The Watchman of Ephraim Street
His Israeli identity card lists his name as Saaid Abed Kalaf. It is spelled out there, in Hebrew, along with his identity number, his age and address, his mother’s name and his father’s name, where he was born, what year. It is laminated, carefully cushioned in its slate-colored plastic folder. Tucked into one side of the folder are the names and identity numbers of his wife and five children. There is also an old black-and-white photo of his parents, the edges folded slightly, so that it can remain tucked behind the identity card. In between these things, held like pages bound to the spine of a book, are several small pieces of paper, with names, addresses, and phone numbers written in luxuriantly curled Arabic. There is also a carefully folded letter, the folds precise and even, square, a photocopy of a photocopy of a letter, wedged between his sister’s new phone number and the address of the store in Abu Dis that sells the part he needs to repair their kerosene heater.
He takes these items out of his back pocket, and sorts through them several times a day. It appears that he is searching for a certain slip of paper—a certain address or phone number. These forages always begin the same way, with Saaid taking out the wad in his back pocket, passing it from one hand to the other, and then sorting through it, his thumb flicking through the pieces of paper, finding the one carefully folded letter, opening it, flattening it out, smoothing it out with both palms, looking at it, a small smile crossing his face, a nod, maybe two nods of his head, and then the letter is meticulously folded again, returned to its home, wedged between his sister’s phone number and the address of the store.
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