By the time I enter Omar’s shop, I have already forgotten what I wanted to buy. If one of my neighbors asked me why I go so often to Omar’s, I wouldn’t know what to answer.
Omar’s groceries are just fine, his household products are nothing special, and his prices tend to be on the high side.
Omar wears the same T-shirt every day, although I suspect that he has several of them, exact replicas[复制品] of each other. It’s a red T-shirt with five words printed in yellow block letters[印刷体字母].
The five words read: “My name is not Omar.” It’s a joke, of course, or at least, that’s what I believe, since every customer calls him Omar. After midnight, customers become scarce[稀少的] in his shop.
When Omar sees me approach[接近] the counter, he puts down whatever book he is reading, smiles at me, and offers me a cup of green tea. “Tea is good for your health,” he reminds me kindly. I nod, take a small sip[一呷之量], and let the cup warm up my hands. I have never told Omar how much I hate green tea and I suspect I never will.
We drink our tea slowly while we make some small talk. Omar soon picks up the teapot, offers me a second cup, and asks me his usual question. “Did I tell you how I arrived in this country?” I nod distractedly[心不在焉地], trying to look uninterested.
It’s part of our game. Omar pretends that he has never told me his story before and I pretend that his story is not the real reason for my visit to his shop. Omar’s story is no different from that of other immigrants[移民].
In fact, Omar is a clumsy[笨拙的] storyteller, except for the end. He always closes with the same words. “My parents stayed there and died in the war. My brother and my friends also stayed there and starved during the winter. I came here alone.”
At that point, I drink some more tea and ask the question that Omar is expecting. “But what made you decide to leave?” Omar looks around the shop with mysterious[神秘的] airs, checking that we are alone.
“Since I was a kid, I wanted to know what was on the other side of the bridge,” Omar whispers over the counter. “That’s why I crossed the bridge, that’s why I came to this country, to see what’s on the other side.”
Later, when I arrive home, I check my pockets to see what I have bought in Omar’s shop. Tonight, it was garlic[大蒜]. Images of Omar’s bridge appear in my dreams every night. In my vision, it’s always me who crosses the bridge. And then, as soon as I get to the other side, I wake up.