A Morning Meeting


Hi, I'm going to Starbucks, can you meet me there?
Which one?
The one on the beach, Yusuf is invited to a party nearby and I'll kill the time at Starbucks until he is done.
Where exactly?

Where exactly, I ask the driver.
At the end of Sari street.
Near Pizza Hut, yes, I know where you mean. Ok, I can. It's nearby, the driver can drop me and then go back to pick up Omar from school.

I arrived there before she did. I watched her get out of the car and went towards the stairs before she came up. I said, you can order because I already did when I arrived.

I wish you had called earlier, she said. I already had my breakfast.
She couldn't drink her coffee. She said it was too strong. I said this is exactly what I love about this coffee.

I told her that the party to which Yusuf is invited is a pool party, where they have two young men entertaining the kids by the swimming pool. She said everyone is thinking of business nowadays, it's only us who don't do anything beside our job. She described the way chocolate usually brought to kids’ parties is decorated, a simple idea but sold at high profit. I told her about my intention to work elsewhere but she warned me that this would not be easy. Do you remember our friend Najla, the poor girl, still complaining about the new job she took ?

I reminded her that Najla’s salary there is twice ours, but she doesn't care the way she and I used to.

- I bought a new lotion for my acne, can you believe the one that has always been used can’t be found in pharmacies at all any more.
- That’s because the state drug company is the distributor of the new one.
- But the old one had to be the first step in the treatment. They do different things.
- Yes, I know, believe me. Business is all that counts.
Maybe, I said. I also said I'd never go back to the dermatology clinic I used to go to. Can you believe what they've done? They told a colleague all the details of my treatment. Where's patient confidentiality?

She asked if I did anything about it. She expected me to call them and complain. I reminded her that I have more than one front to fight on, and sometimes I ignore things just to have some peace of mind.

And do you know what happened to the English teacher at Yussuf’s school? One of the mothers just told me that her husband went to the school office, there was a fight, and because of that the teacher was fired.

I mentioned that I didn't tell the mother I already knew about the school’s plan to end his contract because he had not been doing his job. What I had told her was that he had been rude. That I spoke to him on the phone, and he was impolite and arrogant. We were sad that the year had been wasted for our kids. She shook her head and said, why were you so passive, you should have complained to the education director. I reminded her about the number of fronts I am fighting on. I counted them up for her: the new car, the new department I was asked to handle at work, the house issues.

She in turn told me about the case that was going to be filed by the group that had lost the election and about the well-known attorney that had been picked. I said the winners were a surprise. She nodded, yes. She said that there's a big change in Jeddah's demographics. I asked her if the case was going to be against the sheikhs’ recommendation as to the winners. She said yes, and mentioned the sum of money going to the attorney.

I took out a toy keychain with a zipper and the party invitation inside. She said it was cute and said my son could hook it up on his belt loop and keep his allowance in it. I said I was thinking it's time to start teaching him about money and responsibilities.
I took her coffee, added some sugar and sipped.

She pointed at the glass window and quietly noted therehow dirty it was. Then she asked about my plans to write restaurant reviews like I had mentioned several years ago. I said I was ready but no one had commissioned anything yet. Why not for Laha, for instance ? I said maybe I’d write up a proposal.

We began looking for the drivers. I called mine, then gave her my mobile to call hers, asking if she really was going to buy a phone from the new company, as she had said she would. She said they haven’t begun operating yet. She looked for her phone book. I told her there was no need to, and offered to take her home.
We found her driver standing in the far corner, which was why we hadn’t been able to see him from the window upstairs. We shook hands; I remembered we didn't kiss when she arrived. She said we haven't gone out with Amal yet, I said I don't like appointments that are too planned. I like to be spontaneous, like today.
She smiled.

We moved on.