I originally wrote this for my friend’s website lifeinthisplace.com if you have an opposing view and would like to submit it there or here please go ahead
[Wow, Jordan's changed.] Girls dressed in a dizzying medley of short skirts and rainbow heels. And they’re Arabs. An Arab girl invited me here, a Palestinian, [not like me], a real one — she lives in Ramallah instead of fondly pretending to remember it.
I see her, lips and toenails painted red to match her dress, not much left to the imagination, an ass that makes you believe in Allah. Shaking her hips, queen of the dance-ring, she spills herself all over the technic-colored floor. 51, full of aliens, I can’t handle it, too much. Thankfully I haven’t paid the cover-charge yet, I run to vistas and smelly roofs and Petra beer, no entrance fee. Back to MY Jordan or what’s left of it.
In my Jordan — the one I remember, at least — no self-respecting Arab girl lets you bask in the crimson gardens of her virginity. That’s for her husband, the knight in shiny armor.
Slightly stoned, I am swinging back and forth on my friend Shoegazer’s roof staring at Old Amman, waving her goodbye.
Like Williamsburg, [old Amman is] being reclaimed by artists, homosexuals, expatriates and other undesirables. But the forces of reputability are still holding on strong, bored twenty-something males jeering at every girl and weirdo who passes by.
I don’t know who the blonde girl sitting next to me is, but her sea green eyes and her Dutch accent remind me: Eva.
I like arguing with her; it’s cute the way she pronounces words. Words like goals and dreams and ambitions. She wants to save the world, with that button-nose and thin lips, smiling, contagious. We’re all full of laughter drawing arrows in the stars; I wonder how long this Jordanian stuff lasts.
“I’m so glad I met you, everyone I’ve met in Jordan is fake,” she says with an air of finality.
“That’s because you hang out with the rich Jordanians,” I’m saying. “They have no ideals or religion to live on, so they buy things and do things just to look better than the other rich Jordanians. It’s a very competitive culture. Everything’s a fad.”
I pause a moment. “Jordan’s still real, Eva, you just don’t know where to go.”
Honestly, I have no idea where this “real” Jordan is. Is it in the refugee camps amongst the squalor and destitution? Or is it in the palaces amongst the stacks of dinars that nobody knows what to do with? Is it in the rage of the protesters crying for justice?
“I went to [Club] 51 and the girls I was with said I should wear a shorter dress,” she says. “I was surprised girls are like that in the Middle East.”
So am I, Eva. But I can’t let you know that. No, I must appear to be an expert on this schism of time and place — it’s where I grew up, after all.
Tribal rivalries, pouring coffee in Bedouin tents, exchanging honor for monetary payment, hoping they’ll throw in some hash. Women who cling to their hijabs while their daughters wear the shortest skirt at the club. No one understands it. It’s a fucking miracle that this walking contradiction of a country is semi-functional. The police in amman are an armed gang sponsored by the government and they’ll arrest you if you have the wrong last name. Go outside Amman, to Madaba and you can watch schoolchildren burning down police stations. They don’t need a police force there; they find the very prospect of one insulting. They have their own justice system; the scales of blood and honor.
Still, can’t we all just take a moment to appreciate how delicate this place is?
I feel an indecipherable dark energy, swinging back and forth with Eva at my side. I picture the swing falling apart, the stone underneath us giving out, the building coming apart into a thousand pieces, us falling straight down towards the abyss.
I can still feel it hours later as Eva and I hunt for a taxi.
“Amman’s a bad town for psychedelic drugs — negative energy everywhere,” I say.
I see it in the security guards patrolling an embassy. In the unhappy men sitting on sidewalks and benches, meowing at Eva.
“You mean like Ecstasy? I like Ecstasy,” she says, licking her lips.
I like Eva. My arm feels comfortable around her, too comfortable. That’s her problem — Eva seems perfectly calm in her own bubble.
Suddenly, I want to break it. I want to shriek so loud her ears bleed. Look around you! I want to sing a song so ugly it will shatter her illusions. A song for this rotting city of mine, for the wide vistas and the dilapidated buildings, for the alleys where we drank 7-Up and gin, for streets we loitered on, for the little coffee-carts, for abu-7ejleh snack, for the Westernization and impending doom of traditions I’d never thought I’d miss.
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