If only I were writing to you under different circumstances.
By Guneez Ibrahim
Some days, life tests us. It challenges our faith, tests our convictions. It reminds us to cherish that which we love, and honor that which we hold sacred. For many, such a trial came on October 4, 2016, the day Kismet Café announced the closing of its 24th Street location. I am still grappling with that statement.
Let me paint you a picture. It is 2 a.m. on a Friday. The clubs have just closed. You lost your friends on Sixth Street. The late night shuttle driver makes everyone get off in front of the Co-oP, even though you had your heart set on a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit from Whataburger. Your stomach, filled with only the contents of a Four Loko, whispers “Feed me, baby.” You crawl forlornly on the Drag. What is there to eat? Chipotle is closed. Which Wich is closed. God knows you would never enter Pita Pit. You turn the corner and see a bright light, a beacon of hope. The smell of marinated beef fills your nostrils. A tear rolls down your cheek. It is Qdoba. But the line is far too long. You turn around, and sitting across the street from you is Kismet. That’s good enough. Finally, this hunger will be reconciled. You order a wrap. You tell the cashier you love him. You rest your head on the warm sticky surface of an open table, the cause of its stickiness unknown. They call your number. The shwarma warms you more than anyone has ever managed to do. Suddenly, the world feels right. You are whole again.
Who among us has not experienced such a night?
In the words of Adele, “they say that time’s supposed to heal you, but I ain’t done much healing.” I do not know how many semesters it will take to move past this loss. For now, I reminisce on all the euphoric moments that have been shared between Kismet and I. Listening to white people mispronounce “gyro” as I wait in line. Desperately holding the bathroom door closed with my arm when the locks were broken. Questioning the content of the P17’s sauce. Wondering why a restaurant Yelp categorizes as, “Greek, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean,” serves French fries.
The reaction caused by this passing has been nothing short of monumental. Vigils have been held, offerings have been made, secular memorial services have commenced… I assume. I’d like to think this news has been so troubling, because we all saw ourselves in Kismet. On the outside, a bit beaten up, visibly aging, and just a little stinky. On the inside, also beaten up, aging and stinky. But at the core, persevering and deliciously endearing.
Kismet was not some chain restaurant that served turkey sandwiches you can make for a third of the price at home. It was not some health food café where the dress code was Lululemon and Lululemon only. Kismet was simply Kismet, and its presence will not be easily replaced.
Thank you for 22 incredible years of service, dedication, and falafels.
It is not "goodbye." It is "see you later" on 41st Street.