Sy: lion heart, UFOs, alchemy, Thanksgiving Day candles, seeking truth


“Lying steals someone’s right to the truth.”

Sy is the guy. Sy is my first guy. Sy is the guy I was afraid to talk to in middle school. Sy is sweet. Sy is strong.

A one-time “fragrance chemist” (really!) blending together the most alluring scents for the fashion and food industry, Sy has re-created diverse smells: from a candle imitating McDonald’s Big Mac to give consumers a sense of nasal comfort in inhaling fries-yet-to-be-fried and patties-yet-to-be-flipped to more conventional perfume lines to adorn women in scents as fancy and sweet as Jessica Simpson’s pits.

(Side-note: Okay, so I made up that last bit about JSimp’s pits, but wouldn’t that be a great conference to be a part of? But really, how do you determine someone’s odorous essence?)

Moving on. Sy is a certified BA in my book. His gentle spirit disarmed me from my preconceived notions that had me coming into the walk with my bro-self-defense shield on full blast. Something which I am still embarrassed to admit…

Sy is aware, calm, and perceptive. His eyes lit up when I asked what’s the best thing he’s ever smelled. He described, with great excitement, “a creamy Thanksgiving dinner candle” he had worked to develop, which simultaneously hit you with hints of “vanilla and out-of-the-oven-turkey, everything.” It was a delightful moment, and I suddenly felt myself not only craving mashed potatoes and gravy, but also becoming more self-conscious about how he was perceiving me. Sy continued to observe as I started to quietly panic.

I was intrigued by his family’s history with Greek-Armenian heritage, a life built in Iran, then Afghanistan up until 1989, and now the US. A family of doctors, Sy comes from a long line of healers, which can be felt in his presence. “I bought a house in education,” reflecting upon how people don’t realize how much an investment medical school is, he explained, “It’s not a luxurious lifestyle.”

He had come to the US at the age of 3, the same age of my grandfather when he had arrived in New York from Sweden (passing through Ellis Island before moving to a farm in Nebraska) and I couldn’t help but to romanticize (somewhat idyllically) this immigration story with visions of my own family’s journeys into unfamiliar places. I admired his commitment to his education and was surprised to hear him state how brave travelers are after I told him about my experience studying abroad.

It was a moment of mutual appreciation. The grass is green on both sides. In staying and in traveling.
It was freezing. Did I mention that already? It was also in Jersey!—a 20 minute ride on the PATH train from Manhattan, but worlds away in the minds of anyone exposed to the Jersey / New York cultural cleavage that is pushed on your face after living in “the city” for more than a year.*

  *Never mind that you have never actually lived in Manhattan nor the fact that you have never even been to Jersey. But in order to feel successfully integrated as a “New Yorker” you gotta hate on Jersey, just a little, even if you don’t.

While waiting for Sy to arrive, sitting on a bench along the waterfront, I kept thinking to myself, “How the hell did I end up in Hoboken?” Packed with judgment, sitting on a bench, waiting, looking out at the city, I felt my nerves calm as I reflected upon the sun sparkling on the Hudson, light resonating and bouncing off the new World Trade Center, cheers in the distance for the NYC marathon. This is my city. This is my home.

It is good to get a new perspective. The Hoboken waterfront was beautiful and gently stripped me away of my stubborn mentality to not have a good time that day.
Sy arrived nonchalantly, kissed me on the cheek. And we were off. Like two funny characters in an Off-Off Broadway play. Me: awkward, blonde, small. Him: big, casual, calm. His gender expression made me initially tense up as I felt myself becoming defensive, apologetic, and rushing to ask my questions and trying to gage how he felt about me. I’m sure if he reads this, he would be surprised to hear all this going on in my head. I wonder how often women (like me & not like me) do this.

I admitted to him that he was my “first guy” and that I was feeling more uncomfortable than I had been on my walks with women, but thanked him for being so honest and open to the project. He said he enjoyed the idea of things like this: one time he saw a public project where strangers were asked not to smile while someone else smiled at them. Everyone who participated failed to not smile. This made us smile.

My walk with Sy was engaged with senses from the get-go. From the friendly kiss on the cheek to wind-blown faces and talk of aromatic candles, I was aware of the sights, smells, and sounds with a heightened sense of curiosity to my physical surroundings—my boots made a delicious clack-clunk-clack upon the wooden dock, leaves fluttered across the concrete in a hectically orchestrated dance, the smell of coffee called to us and reminded us of warmer places…but I was determined to hold on to Sy’s hand in the cold and resist the urge to proceed in a more calm and casual meet-up setting.
Midway through our walk, Sy looked up and stopped. An unidentifiable floating object was hanging in the tree above us. Was it a mattress? A board? A flying carpet? We watched there stunned, just long enough for others to join us in the spectacle. It was strange and funny. I decided to take a picture.

We were like children in awe. After a bit of debate, we decided it must be a foam board. No real danger here. Right in the middle of an intense discussion about what Sy hates the most—a question I always ask—and here comes a floating board. The academic in me was annoyed, the artist and child enthralled.

Sy hates lying. I was taken aback by how quickly and unpremeditated this was:

— What do you hate? 

— Lying.


—Lying steals someone’s right to the truth.

Wow. Pow.IMG_8916In an instant, Sy “the guy” transformed into Sy the poet. Through my all-too-human judging eyes, I placed him into a very superficial category of “man” that spoke little truth to the person with whom I was now holding hands. After discussing how limiting and destructive even the most white lie can be, he told me how he enjoyed writing poetry and reading in Farsi, and how he identified with the symbolic force of the lion. Though he also appreciated the solitary and self-sufficient qualities of a tiger, he certainly has the eye and heart of a lion.

A great and strong hand to hold. It feels good to know that people like Sy are becoming doctors. With Sy’s gentle, strong, wise, & attentive qualities, we are (at least here) in good hands.

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