Saturday, January 2, 2010

Day 33 Aboud and Tamara

It was the summer of 1998 and Aboud was traveling around Europe with college friends after graduating from Georgetown University. At the end of their European trip, after his college friends flew back to the United States, Aboud continued on to Jordan to visit for a few days.

Aboud, who was born and raised in Chicago’s suburbs, had frequently visited his family in Palestine and Jordan. But he had never seen Jordan as an adult. He wanted to spend a few days in the Middle East, but he didn’t want to be confined to family where all they would do was feed him. So, he snuck into Jordan without telling any of his family members. At the advice of his mother's, Aboud decided to stay with Aunty Samar, an old friend of his mum’s because he didn’t know her and she didn’t know any of his family.

Aunty Samar had two daughters and a son. On the day of his arrivel to Amman, Jordan, Aunty Samar's eldest daughter, Tamara, showed up from work and told Aboud he had two hours to get ready. She’d be back to pick him up so she can show him Jordan’s nightlife. ‘Oh my God, she’s beautiful’, thought Aboud, showered and got ready meticulously. He couldn't wait to hit the town with this beautiful and mysterious woman he just met.

Two hours later Tamara came back to pick him up, boyfriend in tow. Aboud’s heart sank.

Regardless, that night and for the next four days, Tamara and her boyfriend showed Aboud around, and he had a great time. They flew to Aqaba, Jordan’s coastal town, for a day where Aboud was tortured by Tamara in her bikini all over her boyfriend.

When the boyfriend wasn’t around, Aboud and Tamara would have hours of interesting conversation. He found out she was born in Beirut, had lived there during the civil war, moved to Cyprus when she was very young, and then later to Malta when she was a teenager. He had never met anyone like her.

Aboud’s four days were up and he flew back to the United States. New York, precisely, where he had landed a job. Aboud and Tamara kept in touch via email. Tamara stayed with the boyfriend and Aboud started dating someone else. And then two years later at exactly the same time, they broke up with the people they were dating. As soon as Tamara wrote to Aboud that she had stopped seeing the boyfriend, Aboud made up some story about needing to travel to Jordan and booked a ticket.

It was October 2000 and Aboud made his long awaited move on Tamara in the Dead Sea. On the second day after arriving in Jordan, he asked her to date him exclusively. He was certain she was the right woman for him, she told him he was crazy. But he was so smitten and managed to talk her into a long-distance relationship. First came the $1,000 phone bills. Then the multitude of trips to see each other. They met in Paris for a weekend in November. Tamara flew to New York to spend a month with him in December. He then flew back to Jordan in March to see her.

Aunty Samar, by this point, was getting agitated. ‘Are you going to propose?’ she demanded. Aboud made a proposal. He proposed that Tamara move to the United States with him, without them getting married. Aunty Samar flipped out. Aunty Samar finally agreed on the condition that Aboud and Tamara move in with Aboud’s mother in Chicago.

So Tamara moved from Jordan to Chicago and Aboud moved from New York to Chicago where they lived together. Three months later, Tamara’s visitor visa ran out. And so Aboud and Tamara decided to get married to keep her in the country. They got married in City Hall with Tamara in jeans on Aboud’s lunch break. And they didn’t tell anyone.

A year later, December 2001, they were visiting Jordan. Aboud, without telling Tamara had booked tickets to Hawaii for February where he was planning to propose for real. Aunty Samar had other plans. ‘You’re getting married or you’re not going back’, she told Tamara. Aboud, behind Tamara’s back, tried to explain to Aunty Samar that he was planning to propose in Hawaii. Aunty Samar was stubborn, ‘I don’t care about romance, you’re getting married before you take her out of the country again’.

And so they decided to get married in Jordan. When it was time for the Sheikh to marry them, he asked to see evidence of Aboud being single. On his way to the US Embassy to pick up evidence of him not being married, he remembered that he was married, to Tamara. Aunty Samar was very happy that they hadn’t been living in sin all this time after all. The Sheikh, after some confusion, gave them an Islamic blessing.

The trip to Hawaii turned into a honeymoon and the best two weeks of their lives. Aboud and Tamara, twice married, are living in Boston with their two and half-year old daughter, Jenin, named after the city in Palestine.

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