There were files and files — files all around. Satish Kapoor would get in the horse carriage, take them all through Oakland. He would go to Rockridge, he would go to Chinatown. He would go to downtown Oakland, he would go to East Oakland. Where was it that he did not go?

He was a man of medium height, almost sixty years old. He had a fair complexion, he was quite handsome. But his hair was turning gray. And his life, was it of any worth?

They were old files, papers and documents that he had worked on. “Petroleum Data Interpretations” (1981), “Motor Gasoline Supplies” (1983), “Crisis in the Straits of Hormuz” (1983), “The Quality Control Notebook” (1987), “The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990” (1992). And so on. He tried to explain these documents to people, his contributions to them. Most people did not seem interested. The documents were too old, even poorly written. The subject was obscure — and even outdated.

“I will fix the grammar,” he said. “I will recopy, even type if you want. I will redo in fair copy.”

But the people were not interested.

One time he was in East Oakland. It was an old, gray building, nondescript. The steps were gray and dirty, they had not been swept in some time. Here and there were some puddles — were they from the recent rains?

He climbed the steps, came to a long hallway. There was the smell of sour milk, of fish and onions being fried somewhere down the hall. There, in the far corner, he thought he saw a small mouse.

He had come — why had he come? To share his documents? To share his past? To share his heart?

He knocked on the door, he waited. The door opened. A man stood on the other side. He was in his undershirt, he wore light gray pants. The belt was loosened, one side of the leather strap dangled beside him on the right.

The man pressed his body to the door, made way for the visitor to pass.

Satish Kapoor entered and sat on the cane chair. He took his stack of documents, laid them on the floor beside him.

The host looked at the stack, did not seem pleased. Satish Kapoor noticed that. Not many people were impressed by the documents. Was this a learned man, a wise man? Was he the same as the others — was he an exception?

The host offered tea, Satish Kapoor declined. “The documents,” his eyes seemed to say.

They did indeed get to the documents. Satish Kapoor explained, the other listened. He explained, the other listened. And was the other moved?

“Crude oil stocks fell 1.3 percent from the previous month, but motor gasoline stocks showed an unexpected rise of 2.7 percent. Distillate stocks are close to the low end of their historical range — but far in excess of minimum operating inventory (MOI) levels.”

“As of January 8, 1982, total primary stocks (excluding SPR) were 1,269.3 MMB. This is a decline of 1.1 percent from the comparable period in 1981, but an increase of 1.2 percent from the previous month.”

“Gasoline consumption for 1982 is expected to range between 6.47 and 6.78 MMB/D (see Exhibit 2). This range brackets the 1981 average of 6.59 MMB/D.”

The other looked at Satish Kapoor, shook his head. “Too detailed,” he said.

“A preliminary analysis, based on potential supplies of 2.9 MMB/D and a potential demand of 2.5 MMB/D, indicates that current residual stocks are more than adequate. The analysis assumes that winter demand for residual fuel will be 130 percent of the prior summer’s base use. In the peak season of 1977–78, the winter demand was 119 percent of the prior summer’s base use.”

Again the other looked at Satish Kapoor, shook his head. “Too specific,” he said.

Satish Kapoor was disappointed. But he did not lose all hope — not yet. He said that there were general points — bigger points — as well.

“Crude oil imports into the U.S. today have a much higher sulfur content than they did seven years ago.”

“A big point,” said Satish Kapoor. “A big point!”

“To evaluate historical supply trends for motor gasoline, three components must be analyzed: refinery production, net imports, and net stock withdrawals (or additions).”

“A big point,” said Satish Kapoor. “A big point!”

And again:

“The ‘average range’ and ‘minimum operating inventory’ estimates for crude oil stocks, distillate fuel oil stocks, and residual fuel oil stocks may no longer be valid. They are based on the ‘throughput’ levels of 1977 and 1978 and on critical factors affecting stock–holding behavior — interest rates, levels of demand, perception of stability in world market, etc. — that have changed substantially over the past few years. A revision of the average and minimum estimates may, therefore, be in order.”

The other looked at Satish Kapoor, shook his head. He looked, he pursed his lips. Perhaps he felt sorry for him — he actually felt sorry. But was there anything that he could do?

Some twenty minutes passed, perhaps twenty–five. “I am sorry,” he said at last.

Satish Kapoor was dejected — how could he not be? He had come in full of hope. And this hope, where was it now?

But Satish Kapoor did not give up, not yet. He would leave the host, he would go outside. He would get into his horse carriage. He would go to the next house and the next. He would go to Rockridge, he would go to Chinatown. He would go downtown, he would go to West Oakland. He would knock on this door, on that. He would knock softly, loudly. And would they let him in? Would they care?

* * *

Satish Kapoor did indeed leave. He said goodbye to the host. They walked out the door and down the hall. Another door. Another. Satish Kapoor walked out the main door and down the ten dirty steps.

Satish Kapoor continued his journey. He went from street to street, from alley to alley. And did the people listen? Did they care?

“I am here, sir.”


“Are you home, sir? Are you kind, helpful? Will you let me in?”

Satish Kapoor spoke about his documents, his papers. And did it help? He spoke about the detailed points, he spoke about the general points. And did it help?

The days passed. One day Satish Kapoor went to the building — the famous tall glass building in downtown Oakland. The lines at the building were long that day — they were especially long. There was a long room, black tables with plastic tops spread throughout the room. Men sat at these tables. Some wore suits, some wore casual slacks. Some wore exotic robes — African, Afghan, robes from throughout the world.

One man was seated there in a white shirt and white pants. He had pitch–black hair. His eyes were black, but someone had put kohl in his eyes — on his eyebrows, his eyelashes — and it made the eyes look even darker. He looked like some actor in a movie, or perhaps in a play.

Satish Kapoor approached the man — approached him timidly.

“I have come,” he said.

“Yes,” said the other.

There was a moment of silence.

“I have brought the files.”

The other was silent.

Satish Kapoor reached into his plastic bag and he began to take out the documents. There was dust on the top, he blew on the dust. Some of the dust flew toward the host. The host was not pleased. The visitor was nonplussed — apologized to the other. He apologized profusely.

“A mistake, sir, an error.”

The other was silent.

“An aberration, sir. I am a careful man — I pride myself on it. Why only yesterday …” and the visitor stopped.

Apparently the visitor was about to tell a story — some relevant story about what had happened yesterday. But he seemed to have forgotten the story. He seemed to have lost the thread of his words. He seemed …

The documents were on the table, the other began to examine them. He flipped through them, studied them for some time. He lifted his head.

“A petroleum man, I see.”

“Yes, sir. These are from my early years. Petroleum was important then — it is still. That is …”

And again the visitor stopped.

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