About once a week, I eat a family dinner with a family that is not my own. There’s this street vendor cart a couple blocks from my apartment that provides a veggie gyro that has become one of the staples of my diet. (When taking it to the streets, I like to stick with vegetarian options.) The food is prepared by a family who moved here about fifteen years ago from Egypt. I don’t know when it started, maybe sometime last May, but they always have an open lawn chair ready for me.
There’s Lisa, the eldest daughter, who is around my age. We’ve become pretty good friends over recent weeks and she often confides in me about her boy troubles. She’s under strict supervision from her father and is not allowed to go out with boys until she is engaged to one.
Then there’s the brother, Mo, 16 years-old, who likes to watch me squirm as I struggle to come up with new excuses each week as to why I can’t go to the movies with him.
My favorite, though, is the 4 year-old girl, Tulla. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get on whatever train she’s on. She just sits there with her little flower-face and carries on and on in a mixture of Egyptian and English. Mainly, she talks about ice cream.
Then there’s the father, a good-humored man of small stature. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m some white anorexic orphan because he’s always trying to load me up with second helpings. He’s got a funny way about him where he’s all business up front, but the second a group of customers walk away, he starts making fun of the way they smell.
Finally, there’s the mother, who is kind of like the soul provider of the family. She never speaks directly to me; Lisa usually translates her. Once, she explained to us how, “you see how 1st avenue looks so much lighter, more relaxing at night? It's not because of the bright lights. It's because the avenue is made of concrete, which is lighter, and not asphalt, which is what other avenues are made of, and that's why they appear darker.”