Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown

First time that I searched for my luggage

Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown. Part 2  June 19, 2016

It was the first time that I searched for my luggage

As I landed in Oklahoma City in 1975.

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 a 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 an 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 at 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.

Numb at the Magnitude of the Unknown (Part 1, June, 2004)

It was May of 1975.  I had just graduated in Physics from the Lebanese university.

I secured a student visa to the United States of America. I was to study English for the summer at a university in Oklahoma.

I did not know then that there was more than one university in Oklahoma. The trip was not that urgent, but the civil war in Lebanon started to look serious.

My inborn stubbornness clenched the deal and off I left. It was my first trip away from family and home. I learned later that my mother played the fundamental role of convincing my father that it is time that I learn to be on my own.

My mother told me that the night I flew away my father cried his eyes out in his bed.

My father offered me $5,000. Two Lebanese pounds at the time was worth one dollar (Now, a single dollar is worth 1,500 LP)

I stayed in Paris for a couple of weeks visiting a student relative of mine. At the airport, no one searched me or welcomed me.

Before I exited the airport, an agent asked to search my luggage. Why me? No, it was Not a random search. I had to rearrange everything in my beaten suitcase.

Even then, France pinpointed specific passengers to be searched.

My cousin Nassif happened to be vacationing in England with a girlfriend. I met my friends Ghassan and Moussa who helped me rent a room where they stayed at a university complex for foreign students.

I toured Paris alone in metro and mostly on foot. Paris was gorgeous.

Breakfasts were delicious at the university low-ceiling breakfast restaurant .

There was another restaurant for lunch and dinner

Breakfast was the time to see all the various international students. The smell of fresh coffee, milk, bacon, eggs and fresh bread was appetizing.

The buffet was scattered with many varieties of fruits and drinks.

( I still dream of waking up to such a breakfast environment)

I landed first at New York at Laguardia airport. We were flying over the Oklahoma Territory, 22 hours after leaving Paris. We still had one hour to land.

It was pitched dark outside and I might have been feeling cold in the plane. One stewardess might have realized my haggard quietness.

An angel, no more than twenty years old, blonde, blue eyed, beautiful with a refreshing smile, and compassion transparent in her welcoming face.

She brought me a blanket without any request on my part and suggested to bring me some orange juice.

I felt then that it is okay to live in America and to know Americans. I wished I told her that I was scared, terrified, and numb at the magnitude of the unknown waiting for me.

I wished I told her that I needed to throw myself at her mercy and be helped.

I was lacking conversational skills and lacking practice in English.

I was not basically a social guy, though I enjoyed being among crowds.

Friends suffered me on account of my quietness:

I painfully resigned myself to the aura of bookish knowledge.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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