Stories in Amman – Ahmad’s Sandweeche

Ahmad’s Sandweeche is part of a series called “Stories in Amman”, which is a collection of short stories that illustrates the life of a young Ammani as he traverses and becomes part of his new old home.

He was anxious. He had never carried that much cash with him before. He had just exited the exchange shop, and was heading towards his car. He was paranoid, scanning the area around him nervously. It was one of the less fortunate suburbs of Amman, which all but added to his nervousness. He had no reason to be worried though, it was after all broad daylight, and the street was a main one. There are no alleyways in Amman, and even fewer people get mugged in broad daylight. But he had never held that amount of cash in his pockets before.

A kid stood a few meters away from his car, and a pair of old men were talking loudly in the distance. They both seemed like shop owners, complaining about how business was slow, and about how everything is becoming more expensive by the day. A very typical Jordanian conversation that’s gaining less creditability by the day. Even in this less than fortunate suburb of western Amman, signs of economic growth were clearly visible. Construction sites in the distance, a plethora of new cars roaming the streets, and a gas station being renovated by some big time oil company.

He got to the car, breathed a sigh of relief, and started to unlock the door. But he caught the reflection of someone moving behind him. He locked the door again, and turned around. The kid was approaching him. He didn’t pay attention to the kid before. His attire was tattered, his face was dirty, but his eyes were strange. The kid’s eyes made him feel awfully serene. The kid came up to him, and calmly asked, “Mister, can you give me a quarter so that I can buy a sandweeche?”

A sandweeche, the diminutive form in Arabic for a sandwich. He never hated anyone, but he intensely disliked beggars. He wasn’t mean, or heartless, but no amount of groveling ever made him feel a pang of regret or sorrow for beggars. But there was a weird air of serenity and sincerity around that kid that made him view him completely differently. He didn’t beg, plead, pray, or anything of the sort. He made an interesting proposal which interested the man. He just wanted a quarter to buy a sandwich.

He reached into his pocket, toke out a bunch of change, and singled out a quarter, and gave it to him. “Here you go, a quarter,” he said, with a smile on his face.

“Thank you,” said the kid monotonously. He turned around, and unlocked his car again, and went into it, locking the door behind him and breathed a sigh of peace. But then he thought about it more. That kid could do with more than a quarter. Who is he? He must have a name, and to every name there is a story. He wanted to take that kid to a restaurant, buy him as many sandweeches as he wanted, and hear his story.

He looked around, and a pang of cruel regret hit him. That kid wasn’t around anymore. He disappeared like a pinch of salt. He started the car and paced the streets a few times, but he couldn’t find Ahmad anywhere. Ahmad was the name he gave to the kid. There wasn’t any reason to why he choose that name. In fact, there wasn’t any reason why he wouldn’t be called Ahmad. After all, it is a very popular name. Anybody can be Ahmad.

He wanted to know Ahmad’s story. He wanted to know where Ahmad lived, who Ahmad’s parents are, whether or not he goes to school. It could even be more than that. He wanted to know where he went wrong, how he influenced Ahmad’s life in one way or another. He wanted to know that he’s not responsible for driving Ahmad to the street.

He also wanted to know that Ahmad was sincere. What if the realization he just had was the product of an expert begger, a kid in one of these gangs he reads about in the tabloids, collecting astronomical profits each year in the industry of sorrow and guilt. He disliked beggars, for that. Not because he was mean, but because he was very sympathetic

Friction

Writing is merely friction, is it not? A pen pushing against a paper, leaving a trail of ink, thoughts, dreams, ideas, and facts behind. Yet, I’m still not used to this kind of friction, the one caused by these words as they leave my brain to my hands. Words used to flow through me before I… before I… before. Now, I have to force them out, like the last few drops of toothpaste in the tube, before you throw it out.

I have no regrets. I have no fear. I have nothing more to say. I’ve had no regrets. I’ve had no fear. Before I’ve… before I’ve… you’ve broke me, left me in shambles. I hate you. I really hate you. O’ Hermes, the words flow again. I wrote before of great desire. I wrote of the beauty and the beast. I wrote of the night queen in the forest. I wrote of the tiger in the jungle. I wrote of love, lost and found, true and fake, eternal and temporal. I wrote of all that before I… before I myself was burned by the great blaze of love.

Oh how I hate you. I hate love. Now I can only write of hate, though I’ve vowed never to. Still, I want to thank you. I’ve never wrote of hate, with any conviction. I’ve never put any thought into it. I’ve never really explored that one emotion I’ve viewed as useless. Hate was never worth the effort for me. Now, I love to hate. Who said one cannot find beauty in hate?

Hate is the strongest emotion I’ve felt. I’ve always thought it was love, but when I’ve really loved, I discovered that love is only the strongest form of hate. Hate is driven by all of man’s desires. There’s no greater feeling of satisfaction than seeing those you’ve once loved get hurt. A concept so cruel, that only the Germans could find a word for it. Schadenfreude. The word itself brings great joy to my heart. I’ve become both beauty and beast.

I have died. I’ve had great love for you, and when all this love turned to hate, it was too much hate for one man to handle. I’ve died and become your Frankenstein. O’ Hermes, the words flow again. I may never love you again and I may never be the person I once was. But as long as the words flow, I know I’ll love again.