Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Numb at Magnitude of Unknown

Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown (continue 3)

That summer, I noticed many American students walking bare feet,

Carrying their sandals in hand and attending class bare feet.

One day, I felt the urge to imitate them:

I walked to class bare feet, carrying my sandals.

Miss Linda, the English teacher, was dumb struck; her cheeks flushed anger. 

I could hear the wrath within her soul:

“American might be permitted to behave so, against my will.

But foreigners?! Certainly and absolutely not: rules are rules”.

She kicked me out of the classroom.

I did not enjoy walking bare feet: Summer in Oklahoma scalds any bare skin,

And carrying the stupid sandals was not that cool after all.

The university had an outdoor and an indoor swimming pool.

Many lovely girls lounged around the Olympic size outdoor pool.

I paid for a two-week formal swimming lessons:

I had to swim professionally for the beautiful girls.

It was my first formal swimming lessons:

I almost got drowned twice before, in open sea, closest to the shore,

Carried away by tide…

My dense hairy chest and back were a curiosity to everyone.

A Japanese classmate went so far as to compare me to a monkey.

I love swimming and have been practicing it ever since.

In every city I relocated to, my first target was finding an affordable indoor pool.

After a month of English, which I didn’t need from my pretest scores,

But I still had to attend because the tuition was prepaid,

I discovered that the university, which conditionally accepted me, was indeed in Stillwater,

Not in the town of Norman.

Stillwater was initially a farming university, in a hole of a town,

A hundred and fifty miles North-East of the State Capital Oklahoma City.

I visited that university in August, but I still don’t know how I got there.

The administration told me that I was late, or my application was declined;

I don’t remember the reasons for denying my application, but I felt good.

I was back to the University of Oklahoma at Norman

Dr. Hillel Kumin, chairman of the Industrial Engineering department,

Accepted my application for graduate studies without much fussing.

I had to take just two pre-requisite undergraduate courses.

This is how simple life should be:

It matched my naïve perception on systems, organizations and people’s characters.

There were a few instances where my model of a simple life matched the real model.

More often, I had to learn to struggle for survival.

Many years later, I was still learning to just scrap a living;

Not much else. 

 

To fill the time before the Fall semester begins,

I volunteered with a linguistic society on campus for the summer.

I was to speak, translate and write Arabic for Americans enrolled in linguistics.

They were potential missionaries!

 

It was 1975, and the Americans were still free to be compassionate.

It was 1975, and an American in a position of power

Could wield a wide latitude for making compassionate decisions.

Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown. Part 2

It was the first time that I had to search for my luggage by myself

As I landed in Oklahoma City.

By the time I learned where to fetch my luggage

I realized that my suitcase was made of carton:

All beat up, twisted, torn, tattered, and barely holding what it was carrying.

It was a burden suitcase and a sore to the eyes.

It was a burden to my depleted spirit.

It was after one o’clock in the morning, and the airport was empty and quiet.

I must have been sitting there for a while:

A black airport agent smiled to me and softly addressed me.

It was apparent that I was a lost person.

No, I do not expect anyone to meet me.

No, I have no idea where I am and where to go.

The compassionate black man suggested:

“Son, the best is to have good night sleeps at a nearby hotel, most probably the Holiday Inn”.

It was my first night at a hotel and it cost me seventeen dollars, a fortune.

Next, I experienced a Oklahoma summer morning, humid and hot.

Next, I experienced the wilderness and empty spaces.

For ten dollars, a taxi dropped me at a dorm for students,

In the university town of Norman, thirty miles south of the Capital.

I was to pay more than double that amount, ten years later,

For my second trip to Oklahoma, and at exactly the same conditions of loneliness,

Save that I should have been ten years wiser.

Another six dollars per night at the students’ dorm.

I rented a room at a lady’s house near the University of Oklahoma.

She was in her fifties, tall, slim and tough of character.

Hussein, my English classmate from Jordan shared another room.

Hussein was to move to San Antonio, in Texas, for graduate studies in Economics.

He agreed to welcome me at Christmas time,

For a couple of days at his university dorm.

It was to be my first experience with the Amtrak train, the slowest transportation ever:

The trip lasted seventeen hours and rattled me to Houston,

Through a convoluted schedule, before backtracking a little west to San Antonio.

It would be my last train experience, so far.

A Syrian student was the third leg in the house of the middle-aged lady.

He had blue and piercing eyes and was majoring in Chemistry.

I was told that he was a rigid devote Muslim:

He used to kneel in class, at exam time, and pray turning toward Mecca.

He married the old lady shortly after.

The one time I saw the lady, a year later, she was wearing the veil.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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