Published: June 18th 2012May 30th 2012
“Hey this is Jad. I hope you don’t mind Ammar gave me ur number. How u doin” was the text I received some time in the early afternoon. I called Ammar the previous day to give him my new number and tacked on at the end that it was ok for him to give Jad my number if he ever asked for it. Evidently, Jad asked for it. I texted back that it was fine he had my number and that I was doing well, “Just chillin.” He then asked if I was doing anything that night. I wanted to shout, “Of course not! And even if I was, it’d be cancelled to do something with you!” But I kept cool and instead replied, “Didn’t really have anything planned. Why, what’s up?” Long story of the conversation short, Jad was going to pick me up at 8, without Ammar. I took a shower, straightened my hair (which still took 30 minutes), and put on the best clothes I had, which actually was not that great because by then most of my clothes were already worn and dirty. After matching my make-up, and letting my mom know I was getting ready to go out “with some random guy just met,” as she put it, he rolled around at about 8:30 in the same black BMW SUV as the first time I’d met him.
I hopped in the car and he looked at me for a second and then said, “Wow you look nice. That’s a nice dress you have on.” I replied with a casual, “Oh, it’s just an old dress,” knowing full well that I just bought it at Plato’s Closet just before my trip. So technically it was someone’s old dress but new to me; he didn’t need to know the difference. Then we took off, we headed off down and around with so many lights and things spinning around me, I had no idea where I was except that we were in a richer part of town, probably his side. I was glad I decided to dress up a bit because most of the other people were dressed better than average. Even though what I was wearing didn’t exactly scream “money,” I at least looked like I’d tried. He was dressed pretty nice as well with a white button up quarter sleeve that had some sort of red and black writing design on half of the back with the brand name on it (It wasn’t Armani but pretty close), khakis and red sneakers to match his shirt. Although he does have a beard, it’s cut pretty close and looked freshly edged. The hair on his head looked fresh cut and styled to reach into a subtle faux hawk with a hint of a curve at the top giving it an influence of Astroboy. As “bro” as it sounds, he pulls it off well in a non-bro way. His eyes are a very pretty light brown, the left one overshadowed by a scar extending from the middle of his eyebrow down to the end, which actually made him more attractive. It gives more pronunciation to his character and adds a little mystery to the story his expressions tell. He is lighter toned but with definite Arab features and a square jaw to boot. His teeth are small in comparison to such a large and bright smile that he gives almost every time he opens his thin lips to tell a story. He reaches about 6-feet in height with a weight of probably 190-200lbs. He told me his weight once in kilos, but I can’t remember it since, to me, it was quite irrelevant at the time. The weight accredits to a built body for the most part, as if he used to workout a lot but had taken a bit of time off because of work. He used to lift weights quite a bit and swim, which I thought was on two opposite ends of the spectrum, but I never complain. He looks just fine to me.
The only thing that worried me was how much chest and back hair he probably had. I knew that Middle Eastern men have this thing about not shaving, and being proud of how much hair they have almost as if the more hair you have the sooner, the more manly you are. If you can grow a beard at age 12, then you’re right on track. But looking at his arms, I could tell that he would not be as bad as I cringed, and maybe only one or two hairs peaked up through the top two buttoned slots of his shirt. I took my eyes away from slyly examining his attractiveness and tried looking at all of the downsides, which surprisingly, I have come to not mind at all.
Jad smokes, but then again so does every other male over the age of 12 in this country so I rationalized, “What else could I expect?” Jad drives fast, like near recklessly, but then again, so do a lot of other males under the age of 40 in this country. Jad is a fast guy, if you know what I mean, but when you’re the son of a millionaire and on your way to becoming one by the age of 27, what else could I expect then? In America, none of this would/will fly with me, but YOLO (which is his least favorite word :P).
Then there are the qualities, non-physical that make me want to keep hanging out with him. 1. He speaks with a freaking British accent, and for 90% of American girls, that’s a done deal already. 2. He’s so funny. Ammar asked after that night (which I’ll get to) if I enjoyed my time. Of course I did and he said “Yes, everyone that Jad meets, they like him. He’s just always liked by everyone. The life of the party.” He just has that gravity where people want to be around him. 3. He knows when to talk about something serious and to what extend so that I’m not uncomfortable and when to lighten the mood. 4. He doesn’t mind at all that I’m Christian and actually wants to help me with some of my pilgrimage checklist items, such as taking me to al-Mughatas, the Baptism Site so that I can be baptized where Jesus was. In fact, even though he is Muslim, we’ve had religious discussions where we’ve talked about praying for each other. I just feel like it’s great that even though we are of different religions, that he puts faith in God, or Allah, that he even believes there is a God. There’s just something about a man who puts his faith in something he can’t see, I think. (Now, I’m not going to go off converting to Islam or anything for those thinking that. I just appreciate that he respects my religion and encourages my practices, even when they’re different from his.)
Back to the night: it was wonderful. First we went to this place called Pastiche, which we’ve ended up going to several times, but I’ve never been inside. He always leaves the car running, heads out for about 7 minutes and comes back with two boxes of food. We ate in the car on the side, because he doesn’t like eating while driving. He says rationalizes, why be We had this proper looking shwarma, which was definitely less messy than a street stand, but still good. He ate two and half of one of mine, and this man was still hungry. The next stop was to get ice cream. We drove up to this crowded ice cream parlor called Gerard’s, which I had seen one in France so I thought it was French. Jad thought it was American, so I have no idea where it originate. But no matter where it came from, this beat out Cold Stone and Marble Slab combined. This is where the fun began.
The line of parked cars along the side of the street extended about three shops down so he parallel parked there. I got out of the car and met up with him at the back. He told me everyone loves coming to this place and it’s always crowded at night, especially in the summer when all the students get out of school and have nothing to do during the week in the summer. We walked up to the patio area where every table was filled to overcapacity, and that’s where I saw a table of 8-10 women sitting near the glass wall closest to the door. Literally, every single one of them stopped their conversation and stared at me. Those not facing me, turned around to look at me. They weren’t the familiar looks of curiosity or interest that I received from the men on a daily basis, but were of absolute scorn and almost disgust. It took me aback for a moment and I stared at them back with a somewhat frightened look, like the kid on the playground who gets beat up by the “cool kids” and bullies. Jad walked in as if he didn’t notice anything and I finally followed.
“You can have whatever you. Don’t think about anything but that. If you want any flavor, no matter the scoops, you’ve got it,” he promised. Money was not an object, especially with something as petty as ice cream. This place was no joke on prices either. We’re talking 1.89JD per scoop, which is like $2.65. I got a scoop of Ferrero Rocher and Chocolate Fudge Brownie to satisfy my chocolate craving. He got strawberry and some other fruit that I never quite figured out and paid with a 20JD, which is usually frowned upon but rarely do I see Jad pay with less than a 10 or 20, unless he just got change. After receiving his change, he flashed a smile at me, lightly touched my lower back and gave me an encouraging ladies first nudge out of the door. I wanted to resist for a moment because the women were still staring through the glass. They hadn’t stopped the entire time we were in the shop, except to point and laugh for a moment. But then a thought hit me, they were going to watch me walk back to the car. A boost of confidence overcame me and I strutted out of the doorway passed them and onto the sidewalk. They peeled their eyes off me to have a peak at Jad and their expressions changed from perturbed to pissed. Those expressions gave away their thoughts of “Why is she with him?” or “How did she pull this guy?” We got to the car, which Jad had already unlocked. I opened it, paused to flip my hair for one last look at them, and then quaintly lifted my dress into the BMW, which I must correct from earlier, is actually a 2011.
I looked in the side view mirror at the girls with a little sadness. While it’s fun being That Girl in the passenger’s side of some rich hottie, it depressed me to know that I was going to have a terrible time trying to talk to the women here when many are so judgmental just because I don’t look like them. I had been getting that I’m Sudanese or South African whenever people asked, but it was only the thirsty men that cared. I feel like the women overly judge me here. No, I’m not covered up. Yes, I dress American. Yes, I am a hot commodity. No, I don’t speak Arabic very well. But all of this is super surface, and considering I am looking to narrow my broad senior thesis topic of the changing role of Middle Eastern women in society by talking to and interviewing many of them, how can I when we are separated by cold, un-crossable river. Jad could see the frustration and sadness building in my face.
“The girls here, they’re just staring at you because you’re different, you know. It’s nothing really against you, well there is but it’s just because they’re too full of themselves. So when they see foreign girls like you with guys like us, they just, I dunno. They turn around and get mad, but we, Jordanian guys, won’t get a second look from them on another day,” he tried to comfort. I looked at him with an expression that said Really? The corner of his mouth turned up as he said, “As for me, I just say they’re staring because they wish they could be as beautiful as you.” That brought my self-esteem up, along with my mood. I giggled, and he smiled in satisfaction and continued on with his ice cream.
We finished up and drove around the upper scale part of Amman for a bit. Until we reached this place called Lebani Snack, which is a chain deli-ish type restaurant with awesome sandwiches, fresh fruit smoothies, and ice cream. He told me I have to try this “stuff” in one of the smoothies. He ordered two through curbside service and we waited talking about everything, going from one subject to the other on a whim.
One conversation that we had dealt with my past summer’s on my grandma’s farms. My parents would ship us to East Texas for the entire three months of summer to live in the blazing heat with nothing to do because of the number of children our age being in the 5s within a ten-mile radius. I look back and reminisce on all the summer’s I spent there and found myself talking about it quite a bit. We compared childhoods and talked about our siblings. He’s the oldest of three boys, with his youngest brother being only four years younger than him.
It’s funny because his family is quite like mine but the opposite, in a sense. He, as the oldest, was considerably a “bad” child. He made all the mistakes to be made so that by the time the middle brother rolled around, he was the “good” one and didn’t follow in Jad’s footsteps too much. It’s quite similar for my family. And then you have the youngest, they try/inevitably end up being just like the oldest. They do so many of the same things that it’s like they were made more of siblings than the middle with either of them. It’s quite funny actually. Then there are our parents, both a bit strict on us growing up, but mom is always the softer of the two, and more forgiving to be honest. Mom is the one who is more religious of the two always stressing the importance of “being who you are” when we go/went off to college and check up on us for that same reason. (His mom seemed so cool when I met her too. Another story for another time.) Dad is the tough love giver, always making sure we’re on our studies, business, and money; the more logic and critical thinking driven type. It’s uncanny how much our families are so alike and how we grew up the same worlds (and three years) apart.
Diving back into the story, the smoothies came out and I tried the strawberry and banana smoothie with lebani in the middle. Imagine someone dumping a blob of tasteless cottage cheese into your smoothie and you’ve got lebani. It drank maybe a quarter of it just to be nice and was done. Jad could tell I didn’t like it too much; he didn’t either. Both went into a nearby dumpster.
We continued our food tour by getting some corn off the street. They came in hot chopped up bites to eat right off the cob in one bag, and this thing that’s like corn but isn’t in another cold bag. The non-corn corn (I have no idea what it’s called), you’re supposed to bite a tiny piece to open up the shell and squeeze it into your mouth. I had way too much trouble for the simple process I found it out to be and Jad had to show me about 5 times before I finally got it. We continued eating corn and talking until a little girl appeared at the passenger’s side window. She was keychains. She and Jad exchanged a few words and he finally pulled out a 50p coin and gave it to me to give to her. I handed it to her with a smile. She gave me a clear plastic hollow keychain in the shape of a heart. Inside the heart, red liquid floated with sparkles and a smaller heart with Cupid’s arrow going through it. As she gave it to me, she said something and then ran off smiling.
I looked at Jad. “What did she say?”
“She said, ‘I’ll give you the sweetest one for the sweetest girl’.” He smiled again. We looked at the time: 1:24am. I had a 12am curfew and he had work in the morning so we decided to call it a night and he dropped me back off at my hostel. David groggily answered the door as I apologize profusely for being late, again, I looked back at Jad and flashed a smile.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” he called out of the window. I waved, turned, and ran up the stairs to Skype my mom, giggling and smiling like a little girl who’d just talked to her crush.