More or less an anomaly, the impressions left from sautéing onions, mixed with ginger, garlic, teaspoons of red chilli and turmeric powder were of a different sort.
Mother’s staple ingredients had always the ability to reach my core. In the past it defined me, initiating from without rather than within. The resilient spices bequeathed an aroma penetrating every nook and cranny, latching on to hairs, fabrics, deep down to ones conscious perception, and in a brown skinned boys white world, the last thing desired are his differences to be more evident.
A foot to the left, another one back to the right, sounds of applause from slapping flattened dough between her hands, a desi square dance if you will, the all too familiar sight and smells of mother’s cooking felt inexplicably unusual this time around as if realizing that all along she had been cooking up life’s recipe.
Bites of cooked okra in sync with the clocks second hand. “Time’s limited,” murmuring the self-reminder. It’s been so ever since the convulsions first embarked my doubtful self, furthering an already grim journey into mind-dwellings and repetitive attempts towards intellectually rationalizing my numerous shortcomings.
No need to ponder probabilities of joining the mile high club based on a curried scent. Thought processes immersed in catching my flight in hopes of discovering not only life’s combination, but precisely what it is needing to be unlocked. My benignly coloured epileptic meds neatly packed alongside my EpiPen and travel toiletries were subtle reminders, that my soon to be voyage was to be anything but a smooth sail.
The following day, now countless stone throws away from mother’s kitchen, I awaited my second order of hummus. The taste of mother’s okra remained but only for a piece wedged in between two back teeth. The simple unassuming restaurant lay dead centre in Amman’s old city giving view to an entirely different world, but sleeps deprivation gave it a faraway distant feeling, somewhere in between still footage and a bad web stream. Surely, the sights of similar complexioned people babbling thru throat clearing sounds amid the scented backdrop of ancient civilization would soon all come into being.
I downed my second portion of hummus faster than the first. “Do you eat like this in front of girls,” mother would always asked in a vernacular always with that second syllable stress. “Never on the first date,” would be my reply. Licking the remaining hummus from my finger tips in the most orderly way possible, I reminisced as to where I had come across the notions that eating with your hands is beneficial, through the aid of bacteria in food digestion.
I had been submerged with these sorts of facts and speculations contributing to a more than adequate intellectual faculty. From an early age, society convinces us on the importance of thought and reasoning, but what value did it serve my drowning self as I was still drowning, always in search for land beneath my feet, even now, in this far away land.
Now thoughts related to what to do with all my time, and the interesting liaison the two share. The more one thinks the less time one has, but it’s only through those rumbling thoughts one grasps the thought of having less of them in order to have more time.
Time momentarily stood with an abrupt feeling, much less a thought. Itchiness in the arms, legs, throat eyes, all over. An allergic reaction I assumed, nothing to be too concerned about. All that’s required is to pay my bill, rush back to my hotel and inject myself with my EpiPen.
How strange to have an allergic reaction when I’ve been so mindful of avoiding chickpeas, or so I thought.
Paying my bill using hand gestures in order to decipher numerical values was more time consuming than anticipated. Exiting the restaurant, I caught a glimpse of my reflection. My facial topographies began to take on a whole new landscape, revealing the severity of allergic attack. An explosion of hives came at an alarming rate terrorizing each and every square millimeter of my skin. The excruciating itchiness made me want to scratch more only to have more appear, equivalent to a terrorist crack down only creating further radicalization.
Hold a loaded gun to my head threatening to shoot me if I scratch and I’d be a dead man.
Abrupt turns left, another left a few more rights down the old cities winding streets and eventually I had come to terms that I was nothing short of a wheezing Columbus in search of India. A sudden a blurred image of an elderly man appeared from under my puffed up eyelids just as the rain began to tumble down. The God’s must be weeping on my behalf. The elderly man, dismissed me with neither the time for my gibberish semantics nor lack of civility as my hands were deep down into my backsides genitalia region, mercifully battling away, a battle like any other, all for self determination.
Two passersby overheard my failed communicative attempts with the elderly man. “Are you looking for the Palace hotel?” “Yes,” I desperately replied. What else was I too expect from this land of prophecy.
Dashing into the hotel, past the concierge up the dusty blue-carpeted stairs into my room, I stripped off each and every article of clothing and lay flat on my back, scratching endlessly for five minutes. Retrieving the EpiPen from my bag, I meticulously unscrewed one end of the EpiPen and proceeded to jab it against my side thigh only to realize that the fifteen-millimeter needle had shot out from the opposing side going through my thumb. I had just given getting nailed a whole new implication.
Laying in bed I couldn’t help but think of this feeling of death but oddly, how incredibly delicious that hummus was. What could have been minutes felt like a life span, prior to realizing that the antihistamine must have kicked in as was indicative from my urgent need to expel contents from my digestive system.
Without an ounce of energy to sit upright, there was no way to dress myself and commute down the hallway to the floor’s communal toilet. A wastebasket appeared in sight from the corner of my room. I akin to any Olympic athlete on the verge of breaking a world record exerted each and every part of me to make my way to the wastebasket, squatting down and releasing a substance that I could never have imagined to be within me. Collapsing back on the bed unable to clean myself, I was as helpless as a newborn baby. A five-minute interval forced me to repeat the same pattern.
Three hour’s surpassed when I awoke from a deep sleep. Had all the world’s bad smells convened in one room, it was this one informing me that this wasn’t a nightmare.
My energy levels significantly recovered but aesthetically I still appeared to be from a different world. Having cleaned myself, I headed out into fresh air in search of relaxing tea and shisha. With nothing in sight, I questioned a passing taxi driver for directions through a broken mix of sign language and English.
Enthusiastically encouraging me to get in, the most I caught from his ramblings was: “I tayke you… beauteeful wumin.” A few minute ride ensued to fifteen, culminating in a barely lit soundless back alley. The taxi driver led me up the building’s backside staircase approaching the doorman receiving in what appeared to an endowment.
Moments of pin drop silence in complete curiosity up until the doors opened revealing a mob of scandalously dressed women, seductively swaying their midriff’s back and forth and side to side to tables packed with loud, obnoxious, tubby old ‘don’t tell my wife’ type men.
I sat alone in a back table sipping my tea, smoking my shisha, musing as to how much of the day’s occurrences lacked premeditation. Through my not so appealing features, I pretended to appreciate my table’s dancer. Within the clouds of exhaled smoke the dancer’s hazy image persistently appeared merely revealing her powdered face and painted on bright red smile. Although uncertain of her age approximate, I was certain she had more years on her than she had deserved. Her sorrows were sensed. Puff’s of smoke tallied with sounds of the shisha’s bubbles and thoughts as to why I had been outwardly searching for life’s answers when all this time they were unlocked intuitively deep within me.
Assuredly a chef creates new recipes from tasting his trials and errors.
“Two hundred dollar,” uttered the staff member in a sly and nonchalant manner, holding back any eye contact. A clear scam towards my tourist self. No longer with time for apprehension, I simply looked deep at him from over my shoulder and once more felt mother’s cooking.