Touched by a nerve

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two stories that seem similar and only the reader can judge their similarity.

Submitted: January 31, 2016

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Submitted: January 31, 2016

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All it takes is a phone call to discover the strength of a friendship.

Three years ago, lost in some thoughts of my life, I called up my good friend Youssef. Once I called him, I got berated by him for taking so long to call him, not knowing what actually had happened to him. Then he told me about his misfortune that he had run into not too long before my phone call. I apologized and told him that I was so wrapped up in my own problems that I did not realize that this terrible had happened to him. He explained to me the details, his agony and his survival and how many medical procedures were needed not only to survive but to be an actual biologically fully functional human being once more. It is hard to determine how I felt between the fact that not so long ago, I was put through the same ordeal but at the psychological level while his was at the physical level. It is hard to determine whether I felt more guilty about what had happened to him and my inability to support him at a time when he needed me to or my feeling of being let down by him at a time when I needed him. The only way is to tell both our stories and see how well they match.

London

July, 2010

On a dark night on Chester street, Youssef got off the bus coming back from a hard day’s work. In order to get to his house, he had to turn a dark corner away from the lamp post on the main street. Youssef dragged his feet as his head was filled about his life in an estranged land, away from his home country Egypt. He his turned around the thoughts of loneliness since his divorce three years past, then the passing of his father then his mother shortly after. His head tossed other ideas as he began to think what to prepare for dinner as this night got colder and lonelier.

Youssef could feel the pain in the back of his head when he stretched on the cold concrete of the pavement looking up at the three shadows above him.

“What are you doin’ here you filthy black nigger?” said one shadow as he kicked him the side.

“You think this is your mother fuckin’ country, you can go about as you fuckin’ please” said another shadow

“How much you got any way, fuckin’ nigger” said the third shadow, then leaned down and tossed Youssef to the side. It snatched his walled from his back pocket.

“Check it out guys, this nigger’s got a shitload of money”

“So” said one of the shadows “ You come to our country from your backward, backwater, shithole of a country, take our jobs and leave us broke”

“Well” said the other shadow” we’ll teach you a lesson so you don’t come around here no more.”

And with that one of them starting hitting Youssef in the ribs. Then other started beating him with a cane that he had in his hand. Then the three of them took turns hitting him in the face.

“That’s enough for you, you fuckin’s nigger” and they disappeared into the night.

Youssef lay on the pavement, unable to speak or move. His eyes wondered around, hoping he could find some help of some sort. A neighbour who happened to hear the commotion, came out to sea what had happened. She saw Youssef lying on the pavement. She quickly observed the swollen face and his immobility and rushed back to her house calling the emergency number. Other neighbours came out of their houses in support of Youssef as they reassured him that help is on the way. Thoughts of Youssef dispersed as he floated in and out of consciousness, noticing the sky but unaware of what all what happened just meant. Mean criminals followed by kind strangers. All the worries that he had past seemed trivial by comparison. The ambulance arrived and put Youssef into the van. Youssef went to the hospital with a ambulance aid who reassured him that they will get to the hospital soon.

Youssef got to the emergency room and the doctors started treating him for his injuries. They put the necessary medications needed in this kind of emergency and started applying the necessary treatment for the swelling on his face. Then they gave him a sedative. Slowly, the lights of the hospital environment around him started to dim.

When Youssef woke up in the hospital room, he was greeted by the doctor who smiled at him.

“Welcome back, Mr. Taha”.

Youssef was unable to use his jaws in a proper way, so he just mumbled.

“I know you can’t talk right now, Mr. Taha, but soon you will be able to.” Said the doctor “We notified your department in the BBC about your condition.”

“Naturally,” said the doctor. “ You will file a complaint to the police, once your condition gets better”

“They also” continued the doctor. “will want to take your statement once you get better.”

“Of course, I am terribly sorry that you had to go through this ordeal. But for now you have to rest till the injuries you sustained heal, and your ability to move and speak improve.”

Over the next following days, people from work floated in Youssef’s room to ask about his condition. Youssef was barely able to smile and could only nod at the kindness of people from work and his neighbours who came to check on him. Youssef took a sick leave of absence from work for six months. Later, that same doctor told Youssef. “You’re luck you’re still alive and kicking”

July, 2011

Youssef arrived at the police station. The lieutenant in charge welcomed him and asked him to sit down.

“Mr. Taha, we have apprehended a few people lately. And there are two who fit the description you gave us”. He said. “I called you in today to identify them in a line up. Is that ok?”

Youssef told him “Yes. That’s fine”

As Youssef stood behind the double mirror, he watched as criminals of different ethnic background passed before his eyes. The traditional line up went through asking the suspect to face forwards and sideways. Youssef identified number four as the one of the perpetrators who committed this crime against him. The lieutenant thanked Youssef and told him that he will be touch to tell him if they will take the matter to prosecution or not.

Youssef waited for a month to see if anyone in the police will get in touch with him and let him know what had happened. Finally, Youssef called up the lieutenant and asked him what had happened after he had identified the criminal. Youssef will never forget the reply of the lieutenant “Mr. Taha, I’m sorry but the prosecutor did not find enough evidence to prosecute the man you identified. You identification is not enough as evidence. Here, we prefer to let people go rather than put an innocent man in jail without enough hard evidence.”

Egypt,

March, 2010

On a bright morning, I fidgeted nervously as I waited to attend a meeting called for by the Associate Dean with my boss the Director, his subordinate the Manager, and me, being the subordinate of the three.

The three of us, me, the Director and the Manager waited outside in the hallway, outside the Associate Dean’s office.  We asked her assistant if she was ready to meet us. The assistant told us she was busy but will see us shortly. The Manager, a 35 year old guy, said “Good!. That will give me a chance to refill my pipe and smoke a couple of puffs”. I found that attitude strange. It was rude to make that announcement, knowing that we might be let in at any moment, let alone the fact that educational institution we were in had a no smoking policy, and that he would reek of tobacco when he went into the meeting.

After some waiting, the assistant told us that the Associate Dean was waiting for us. We went in and sat down in a circle. I was facing the Associate Dean, the Director and the Manager and they were facing me. After the usual niceties and the Associate Dean asking if anyone of use would like something to drink, the meeting started with this.

“Ragy, you are in trouble my dear friend” said the Associate Dean. “What happened to you? You used to be a writer. Why did you stagnate?”

“Anyway” said the Associate Dean. “I was in a meeting the other day with all the directors, and your director was praising your work when all the other directors objected to his praise of you. I have never seen a look on his face like that day. They all have problems with you. They’re saying that they get reports late and when they do, they have to review them because of mistakes in them.”

“and instead of taking of your work” she continued. “You take off time form work to go and do a PhD. A PhD is not the answer to what is wrong with you my friend. It is not the answer”

“Your boss here” she pointed to the Director. “puts up with so much in his work. He is loyal, hardworking, honest, and gives you all the breaks you deserve. But every now and then, he comes and tells me ‘you know Ragy’s financial situation’. Well, I am sorry my friend but this is a respectable high profile educational institution, we are a school in a university, we are not a charity. Now, people are telling me stories of you leaving within your working hours and not staying over to finish the work that needs to be done. You think and act like a government employee. We are not government. We are a private organization that demands hard work with maximum output. If you hate your job so much, then quit and enough!”

I was not able to answer.

“Ragy” said the Director. “I have been supporting you for so long but you have to admit that lately that your work was not up to standard. You made us lose the faith an important client when you missed the exam date and timing. You did not submit the report that you know we file annually at the same time every years and I had to step in and do it for you. This is not my job and I shouldn’t have to do it for you. You are always covered by overtime so you can have the time to finish your tasks and you always benefit financially from this overtime.”

“What!” interrupted the Associated Dean. “You mean he get overtime and I get sloppy work. From now on, no more overtime. I don’t pay and get sloppy work”

The she directed her gaze to the Manager and told him “What do you think?”

“I know that I am younger than you.” Began the Manager. “And I didn’t get to know you very well in the brief time that we have been together but actually I discovered that when I ask you for simplest things, you either don’t deliver them as expected or you deliver something lower than the required standard.”

“Such a disappointment” interjected the Associated Dean. “Ragy, we want to help you. If you don’t like this job, then it is better for all of us that you quit. Let me ask you a question. What is your passion?”

“Teaching” I replied.

“Teaching!?” said the Director in Mockery. “You think teaching is your passion? Well, I’ve talked to some of your students and I know what your are capable of as a teacher”

“I have a suggestion.” Said the Manager. “What doesn’t he visit the directors of departments and discusses with them what is actually wrong”

The Associate Dean grimaced and said. “No. He is going to visit the heads of departments and ask them just how bad he is.”

“Let me ask you another question.” Said the Associate Dean. “ At the beginning of the year, a new manager was appointed on top of you. Did you have a problem with that because he is younger than you and were expecting to be promoted in his position?”

“Yes.” I replied.

“well,” She said. “That’s not going to change, so deal with it.”

“Here is my decision” directing herself to the Director. “He get a ‘Needs Improvement’ on his appraisal this year. Then, we are going to wait till the August of next year to see your performance. If you don’t turn things around, then I’m sorry, we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

I left red, bruised, and shaken to the core. I couldn’t absorb everything that happened because it had happened so fast.

I went down to my desk, thinking what it is that I could have done to incur the wrath of so many people at the same time.

I tried to continue to focus on my work the next couple of weeks, but it was difficult. The result was inevitable.

May, 2010

I resigned.

Into 2013, the Associate Dean became the Dean. The Director went into retirement and had a consultation position.  The Manager left his position shortly after me to pursue a Masters degree in London. In 2013, he returned to receive the position of the Director that was left vacant after his retirement.

Youssef and I remain good friends to this very day. The distance we have and the circumstances that went through never weakened the bond of our friendship.


© Copyright 2017 Ragy. All rights reserved.

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