How things sometimes turn out

This is a story about David, a good friend of mine from university days.

David was an unsmiling, straightforward, lonesome, and very candid person. From day one, it was obvious that his interests did not lie in physics (his domain of specialization). He didn’t have a knack for physics, math or computers. His knowledge of English was scarce. The results of his exams varied from mediocre to average. He neither tried to excel nor allowed himself to fail the courses he took. He floated…during four years of undergrad studies.

He finally obtained his bachelors in physics. After these four years, he had no knowledge, experience or aspiration in any particular field including physics. He didn’t want to continue in physics, but the alternative of serving two years in the army compelled him otherwise. He continued his studies on graduate level. In the meantime, he became restless. He wanted to quit the country and take a job in some place calm where he could drive trucks. “Me, the road and nothing else” he used to say. He preferred solitude.

Seeing many young people going to America, David decided to take his chances. One day he informed me that he found a “great opportunity to go to the US.” It was the American green card lottery. He read that there is a good chance of winning the lottery and getting a green card. He got very enthused and optimistic. He applied for it and some time after, surprisingly for everyone, he received a notification that he passed the first stage of selection. The second stage of the lottery was to take place in Moscow, Russia. David’s family was not financially stable, but he managed to scrap together ticket money, borrowing from friends and family. When he came back from Moscow, he announced that he had a good chance of obtaining the green card. There was a big change in David. A joking, superstitious and overly confident David seemed completely unrelated to the formerly grave, isolated life-hater he once was.

After two years and a Masters degree, David left his family – he was 24 then – and took off to America in search of good career path and money.

Months passed. I got an email that he settled with a Russian girl and undertook a long chain of short-lived temporary jobs on gas stations, cafés and trade centers. He didn’t sound happy or content. He was surviving. He wrote he spared some money and sent it to his family. No mention of trucks.

More months passed. Another email. He enrolled in a PhD programme in physics. What? Why? He said: “They pay well to doctoral students, and I don’t have to do crappy stuff.” He was in desperate need to bone up his computer skills in order to advance in his studies. He needed to learn computers from scratch, which he didn’t feel like doing. He managed to buy some time from his supervisor. However after six months or so, he quit. His supervisor finally understood that David would not be able to complete his studies. In addition, a sad incident, a quarrel with his Russian girlfriend who fabricated some false evidence, resulted in David’s incarceration in a local prison for a week. He didn’t have money; he was in prison; his family was not aware; few friends were aware and bailed him out. Shortly after, he was put into prison for three weeks, again based on false witnessing. After jail, he wouldn’t be able to find a job in that state because of his criminal record.

Three weeks later, he was out of prison. He had no money and no job. He managed to borrow enough money for a return ticket to Armenia. Four years passed since he left. What changed? David now spoke English fluently. He brought back with him no money, no promises for a job, no valuable knowledge, but many memories of unpleasant experiences, glimmers of which could be seen in his shadowy and grave expression of face.

He was 28… I met him when he was back few weeks prior to my visit. We had a drink and a long conversation. He was looking for a job; he needed a fresh start…