauri?" You know, you don't need any sage or candle or crystal. Something tells me that you're going to be just fine." Then he looks me in the eye and says, "Better than fine. I'm not hungry!"