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Chapter 5 – An Introduction To My Father
I awoke to Tamam lightly rubbing the skin between my eyes. I nuzzled deep into the fabric of his shirt deeply inhaling his scent. “Jono, you must wake now. We must dress you for dinner with the family.”
I grumbled and whined, “Food is overrated, but family time is not.” I discovered my sweet Arabian ninja already had an outfit selected and prepared for me, a jade color shirt that closely matched what he was wearing, and black trousers. “Tam, you have ruined me.” The comment elicited a confused look from him. “I will never again be able to buy off the rack again.” His smile lit up my world, as he tousled my hair and kissed my forehead. We finished our preparations, and walked down the hallway to the central core of the house.
When we entered the great room I was surprised to find two new people to greet. But first Tamam addressed his father who greeted his son as if he had not seen him in months, instead of just this afternoon. Then Omar greeted me the same way. I was so happy he was slowing his speech so I could keep up.
Tam, then took me to one of the new faces. They hugged and kissed on each other. I could see the family resemblance on the older man wearing a crisply pressed thobe. I was grinning like an idiot as Tamam introduced me to his older brother Najibullah. I knew first impressions were critical. So I decided to greet him in Arabic. “Good evening Najibullah peace be with you.”
He replied, “And upon you be peace Jono. Your accent is really very charming. I see why Naser spoke so well of you, so very, very, very often. Thank you for assisting us during our staff difficulties today. Our guests were very impressed with your bearing and behavior. You were not the American cowboy from the wild west they were expecting.”
I wasn’t sure how to accept that so I decided to accept it gracefully. “It is how I choose to honor those who raised me; by following their instruction. I will never shame my father, or his people.”
With that I apparently had impressed him enough and he reached out and kissed both of my cheeks. “My friends call me Najib.”
I replied, “You are most definitely ‘distinguished’ Najib. Thank you for your warm welcome.” I couldn’t help but make a play on his name.
Tamam then walked over to a smaller man who greeted him great enthusiasm, when I was introduced to his baby brother Reza he immediately fell upon my neck like a dear friend. Reza was not like his brothers. He was at least a foot smaller and nowhere near as built. It was as if his body was built more for endurance than for strength. When we broke our hug I asked if he was a runner. He nodded in the affirmative. Note to self, a running partner, if my Tamam will allow it. He whispered a question in my ear “Did you like the toy chest I picked out for you?”
I blushed bright red remembering the vibrating orbs, and whispered back, “The string of balls was fun, thank you.” Tamam glared at his little brother. I guess he didn’t like me whispering to him. “Ana asef Tamam.” He smiled and tousled my hair with his fingers.
Papa Omar said in honor of my last night at the ranch, we would have an American style dinner of steak, potatoes, and fresh steamed asparagus. “Your foster parents said asparagus was your favorite vegetable.” Reza’s nose crinkled as if he smelled something truly foul. Later he would pull me aside for a lesson on how cum gets its flavor. Apparently meat, heavy proteins, and animal fats give cum a bitter taste, whereas starch gives it a mild sweet flavor. Fruit gives it a very sweet flavor. He told me asparagus on the other hand makes it taste really rank.
Reza intrigued me. Not only did he not look like his brothers, he did not behave like them either. I learned that Tamam and Naser had the same mother but Najib and Reza were from two of Omar’s other wives. The whole arrangement was confusing to me. But, as brothers they all loved each other so who was I to judge.
At dinner Najib asked, “Jono, Naser told me that you play cello for falcons, is this so?”
“Yes it is. When I was troubled, or working on a solution to a problem, it was an escape. While Naser was with us, I was having difficulty continuing college. The state had cancelled a promise of tuition assistance. The medical bills of the foster siblings made it impossible for the Ghorbani’s to help. Add to that interns with the Symphony, like me, did not get paid. I was more than a little blue; I needed a brief break from reality. I rode my horse down to the dock with my cello on my back and played for a couple hours as the eagles, hawks, and falcons fished in the Gulf. I did not know that Naser had followed me and heard my entire set.” I smiled at Naser.
Reza asked, “What does an intern do with the symphony?”
“He gets lunches for the performers and crew, runs errands for the conductor, and hopes that someone gets sick so that he can play in a performance.” I joked. “Actually, I got a lot of stage time. The conductor and the other casino şirketleri performers liked me. Although they could not see past my years, thinking I was lacking the maturity to truly understand the music. Thus the reason I was an intern and not a full member of the symphony.” Reza replied how much it must have sucked. I could only agree and add how I was still (in the eyes of the state) an under aged worker at the time.
After dinner we retired to the family room Papa Omar and I played a few games of backgammon. While his sons chatted away, Omar beat me two out of three games. I discovered Reza was a student home on vacation. I was surprised that he was studying abroad. He was studying to be a physician at the University of Bremen. He spoke of his house in Osterholz.
I was amazed that he knew about our unit’s compound in Basdahl. He said he had three rooms that were empty, and how the commute would only be 25 minutes from his home, as opposed to the one hour from our support base in Bremerhaven. It was hard to tell if Tamam loved the idea or not. I told Reza E-3s were not often given permission to live off base, and having a car was mandatory to even apply for the option. I think Tamam smiled at my evasion.
While playing chess with Najib I found out that he was a lawyer, with a practice in Dhahran. His practice was centered on contract law, I feigned interest. To tell the truth I disliked lawyers in general. He boasted about a successful case he just argued in Bahrain. It centered on a French company’s breach of contract. He laughed about how he could have used someone with my linguistic intrepidity during the research phase.
He looked at Tamam and asked if he may pick my brain while I am in country, if the need should arise. I must have had an annoyed look on my face. Tamam looked at me and gestured in the direction of his brother. I told Najib I would be happy to unofficially help him. But if he needed more, regulations require that I would have to clear it with both my wing and base commanders. He acknowledged the limitation with a smile.
I then asked for some advice. “I am curious if my Saudi passport could be renewed while I was in country, or if it was no longer valid with the death of my father, and my uncle’s adoption of me.”
“Jono, have you ever formally renounced your Saudi citizenship?” I told him I had not, and I added that the U.S. government did not recognize the Saudi citizenship. The five men laughed and Najib replied, “Their opinion does not matter in regards to our laws. Do you have the passport with you?” I told him it was at the hotel in the room safe. The name on my passport was Jono Bin-Aban Al-Amin. “I will inquire on this matter for you Jono. I am curious, why is this important to you?”
“It was important to my Papa that his name continues. He was the last in his line. He was gravely wounded protecting his commander back in 53. Momma was on scholarship as a nursing student in Riyadh and was part of the treatment team who cared for my Papa. They fell madly in love, the fact she looked somewhat like Jayne Mansfield didn’t hurt. Because I was their second ‘miracle baby’ and was not supposed to survive made mom a bit ‘clingy.’ If they would travel overseas, I was dragged along. So long as I was not in school at the time. They even went so far as to plan their trips around my school calendar.”
The odd look crept onto Omar’s face as he cradled my cheek in his right hand. He then turned and shuffled into his office. I guess it was late because I yawned as I asked, “Did I say something wrong Tamam? Should I apologize to Papa Omar?”
“No Jono, it has been a long day, and we face another busy day tomorrow.” His brothers took turns saying goodnight to the both of us. As we entered Tamam’s wing I could hear the other men chattering away.
I dressed quickly and climbed into bed with my naked giant. I cuddled next to him and fell asleep quickly cradled in Tamam’s mighty arms, having pleasant dreams of the future. As I drifted off I could swear Tamam was softly kissing my forehead.
Sunday morning I woke with the sun, just not with Papa Omar’s son! I am a very light sleeper, how did my Arab ninja sneak out of bed? I took care of nature’s call, and found the slippers Tamam picked up for me. Gawd my head was throbbing. I woke with massive eye-watering headache. I knew it was withdrawal from Naser’s sedative. Fuck the morning stretches, I am sore.
I waddled out to Tam’s living/dining room. No Tamam, FUCK! I waddled down the hall checking doors. Still no Tam! Okay, out into the family area. Entry hall, nope. As I approached the common room, FINALLY, I heard him, talking to his brothers. When I rounded the corner I saw the coolest thing ever. A family gathering around in the pit group sofa in their sleep clothing just being comfortable. Just sitting there enjoying each other’s company. I actually froze in the doorway afraid to disturb the scene. It was Papa Omar who saw me first. “Good morning little one.” I failed to casino firmaları hide my grimace as well as I had hoped. “What is wrong?”
“Caffeine withdrawal headache.” Good save I thought. Reza presented me a steaming cup of cardamom-infused coffee. “Bless you Reza.”
He teased my hair. “Perhaps, Tamam could take you to town and fix this.”
My eyes rolled, “Okay you three, enough, let’s get the haircut. Sheesh!”
“Have my sons have been too persistent?” I nodded yes. This earned Tamam a playful smack in the back off the head from his father. Tamam attempted to tame my bed head cowlicks.
“How long have you been up Tam? I am normally a very light sleeper, what are you a ninja?” I teased.
“I thought I was very stealthy, but I have only been out here a few moments longer than you. How would you like a trip to the spa this morning and perhaps a bit of light shopping?”
“Yes please, I am sore everywhere.” Tamam turned to Reza and asked if he wished to tag along. He gave an enthusiastic yes. I got the feeling Tam and Reza have a relationship bond like Mikaeel and I had. Looking at them both pleased me, and broke my heart at the same time.
Tamam saw the look on my face and asked, “Why do you look so sad Jono?”
“I am sorry Tamam, looking at the two of you, I was missing my brother.” With that Tamam wrapped his arms around me and kissed my forehead.
Omar rubbed the back of my neck. “You remind us to treasure even the simple times together. I am so glad our families have been reunited. Sit and finish your coffee, my wives will have breakfast ready shortly.”
One of my favorite things on earth is cardamom coffee. I used to sneak sips from papa’s cup as a little boy. On buying trips to Turkey, Syria, and Jordan he would treat me to my own cup. Mom would grumble but pop would tell her I was learning to be a man.
The brothers continued their chatting and Papa Omar would add his wisdom. A few minutes later a handsome woman touched Omar’s shoulder and whispered in his ear. He smiled and brushed her cheek. “They are ready for us.”
We were guided into the dining room, the main table was covered with plates filled with flatbreads, balila, ful mudammas, zater, labneh, waffles, pastries, and the ladies prepared Mishi waraq and kanafa as well. The family was making me feel so welcome, and cared for. Reza leaned over and told me his mother made the grape leaves and the fried phyllo dough. I had forgotten how large the traditional Arabic breakfast was.
The Ghorbani’s had become somewhat westernized. Partly due to the small stipend that DCF allotted them for the care of the children in the group home. We relied a lot on the free breakfasts and lunches from the school district. They did provide for our needs. What we lacked in exposure to their culture was made up by the sharing of their love for us.
Tam led me by the arm to the big table. I was given the chair to the right of Omar with Tam to my right. Najib and Reza were next to their mothers across the table and Naser was on our side of the table to Tam’s right. I looked down at the fried eggs on my plate and so they were prepared over-hard, exactly as I would normally have them. I immediately looked at Tam, “Did you call Afsoon again?” At which point he posed in a “who me” style.
Reza’s mother Daliyah turned to her husband and commented on how charming my accent was. I was surprised she addressed him in Shabaki (a Kurdish dialect). In her dialect, I asked Omar for permission to talk to his wife. A look of shock spread on both Reza and Daliyah’s faces. I excitedly explained it had been years since I had the opportunity to use it. He smiled and gave permission.
I asked, “How long has it been since you lived in Mosul?” I knew she must have left when she was young but the accent was there. She confirmed my theory and said her family had left Iraq for business opportunities in Saudi Arabia when she was 8. Where she was educated and later promised to Omar. She in turn asked how I learned Shabaki.
“My Papa was planning a furniture buying trip to Batman, Turkey. He was asked by the Imam of his mosque to help lay the groundwork for the building of a school and clinic in the village of Çukurca. It was during summer vacation and he asked mother to bring me along. My parents were eager to reward me because I had skipped a grade in school. The fact was they wanted to slow me down a bit. They were afraid I was missing out on my childhood and thought that a grand adventure might just be enough of a diversion.
Papa loved watching me learn new languages. When we arrived in the city we found a small group of refugees from North of Mosul. Within a couple days I was asking simple questions of the children. By the end of the first week I was asking the adults questions. Most thought it was ‘charming,’ others not so much. There were a few times I spoke too much and was directed by Papa to shut up.” She smiled and Tamam rubbed my shoulder. Tam put some basturma sausage on my güvenilir casino plate as a subtle hint that I should eat as I talked.
Daliyah told me how her younger cousins still attend that school. She also told me how the locals continued to praise the Saudi hero and his American boy. I simply nodded and smiled. I told her I had very little to do with the actual project I was there solely as my father’s son. She told me that was not the way she was told the story ended, and how my involvement in winning over the local officials was more important than I had thought.
I smiled and looked at Tam, “Remember, Nessa told you I was good at translating humor. Although Papa had a huge heart, he didn’t have that gift. His attempts at humor were often perceived as threats.” Papa Omar broke out in laughter. It made my heart happy to know I was with someone who knew the people I loved, and to know that I was not alone anymore.
After the meal was done Tam and I returned to his wing before we went to town. We showered and met Reza in the great hall Papa Omar, Najib, and Naser were there as well. Farewells were extended I realized we would be going back to Riyadh straight from the spa. As we walked to the garage I was feeling melancholy. Tamam hugged me saying we would be back next week. He helped me climb into the back of the Land Rover, it was loaded. Something was wrong. The luggage was different. The Hassan telepathy kicked in again. Tam spoke, “Jono, we are giving Reza a ride to Riyadh. His break from school is almost over. He is returning to Bremen for winter classes.”
Reza extended a few colorful words. I blushed and smiled as Tam semi playfully slugged his baby brother. I remembered how my own brother belted me when I repeated a profanity that he had just shouted. “Tamam, just where did Reza learn such language? It sounds like something a baby brother would learn from a big brother.” Reza winked as he shot me an ear to ear grin. I returned his smile and said, “We baby brothers have to stick together.”
Truth be told, I was a little jealous. He was in my seat. I should be next to MY Tamam. I know that was stupid. Tamam was his brother all his life. I have only been his lover for three days. A feeling of shame crept over me, along with a wave of nausea. Again Tam’s telepathy kicked in again, “Jono, are you lonely sitting back there?”
“Just a bit, just being dumb I guess. Papa used to make me ride in the back when we traveled. I know there is a good reason.” Suddenly the wave of nausea became a full-on tsunami. “I am sorry Tam, could you please pull over for a moment.” No sooner had the car reach the side of the road and stopped, I threw open the door and said goodbye to my morning breakfast. Note to self I really do have to chew more.
I closed the door and began making apologies for my weakness. “There is no need to apologize. Perhaps I will let Reza ride back there with you to Riyadh. That way the two of you can get to know one another better.” With that my nose dug into a trashy pulp novel and I let the boys talk. Funny thing about bodice rippers, it was fun to imagine myself in the both the male and female character roles. Not that I was interested in cross-dressing. The thought of having a powerful male interested in me. To have him pursue me, succumbing to the heat of his seduction and passionate advances… Wait a tick, it happened. I always dismissed this stuff as a cheap fantasy, now I am both living and loving it.
We pulled into the spa and the staff rushed out opening the vehicle doors. I fell in alongside Tamam and avoided eye contact with the staff. Tam firmly placed his hand on the small of my back, both guiding my path and his action also told everyone else hands off. I wasn’t fond of being treated like property, but I did love both his touch and attentions.
Reza was chattering away. We were escorted into a comfortable reception area and offered a seat. Shortly after an older tall handsome man entered the room. As he passed, I shuddered when he turned his head away and saw an old jagged scar on his right cheek. I wondered how he received such an mark.
He sat down behind his desk and started asking Tamam and Reza what they wished. I was starting to become used to being ignored, it still pissed me off. Then he screwed up, he asked, “What treatment shall we provide your charming plaything.”
The Hassan telepathy kicked in again. Tamam could see the rage building in my eyes. “Forgive me Amman; this is the son of a dear family friend. This is Jono bin Aban Al-Amin.” The confused look on his face was priceless.
“Please forgive my assumption. If I may ask, would your father be from Al-Hareeq?” I nodded yes. “Then my shame is doubled.” He stood and walked over to the far wall of his office and removed a photograph from the wall. Walking back he presented the photo to me. “I had the honor of serving with your father.”
My eyes watered as he pointed to Papa in his prime, wearing the rank of Naqib (captain) on his uniform. “He is a great man, so many of us owe our lives to him, none more than our commander.” I could see Amman in the next row behind Papa. He too was young and the scar now on his face was not there. What floored me was who was in the row in front of him.
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