I had somehow promised myself I would have not mention him again, but my new Muslim officemate is giving me so many new emotions.
He was telling me how an Israeli girl who was taking a course with him at the university and used to smile at him, looking for his complicity, whenever anecdotes about being from the Middle-East popped up.
He did not really understand why: he had hostile feelings and just wanted to keep his distance, to make distinctions clear between them, while she was smiling at him, as if they actually had something in common! I explained to him that yes, most likely she was indeed looking for complicity, that Israelis are very “middle-Eastern inside” and I sometimes believe that in their behavior they are more similar to him than to me.
I suddenly realized that the same way he was wary about my being Jewish, I was conversely looking for complicity, me too. I could think only about the things we had in common, living in a society where people often have prejudice against us, feeling somehow different, being suspicious and cautious about food (me much more than him, but maybe this is also because I am Italian…), wandering desperately in this German canteen dominated by King Pork and Queen Meat, loving food and sweets, laughing a lot and talking even more.
On the other hand, I have to admit that with him I always try to do more than my usual best, as if I wanted to prove him wrong and leave a good impression, so that one day he will go and say, “Once I met a Jewish girl. Well… for the sake of truth, she was awesome: she offered me lunch, she introduced me to all her friends, she was funny and generous, polite and understanding, she used to bring chocolates to the office, she baked super yummy cakes, she invited me to her birthday party where I had no problem with the food because everything was kosher, so obviously also halal!”
Now he’s away for a week, and the office is so silent without him.
I think in the meantime I might bake a Lemon Tarte for when he comes back.
He should like it…
*Susanna Calimani is a wandering economist, currently based in Frankfurt.