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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Sunday, 12 November 2006

by Susan Abraham

Once, I travelled to Jordan, to write stories about the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea). For a while I lived in a noisy quarter of Amman.

The bazaars were bustling, colourful, exotic and interesting all at once.

Everywhere, the air smelt of cheroot.

With the precariously perched architecture, apartments and houses that stood bravely on astounding hills, I often thought of ancient civilisations like Greece.

One morning, I wanted to post cards. 'Wish you were here' postcards to those who hated to get them.

I carried a card for an old boyfriend with the picture of a couple jet-skiing in Aqaba.

I pretended that I had jet-skiied in Aqaba when all I had done was race around in a jet-boat, spying at the ocean fish.

I pretended I had worn a bikini when as females, we were warned against doing precisely that.

He would have received it while at work in a drab office.

I smiled at the thought.

As I walked down the hilltop from where I stayed and entered the shops, two men followed me.

They looked like crooks.

I thought of the nasty weasels in the Wind in the Willows.

It was not time yet to meet my friends, Firdaus and Shakhir.

Firdaus once married a Swiss woman and lived in Switzerland for 10 years.

Then they divorced.

Sometimes, he thought sadly of his twin daughters.

One of the crooks looked like a once-upon-a-time jailbird.

He wore a bright yellow shirt and bit on a toothpick. He was lanky and a hunchback. He looked like a fox. He grinned at me leacherously.

His friend was shorter and looked nervous. They kept pointing to me and started to make a plan.

My intuition was so sharp, I figured they were going to grab me, somewhere unsuspecting.

Everywhere I turned, I saw a bright yellow shirt, floating to me like laundry on a line.

One bright yellow shirt here. One finger pointing crook there.
One bright yellow shirt and one finger pointing crook everywhere.
Shirt. Crook. Shirt. Crook. Crook, shirt, shirt, shirt, crook, crook, crook, crooooooook....

An old man with a very long beard who sold magazines and newspapers called out to me. I asked him if he could help me.

He said, do I want to look at a book that had just been published.

He looked like a malnourished Santa Claus.

'A very good book', he said again. A very good book for me.

It read University of Egypt. Published in 1967.

I said goodbye to the old man and went to find an acquaintance in a nearby shop.

The acquaintance introduced me to his manager.

The manager was Kuwaitan and handsome. He wore glasses and had eyes that smiled.

"Welcome," he said. "Welcome, welcome and welcome."

He asked me if he could take me out for a drink.

I asked him if he was married.

He said he had a wife and baby daughter but that it didn't matter.

I said, "I see."

He said, "Well, in that case, since we understand each other..."

I said goodbye and left the shop.
Suddenly, I saw a bright yellow shirt heading towards me.

I dived into the crowd.

I was scared.

I started to run.

The bright red yellow shirt started to soar.

Not too far away, stood an Egyptian soldier.

He talked to a short woman soldier.

She was plump and stout and in love with her colleague.

I went to the soldier and told him in a worried tone that I was being followed and chased.

The female teapot stared.

I thought of the rhyme Pretty Polly put the Kettle On.

The soldier twirled his moustache and looked concerned.

"What was going on," he wanted to know. He looked kind.

A 70 year old man dressed in Western clothes came along.

"What is it?", he spoke in English. "What is wrong?"

Two men are tailing me. They want to catch me, I explained.

The old man shook his head in sympathy.

"You must be careful my daughter," he said. "Many bad men here."

I said, "Can someone help me?"

The old man started to speak to the Egyptian soldier.

I was asked to describe the crooks.

Suddenly, I saw a bright yellow shirt fleeing into the distance.

A crowd gathered and inspected me with close interest.

The Egyptian soldier and old man in Western clothes asked me where I was going.

To the post-office on the next block, I said nervously.

They stared at my cards.

The Egyptian soldier summoned a huge burly man from the crowd.

He was asked to accompany me to the post-office and made sure my cards were posted safely.

I still looked scared.

The old man in Western clothes said he would come too.

The Egyptian soldier agreed to follow and keep watch.

The short stout woman soldier said she would follow her egyptian comrade.

Soon, we marched to the post-office.

A strange little group watched by a staring crowd.

We walked bravely into the distance.

The Egyptian soldier and a female teapot who was madly in love with him, the sprightly old man in Western clothes, the big fat burly man and me with my cards.

Like something out of the Wizard of Oz.

But I wasn't wearing red shoes.

And our City of Emeralds was the crowded post office round the corner.

Did we sing hurrah, hurrah?

Did we sing "When the saints come marching in..."

No, we did not.

We marched in a brisk line. Left and right and left and right and right and right and left...

Everytime the big fat burly man tripped and fell over something, I imagined the lively hit, Tequila.

I was so happy I wanted to dance.

I thought longingly of a margarita.

Everytime, the burly man tripped, I could hear shouts of Tequila, Tequila!

Then the dustbin rolled. A Tequila drumroll! Or maybe someone screamed from being stepped on the toes, by the big burly man. A Tequila drumroll!

The Egyptian soldier was tall and lanky. When he walked like a swaying branch, I thought he would fall and kiss the road by mistake.

His face stuck out, his mostache stuck out, his neck stuck out too like a tortoise.

The stout little unformed woman soldier trundled her way along like a rumbling tractor-in-love.

She smiled to herself, picturing the dirt-laden street as a romantic stroll along the Yellow Brick Road.

When we reached the post-office, we all said goodbye.

The big fat burly man shook my hand.

His wife waited for him on a corner.

She carried heavy provisions and looked angry.

The old-man shook my hand.

He asked me if I wanted his telephone number, in case the crooks came back.

His grandson waited impatiently on a street corner. The grandson rode a motorcycle and looked annoyed.

The Egyptian soldier shook my hand and saluted from his beret.

The stout little woman soldier stared at me a little jealously, then saw the soldier look at her and smiled.

I was suddenly shy.

There was a rumble and a grumble in the small, dusty post-office.

Only one out of six counters were opened.

The clerk shouted angrily that he only had two hands.

Then I said goodbye to my fleeting few friends...the kind that come once in a lifetime but flee again immediately.

The heart never forgets them.

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