It’s Thursday evening in Amman, which means that the weekend has officially begun. Time for creative output and much corporal cuddling of kitties.
You know, today, I was sick to my stomach already when I hailed a cab to go to First Circle. The cab was driven by a man who was 120 years old, by conservative estimate. His long life had not endeared him to the earth. In fact, by the end of our cab ride, I was convinced that there few things in this world that he would not creatively swear at.
We were stuck in traffic, and because of the jolts and stops, my sick stomach turned into a virulently sick stomach. I kept thinking about what would happen if I puked on the upholstery – if a sparrow briefly hopping up on the hood provoked his ire – what would vomit inside the cab do? I don’t know about you, but whenever I need to vomit, I start missing mom. When I was a kid, she was always the one to hold my hair back, and put her palm over my forehead. How did I manage to grow up so suddenly – develop breasts and a bank account and a sad little wrinkle at one corner of the mouth?
In the meantime, my fears were somewhat assuaged when, upon noticing that I was turning the colour of pickle and pine, he courteously brought down all the windows in the car. Together, we smelled rain clouds, and new grass, and forgotten days, and exhaust fumes.
A cop on the sidewalk was having his picture taken with an antique rifle. “Why not me?” I thought jealously.
“Idiots!” The driver exlcaimed in the direction of the cop and rifle (he was swearing mostly in English, for my benefit). Or perhaps he was shouting at a group of rude schoolchildren darting through the traffic. I could taste something very unpleasant in my mouth. Was it my own tongue?
I thought about the fact that I had never before puked in public. I hadn’t even NOT made it to the bathroom – not ever – except for that one time… A cream-coloured Mercedes pulled out violently in front of us.
The driver screamed many things – “bedun” among them. I broke out in a cold sweat. An SUV with Saudi plates, full of boys who didn’t look a day over 20, nearly sideswiped us. I cannot translate what the driver screamed at them on this blog. I will admit I joined in. For all of my troubles with Arabic, swearing horribly is not one of them. Does that say something about me?
The driver crowed approvingly.
“See?” He told me in Arabic. “You DO speak Arabic!” I had insisted, earlier, that I did not.
I thought about how normally, I believe that claiming to “know” a language means being able to read, appreciate, and interpret its poetry. But I’m not at a very poetic point in my life. And anyway, I used to be able to read Goethe in the original German – but I sure as hell couldn’t scream at a man about what exactly I want him to do with his mother (yes, this is sexist – at least sexist in a way that the word “motherfucker” is, or used to be). I can sing a children’s song in Arabic – but I don’t think that actually counts.
I was still swaying a little when the driver dropped me off a little way’s past the First Circle. “You will be OK,” he told me, and his fingers floated in the air, describing something intangible, but, I think, pretty. What, in my future, could possibly be pretty? An errant strawberry shortcake sunset I might actually notice? A very good drink? I did take his gesture as a kind of prophecy. The universe will right itself. The Arab romantics will crowd my bookshelves. I’ll stop getting carsick, heartsick and headsick.
Until then, Patrick Wolf takes care of my needs when I crawl home and put a damp cloth on my forehead:
I know he talks about a Monday morning, but this is just as applicable for a Friday morning (or a Saturday one, for those of you on a different week) – or any morning at all.
Do make sure to fix a really good screwdriver and wave it around in the air as you listen to this. I do think that the best screwdrivers are made with Nemiroff pepper vodka and a bit of fizzy water to dilute the orange juice. Pop a few ice cubes in as well.
Because, surprisingly, it is spring-time. The sparrows, and the cab drivers, and the cops, and the children – they all know it. Even my cats know it. They nap energetically. The skies know it. They ripple brilliantly with clouds and hail. Amman opens like a rusty locket – swears and smiles and shimmers, bursts with birds, hunches hill over hill, cries brake-fluid, purrs traffic – its insides like locks of hair from all of your loves, present and gone.
Happy Weekend, Happy Spring, Happy Drink-in-Hand.