My knees could not hold me up so I sat on the near by stairs. “Are you sure it was Dalia?” I asked praying in my heart that the answer would be No. “Yes, I’m sure,” Bashar said then paused for a second before he continued, “I’ve seen them together twice this week, but I think I’ve seen them before too on the first day of school.” “First day of school?” I echoed thinking of my phone call to her that morning. “Yes. I was ordering my morning coffee as I usually do from Starbucks Le Mall when I spotted Amro and another guy with two girls wearing white coats entering the families section. I thought that one of the girls resembled Dalia a lot but I wasn’t sure so I figured I was probably wrong and dismissed the whole thought from my head.”
He looked at me wondering if he should go on and I nodded my head yes. “Last Saturday, on my way back home, there was an accident in Al-Madinah Road so it was jammed. The traffic was moving slowly and at some point, Amro’s car came next to mine. I noticed there was a girl in a white coat with him. I looked a little bit harder and her eyes met mine. It was Dalia. Her face went pale when she recognized me. She must’ve told Amro then to move as far away from my car as possible because he started changing lanes then entered the service road and after a while I lost them. I called her then but she didn’t answer. I dialed her number again and again until she finally did. She tried to explain but I didn’t give her the chance. I just told her that she needed to speak with you and tell you all about this before I do. I didn’t want to be the one delivering the hurtful news.”
He continued, “She told me she would and then I hung up. Today this morning I was supposed to meet Nada, Bashar’s girlfriend at the time, at Vertigo. I noticed Amro’s car parked in front of the place so I went in and looked for them. They were sitting next to each other laughing about something. I went up to her and asked her if she had told you. She panicked and said she was waiting for the right time. I told her that I had no choice but to tell you and she begged me not to. I almost hit Amro then and there but I just gave me him a disgusted look and left. I’m sorry but I thought you should know.” I tried to comprehend what all of this meant but I could not. I had storms in my mind and my heart. Finally, I said, “Bashar please take me home, I’m not sure I could drive myself.”
Later that night, I finally summoned the courage to call Dalia. “I spoke with Bashar today,” was the first thing I said in a trembling voice when she answered. “What did he tell you?” “Why didn’t you tell me about Amro?” I asked. “First, I didn’t tell you anything because there’s nothing to tell. We’re just friends, nothing more. Second, and I’m sorry to say this, it’s none of your business who I go out with or who my friends are.” “But he’s my friend before you ever knew him. It’s through me you’ve met! Don’t you think you owe it to me to tell me at least?” “Well, I have thought of telling you since he’s your friend and all but I didn’t want you to think that because Bashar saw us I did, because I have nothing to hide.” “Then why did you beg him not to tell me about you and Amro?” “I didn’t do such a thing. He’s lying.” I believed her. I believed her and convinced myself that Bashar was making up stuff.
“Is he the reason you suddenly decided we’re no longer right for each other?” I wondered afraid of the answer. “Are you deaf? I just told you we’re just friends. The first time we’ve gone out was the day I came back from Paris. His brother is Maha’s boyfriend so when we all went out, he came. Other people came, too. We’re a big group of friends and we like to hang out together.” “But Bashar saw you alone with him twice last week.” “Well, the first time, my driver was late so Amro kindly offered to take me back home. The second, we were waiting for the rest to come.” “So what now? You’re going to continue going out with this group?” “Of course I will. We all get along so well and we have a great time. Why shouldn’t I?” “Don’t you think it’s weird that you’re going out with Amro?” “No, I don’t think so. We’re enjoying our time and we’ve become good friends.” “What if I asked you to please stop seeing him?”
“I’m sorry I can’t do that.” “But he’s my friend!” I exclaimed. “So what? We’re not doing anything wrong. I’m fine with it and he seems fine with it too. It doesn’t matter if he’s your friend or not. If you’re upset because he’s a guy, Well. He could’ve been anyone. It just happened it was Amro.” “What do you mean? Are you implying that you may become more than friends now?” “You never know,” she said. “Come on Dalia, please!” “I told you everything I had to. Now what do you want?” “Nothing.” I said goodbye and hung up.
How can a person change so much in so little time? Just a couple of months ago she was a completely different person. Is who she was my own imagination’s creation? Why is she being this cold? Why does she seem so indifferent about me? I do not understand. I was lost in my thoughts for a few minutes before I decided I should call Amro.
For a whole hour, I got Waiting every time I called his number. I called Dalia again and got Waiting too. Finally, when he answered I said, “I see that you and Dalia are getting your stories straight together. I’ve been getting waiting for over an hour now from both of you.” He did not respond. “What’s going on between you and Dalia? Tell me the truth,” I asked. He answered all of my questions the same way Dalia had, more or less. There was no point asking him anymore so I just said, “Amro, I’m going to ask you to do something for me and I pray to God that you don’t refuse.” “Ask,” he said. “Please stop seeing Dalia.”
“Please stop seeing Dalia,” I repeated my plea then continued, “I’m begging you. I have never asked you to do anything for me before, have I? Now would you do this for me?” “I’m sorry I can’t,” he said. I cannot say I was surprised but even though I anticipated that particular answer, my heart ached. “Listen, Amro, you’ve been my friend for four years now and you only know this girl for what? Five weeks? Go and find someone else. There are a thousand girls out there. It’s not like it’s hard! Just spare this one. Is that too much to ask for?” “I’m sorry,” he repeated his stupid answer. “Come on! I’ve welcomed you into my house. You’ve met my family. I’ve been a good friend for you. Why would she matter to you more? I really think I have a chance at making things right with Dalia again but it’s not going to happen with you around. Please let her go.” I’m sorry,” he said yet again. “Well, I’m sorry too. I’m sorry I’ve ever called you my friend.” I yelled at him and hung up.
That night was the night the truth finally sank in. Dalia was slipping quickly through my fingers like small grains of sands. Up until then, I have been feeling mostly disoriented and upset but now I fell into full-fledged depression. I lost my desire for food and my weight started decreasing notably. I just slept and slept wishing I would never wake up. I had no energy to go to school and I had to be dragged everyday by my family and friends. I cried many nights and I could not help feeling weak and stupid every time I did.
A couple of weeks later from that call, I saw them together for the first time. I was on my way back home from Panino’s Palestine branch where I had lunch with a couple of friends when I noticed Amro’s car parked in front of Chili’s. I found myself parking not too far away and stepping into the restaurant. There right in front of my eyes, they were sharing a meal. Even though I knew about them and even though I had anticipated and dreaded this day, I was not prepared for the sight of them so close to each other laughing their hearts out on some meaningless joke probably.
Amro spotted me first and almost choked on his food. He nodded to Dalia and she turned to face me. Her face went pale the same way I expect it did when Bashar saw them that day. I turned around and headed to my car. Just when I was turning it on, Dalia opened the passenger’s door and got in. “Dalia, what do you want?” I asked firmly. “It’s not what you think, ok? Nada, Maha and his brother were supposed to come with us but Maha and his brother decided to go on a private date and Nada couldn’t make it so we figured we shouldn’t change our lunch plans. There’s nothing going on between us if that’s what you think.” “Dalia, what are you trying to do now? It doesn’t matter what I think. You’ve made that very clear the last time we spoke.” “No, I didn’t mean it that way. I can’t stand to see that hurt look in your eyes so full of blame like I’m betraying you.” “I’ll make sure to remember that next time I see you with him. Now go away please.” Her eyes started to tear up and I felt like a jerk for making her cry. My heart softened a little bit. “Listen, I’m sorry but you have to understand how hard it is for me to see you with him. We’ll talk later. Now would you please leave me alone? Don’t keep him waiting.” I looked away as she let herself out and headed back inside.
My depression seemed to grow more with every passing day. The only thing that made me feel better was talking to Dalia and so I did. It was a weak and a foolish thing to do but I did not know what else to do. I decided to pretend that there is absolutely nothing going on between her and my friend even though I saw them together more often than I liked. She must have felt guilty because after a while she started talking to me and calling me too instead of only listening and receiving my calls. We agreed on remaining friends even though in my mind, every word I said and move I made were designed to help me win her back.
The mid year finals came and I failed every single subject I had. I could not care less about studying. I am the student who never had a C my whole life was awarded many F’s all at once. The way I felt was consuming me. I thought day and night about Dalia to the point where I hated myself but still I could not help it. I found myself choking up on the smallest of things; a song on the radio that we used to sing together, the sight of a restaurant that we liked to have lunch at, our favorite TV show, and a million other things that reminded me of her. Then one day I hit rock bottom.
I was on my way to college when I saw Dalia and Amro in his car. I was speeding and I did not pay attention to the road ahead as I stared at them. I hit the car in front of me and the air bag exploded in my face. The man whom I hit his car turned out to be good man making sure I was fine before calling the traffic police. His car was only slightly affected while mine’s was severely damaged. I was not hurt except for mild pain in my neck and a small contusion in my face with a burning sensation due to the impact of the air bag. It took us a couple of hours to finish all the paperwork. I had my car towed to the repair shop then took a taxi and went to the hospital where my mom works. She was surprised to see when me when I entered her office. I closed the door and broke down in tears.
My mother hugged me asking me what is wrong. I told her about the accident and she said it does not matter as long as I was not hurt. I cried like a baby saying, “Why is all of this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this?” I was no longer speaking about the accident only. My mother knew all about Dalia. I did not tell her everything but she knew everything. I was always an open book especially to my mother. She knew the reason behind my misery. She assured me that everything is going to be all right. I felt foolish and weak for wasting so much time and energy on memories and things that have passed. The past is the past and should no longer matter. I am better than this. I have to be stronger than this. There is no point throwing it all away for someone who does not want it or even care. I am going to move on, I promised myself.
I called Dalia that night and told her about my accident. She said she was sorry. I told her I no longer intended on calling her. I told her she was welcome to call me anytime and if she ever needed anything, I will be there for her but that I have to move on and put myself back together and keeping contact with her is only going to make it harder. She said she understood and wished me all the best. I hated her for that. She could not care less if we kept in touch or not.
I started attempting to concentrate in classes. My friends helped me and gave me all of their lecture notes and workbooks. I had so much to catch up on and so little time left before the finals but I pushed myself to the extreme. My wounds were slowly healing and I felt a little bit better with every new morning. Still I needed more than my family and friends’ help. I needed divine intervention.
A few days later, I was swimming at Al-Bilad hotel where I used to be a member of the health club. It was exactly three weeks prior to the finals. As I was getting out of the swimming pool, I heard someone speaking to me. “Leaving so soon?” the voice said. I looked around and saw a man that looked in his fifties sitting on one of the plastic chairs around the pool. It was strange that I did not notice him coming in while I was in the pool. “Yeah. I need to go home and study. The finals aren’t too far away.” “What are you studying?” he asked. “Medicine,” I replied. “Mashallah. May God help you my son.” “Yes please say a prayer for me because I need it. I’m not sure I can pass this year. I need God’s help.” “Ask him and he will. Don’t worry inshallah you’ll get what you ask and work hard for.” I headed towards him. For some reason I felt like I wanted to talk to him. He had a deep calming voice and an appearance of wisdom and friendliness. “It’s just that I’ve been through some hard times lately. I’ve had many problems and I couldn’t concentrate on studying at all. I feel like everything that could go wrong, went wrong all at once. I also just had a car accident a couple of days ago that represented the cherry on top of everything.”
“Listen, my son, I don’t know what you’re going through and I don’t claim to understand but let me tell you about myself. Three years ago, my only daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia and four months later, my wife was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. At first, I kept wondering why all of this happened to me and what have I done to deserve any of this. It was such a tough time. I struggled to accept what has been destined for my family and me. Then I found God. I wasn’t a religious person at all, I’m still not. Nevertheless, you have no idea what comfort it brings you knowing that all of this was meant to happen, that everything has a reason and that even what you might perceive as your biggest misfortunate could be your biggest blessing in disguise. I could’ve been a miserable man but I chose not to be that. I cut back on my work. I took plenty of vacations and spent much more time with my family, time that I’ve never spent before with them. Time that I would never have spent if not for what happened. My wife’s cancer has been treated and my daughter’s leukemia is in remission now. Today I can tell you without a doubt that these three years have been, albeit the hardest, the happiest times of my entire life. I have been blessed. I’m a different person than who I used to be. Regardless of what you’re going through, I assure you it’s all been written and destined for you. Allah is more merciful on us than our own mothers are. Nothing happens without a reason and God works in mysterious ways. One day you’ll look back on all of these events and you’ll understand. You may not see it now but this could be the best thing that has ever happened to you. Try to find the silver lining in this dark cloud and the sun will shine through after a while. Just let God be your guide.”
I was mesmerized by this man. He spoke more eloquently than I could narrate. His words carried more wisdom and truth than I could portray. He backed his speech with verses of Al-Quran and Hadith more than I could remember. We talked for over an hour before he stood up and announced that he had to leave because he has other people to meet. I asked him if he came around often and he said he is here every day. I asked him how come I never saw him before since I too came every day but he joked and said that my eye sight must have problems. I shook his hand and thanked him. He told me everything is going to be all right and that I just need to place my faith in God. He wished me the best and walked away. Even though I kept coming to Al-Bilad hotel for many years to follow, I never saw him again.