Ok. This piece is really about doubt. The title is deceptive. But so is hesitation.
It really just sneaks upon you. You are sure, you are sure, you are still sure and then, bam, you hesitate. Sometimes, the doubt is so well-disguised it slips under the fence and swipes away the trail.
Take my IPHONE and the Egyptian guy. I walk into the shopping center . In Montreal, this means penetrating a labyrinthine world of commerce, stacked in layers like a mille-feuille of skewer numbers. Having bought just 30 minutes on the parking meter, this is a no-nonsense trip. In and out.
I get to the first underground level and head to the phone stand. A young man looks up, kind enough.
-I need to unlock my Iphone.
Suddenly, the guy looks around, to see if anyone has heard us, as if I had asked him to sell me some cocaine.
-We don’t do that.
-But, I distinctly remember this stand, I protested, and came here not more than one year ago.
-Yeah, but we don’t do that anymore
-Oh, I said. And I said it slowly. As if to show him that I really sympathized and really understood.
-Well, I pursued, does anyone else unlock IPhones?
He looked around again, edged and said, go down to tne next mall, take a right , then go up a flight of stairs.
-What’s the name of the shop? I asked. But he wasn’t talking anymore.
So, I walked past the shoes and the summer scents and the push up bras and the cell phones and the underwear from Aisa that they sell as the real thing here when it’s just real fake…and finally I get to the place.
Another young man looks at me.
Now, I am talking in code.
He looks at me. He doesn’t sell cocaine either. But he looks around nevertheless and then sticks out his hand.
-Show me, he commands.
I pull out my phone.
-Follow me, he mumbles.
So I do. More steps, more corridors, another building.
And that is when I find myself in a shop that looks like a subterranean shoeshine shop from the 1950’s that went out of business in the 1970’s.
For the third time I say it. What I want. What I need. Clearly, Succinctly. Fearlessly.
The Egyptian guy has people from all walks of life coming to him. Begging. Unlock my phone, they cry.
He tells me to sit down. He has unbelievably long eyelashes, much longer than his mother, who is standing just beside him. This guy is not more than 20. The perfect age to know a hell of a lot more than me when it comes to electronika. His mother is very proud of him, beams when she looks at him. He’s the baby of the family, and he is running the business. His older brother, more serious, hovers by, and clients are staggering in. Everyone wants to be unblocked.
He tells me what it will cost me. He looks me square in the eye. He’s expensive, but I accept, and he gets to work on his code cracking. Within five minutes, he tries to sell me a Dell notebook/pad. Only 399, he says.
His mother laughs. She is star-struck, a real groupie.
-He can sell anything, she gushes in a thick accent.
We start talking about stuff. Travel. Codes. Electronika politics. Who pays what and why. People come in and out, in and out. We begin talking about Egypt and his mother perks up. Ahmad tells me I will love his beautiful country.
And that is when his mother disappears in the back room and waddles out with something in her hand. She walks toward me as if she has been waiting for me all her life. She thrusts a parchment in my hand.
-From my country! For you!
Now I am gushing. Unexpected, this little moment, lodged between phone deals and subterfuge. She tells me about the history, the story, the gods. But the parchment prophecies are all revealed in her son, Ahmed, unblocking my phone and charging me a handsome sum for the service.
His brother blurts out how great it is that I am getting such a good price. And then he names the price, which is substantially lower than what I am paying.
-Ahmed, I begin. Are you sure you didn’t make a mistake on the price you quoted me? Maybe you want to think again before you tell me what the final final price is.
-No, I don’t need to rethink. You have the 4. The 4 is the price I told youl.
I look at Ahmed, his eyelashes, his mother, his brother, the parchment in my hand, the Dell on the desk, battery bled dry by people pounding on it-potential buyers all-I see the guy with the unshaven beard with the 3 and the other guy with the android, the one in the suit and then, between the Egyptian and the cell phone, I lay down my doubt.
-This is what I’ll pay you. And I edge my money toward him.
-Ok, says Ahmed. Ok.
When I leave, I know I have been deceived. Somewhat. I shake everyone’s hand.
-Come back, they say…..
Their voices fade as I step into the cacophony of the mall.
-Tomorrow, I promise. Tomorrow.
We’re in it together, this basement level subterfuge. Humanity lurks somewhere in the mix.
It’s my only hope. That, and a lower phone bill.