A.

     
 

1.

"Can't you lunch here?" My mother shifted uncomfortably. "It seems safer."

I shook my head. In her honor, we have already had lunch with mother yesterday and I was craving for a hookah, something that no proper Southeastern domestic household could properly serve.

Besides, what my mother never seems to understand, it is generally safer to be in public with a friend of the opposite sex than elsewhere.

When I got into his car, the loud smell of Albaik made me swoon. "I see you've done your shopping."

He grinned. "My mother demanded it when she knew that I was coming home tonight. Pardon the unpleasantness. I told her that it isn't healthy. It's only a short trip from here to the sweet smell of hookah."

2.

I tiptoed in my shoes. Every bit of femininity in me repulsed. "Are all bachelor pads normally as chaotic as yours?"

He heard the impatience in my voice, and laughed from under the struggling bed. Pulling himself from there, he shuffled about the room, picking up recognizable items and throwing them into an open bag.

It was out of necessity - by stupidly losing track of time - that we braved the mutual embarrassment of watching his underwear fly into the travel bag. The hookah had taken longer than we anticipated. He had not packed and it was getting late and the route was convenient from my house to the airport. And there was no way that he would leave me toasting by myself in the car with a pile of roasted birds as my only defense against circulating two-legged hounds.

"Try to be comfortable," he shuffled into the bathroom. "I won't be long."

3.

I sank into a sofa, forcing my vision toward the only window in the room. Evening was falling, for as far as I could guess. The windows in Saudi were always curtained, glazed, tinted and tightly shut. Whatever happens within a private territory remains there for all eternity. For better or for worse.

I tightened my abaya around me, not wanting to touch it with anything traumatizing or dead. The room smelled masculine, but not unpleasant. I have known this man for a long time. And I remembered that he was an observing Muslim, which made it safe to bet on the level of his disciplined cleanliness and, if I may, his efficient packing.

The shuffling had stopped. A zipper groaned and I heard him call. "Would you like a drink?"

4.

He stood in front of an open fridge, holding a sweating glass of clear liquid. His travel bag curled neatly and shut. His eyes constantly scanning the room. I guzzled the water, remarked on the rosy aftertaste and, replacing the empty glass, asked if he were ready to go.

He gave me one hard look, then quickly dropped it to study the lines in his hands. Then he started shuffling again. He closed the fridge, picked up his bag, checked his travel documents, took a final scan and lead both of us out of the room.

"I hope we haven't forgotten anything."

5.

When we got into the car, the smell of 200-riyals worth of unventilated Albaik over-powered us with thoughts of our mothers, separate dinners, and a 20000 lb. bird to catch. Only food as unhealthy and delicious as Albaik could raise that much guilt and pleasure at a sniff.

Rolling down the window at my side, it came to me with sad relief how the car's windows were untinted. After a few deep breaths, I felt the strain that made him pack so hurriedly melt. "What just happened?"

And his gaze held me long and steady. "Nothing you can't blog about."

 
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