Solomon met his future wife, Elsa, in 1987 while she was having dinner at Meskerem, a now-shuttered Ethiopian restaurant in Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Meskerem had opened two years earlier, the first Ethiopian restaurant on a stretch of 18th Street already crowded with “ethnic” restaurants and bars. At least three other Ethiopian restaurants quickly followed, and it must have seemed as if overnight, the newly arrived immigrants had all but taken over the neighborhood.
Elsa was with her sister when Solomon walked into the restaurant. He was with a friend that she knew from classes she had taken at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). They didn’t immediately speak to each other, even though Elsa remembers feeling something as soon as she saw Solomon. She already had her heart broken once since coming to America five years earlier, and according to Elsa, Solomon, especially in those days, was “too handsome” to trust. And besides, what was the rush? This was D.C.; it wasn’t difficult to find another Ethiopian.
After dinner, Elsa and her sister walked across the street to the recently opened Fasika’s, where they planned to have a drink and listen to music before continuing on with their evening. As soon as Elsa sat down, however, she saw Solomon and his friend enter the restaurant, and in her description of that moment almost 30 years later, it’s obvious that Solomon—tall, almost too thin, with the obligatory mustache, and an elegant, aquiline nose—made no attempt to hide the fact he was following her. Elsa and her sister left before he could even offer to buy them a drink, but again, this was D.C. in the late 1980s, roughly a decade since the first trickle of political exiles fleeing the communist revolution in Ethiopia had begun to arrive in America. There were only so many places to listen to Ethiopian music and dance skista, and all of those places were huddled together near the top of 18th Street. Elsa and her sister had to walk only a few minutes before they arrived at Awash, where a large crowd of what I imagine to be neatly-afroed young men and women were waiting outside, hoping in vain to get in. Fortunately for her, Solomon had beat her to the restaurant, and as she would soon learn, he was a man who knew people. He was part of that initial wave to arrive in America in the late 1970s, and more importantly, he was the kind of man who made friends, who couldn’t help but seduce everyone he met with his arms, eyes, and if need be, his entire body.