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