distant faces of the city




Elias, 33, my passenger, started the conversation. I’ve been in a dark mood all evening and have been kicking presence of passengers to the curb of my mind with help of music. He said: Where are you from? -Iran… Here we go again with another cliche conversation about Iran. But I had rushed to conclusion too quickly. Elias was born in Nicaragua and at 3 years old, had bore the dangerous journey to America with her mother and siblings through the borders and reached Saint Diego. For a few years they lived in abject poverty in an Ethiopian neighborhood and Elias learned the language of his African playmates that he has forgotten after all these years. From his youth years, Elias has had more than 24 different jobs, most of it in labor. From working at Burger King and working at chain stores to selling products etc… In the past few years, Elias says that a new chapter in his life has begun and he has been honorably discharged from poverty. He is a creative director and visual idea man for an ad agency and lives in a new neighborhood. He has been married for over 12 years to his high school sweet heart. A woman that has been his first and only love. Elias’ dad has been gone since his childhood and he even wasn’t helpful in their green card process that resulted in them being stuck in Nicaragua for a few months. As he recalls, the woman who was in charge of their immigration case was known to be brutal for approving cases and causing deportations. But she gets sick on the day of their interview and another employee sits in her place and approves their legal residency case after years living in the shadows of society. In school, one of his professors helps getting him hired at an ad agency (as an intern). After a few years of hard work and minimum wage, Elias gets promoted to his current position. He told me that in childhood, he used to live on the streets and now, he supports his family. One of his brothers was deported due to his negligence for his immigration case  and the other one has been entangled in gang life. I told him: your life story is adventuresome and fascinating. He said: I know, but I wish it weren’t. Growing up under the pressure of poverty and instability is not worth the experience of telling it.

Chicago – Summer 2014

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