Abel surveyed my massive suitcase, carry-on wheelie, and backpack as if he’d never seen luggage before. It had taken a lot of knocking to get him to the door, and I was losing patience.
“You’re going away?” he asked.
“I’m cashing in the chit, my Eritrean friend,” I said, pushing my way into the tiny living room of his mildewed housing-project apartment. “Even a bleeding-heart leftist like me has his limits. For the last two years I’ve held your hand in the line to get your residence permit renewed, recommended you for menial jobs, taught you English, and invited you over for Friday night meals. It’s time to pay up.”
“But Haim,” he said, still confused. “Where are you going? How will I manage without you?”
I pulled the brochure from my pocket and threw it expertly so that it covered the large hole in the upholstery on Abel’s flea-market sofa. “If there’s one value I hold by, it’s justice,” I said. “If I’ve done good, I should get rewarded.”
Abel’s high forehead furrowed as he picked up the brochure and unfolded it.
“Your Future in the Third Country,” he read.
“It arrived for you in the mail. In my mailbox, of course.”
Abel looked confused. “What Third Country?”
“The one our government intends to deport all you Africans to, on the grounds that you are not really refugees. See, according to our government, at the age of twelve you braved death by walking all the way to the Negev from some godforsaken village in the Horn of Africa because you heard you could get a job here washing dishes in a falafel joint.”