Today being my husband's first day back at work, I managed to hold out until about 10:00am. Given the fact that he starts work at 9:30am, that's not saying much really, is it? I had to stop by the clinic to see how he's doing.
When I arrived, his door was closed. So he was with a patient. I was actually relieved. A temporary respite. Wasn't looking forward to the moment when he realized I was there. I had a feeling he wouldn't like it, that he would consider it hovering over him etc...
Quick flash-back to when we were still dating. In those days, I would stop by the clinic whenever I felt like seeing him. And he would ALWAYS be pleased to see me. That thought brought on an attack of chronic Lump-In-Throat-Syndrome (LITS) so I didn't dwell on it too much.
Where was my friend - the receptionist(R) - anyway? There was no one at the reception and phones were ringing like crazy.
So there I was - reading very old magazines in the waiting room. The same issues they've had since before he and I were married. Told him about that so many times. An hour or so passed. I was starting to get restless. After all, it's not like I had all the time in the world. I was on company time.
A little later, the door opened and a patient walked out with the nurse. No sign of K. The patient was a young woman in hijab. She looked Palestinian but I couldn't be sure. Her eyes were red, like she'd been crying, but she was laughing with the nurse.
The nurse led the patient to a chair practically next to mine and asked her to wait please. The nurse did not acknowledge or greet me in anyway. I don't know what it was but something wouldn't allow me to let it go at that.
Me: How are you, (her name)?
Her(looking a bit sheepish): Fine thanks. And you? Long time no see.
Me: I'm fine too. Thank you. Will he be long?
Her: His next appointment is here. I don't know about the rest because R isn't here yet.
Me: Oh yeah, where is she?
Her: I don't know. She shouldn't be late. Some patients are finished and waiting for her to do the insurance documents. Only she knows how to do them. And she has our stamp locked in the drawer.
Boy, are we feeling talkative today, I thought. Normally, she'd barely say two words to me. But what she said made me worry about R. This isn't like her at all.
I called R. She didn't pick up. Curiouser and curiouser. Then I tried my husband's cell. I figured the nurse would have told him I was outside so no use hiding anymore. His cell was diverted to the reception. And of course R wasn't there to pick it up. Why does he do that? Divert his cell when he's at work I mean? I never do that. If I am busy, I keep it silent. I have my own voicemail so why make the receptionist take my messages for me?
Was still pondering that when suddenly all hell seemed to break lose. The sweet, gentle-looking Palestinian patient suddenly started complaining loudly about being kept waiting. And then other patients - who had been kept waiting much longer than her - started to echo her. In no time at all, it looked like there was going to be a minor riot in the waiting room. People are so impatient.
No one from clinic was there. I didn't count. The dentists & the nurses were all inside with patients. R was in the middle of her disappearing act. I sank deeper and deeper in my chair.
Soon, one patient after the other was leaving - declaring their intention of going to see the management on the top floor. A few minutes later, someone from the management showed up, trying desperately to placate everyone.
I saw him going into my husband's office - where he was apparently told to wait until my husband was done with his patient - because he came right back out & went into the next dentist's office.
It looked like a mess. And in the middle of the mess, R suddenly walks in. The management guy & two of the dentists - not including my husband who was still in his office - stood glaring at her.
Felt really sorry for her. The management guy told her that now that she was here - she should process everyone asap because they'd all been delayed enough. And that he would contact her superior. He apologized again to everyone, asked them all to be seated. When the place was quieter and a little more settled, he left.
What I hadn't realized earlier was that the Head of Dentistry was away for a conference - as of today - and that my husband was supposed to be acting for him. So he was now 'her superior'. The nurse explained this to me in another act of astounding friendliness. What WAS with her today?
I hadn't caught so much of a glimpse of my husband yet & it was nearly 2 hrs since I had left my office. I had to get back. So I told the nurse I needed to speak to him for a few minutes. Wasn't sure she'd tell him.
Apparently, she did. He came out into the waiting room 5 minutes later:
Him: Ahlan, ahlan. Saba7 Elkhair.(Good morning)
Me : Saba7 elnoor.(Good morning)
Him: Khair? Fi 7aga? (What?Something Wrong?)
Me : La. Itwa7shtak 7abait asalim 3laik.(No just missed you and wanted to say hello.)
Him: Allah yisalimik ya sitti.(Returning the greeting)
Me : How are you feeling today?
Him: El7amdullilah kwais(Fine thanks to Allah). Ana 3arif ini howa da illy gaybik.(I know that's why you're here.)
Me : 7amdilla 3ala salamtak.(Arabic expression meaning thank God for your safe return(to good health))
Him: Allah yisalimak. Bas ma kansh lazim tit3ibi nafsik wi tseebi shoglik ya3ni. (Thanks but you didn't have to go to so much trouble & leave your office.)
Mish ni32al ba2a? Yinfa3 kida? (He wants to know when am going to return to my senses. Which means when am going to stop worrying about him I guess.)
Me : I wanted to say welcome back to work. Can't say that from anywhere else but here. I'd look stupid welcoming people to a place when am not even there don't you think? So now that I am here, nawart el3iyada(Arabic colloquial expression of welcome. Literal meaning is you've brought light into a place - in this case the clinic.).
Him: Allah yikhaleeki da noorik(Thanks it's you who is the source of the light. Usual answer given.). Bas 7amdilla 3ala salmatak di tit2al kida 7af?(He's protesting the fact that all my good wishes are verbal.)
Me : Kaif kaif?
Him: Ya3ni, mafish taba2 konafa, kees fakha, ay 7aga?
Me : I could come back after work & bring a cake. In celebration.
Him: That's not exactly what I said but a cake would be nice, thank you.
He sort of patted me on the cheek. Then turned around & walked in the direction of his office.
Me: K! I'm talking to you.
Him: 7abibi mish fadi ana dilwa2ti(I'm busy now). Mish shayfa eldoniya ma2looba 2andi ezay? (Can't you see the mess here?)Roo7i inti kaman shoofi waraki eh rabina yihdeeki.(You should go back to work too.)
And he went back in his office. Was about to follow when I saw a patient walk in. Great.
I make a mental note to bake a cake AND buy him some Egyptian Konafa. I know he loves Konafa. I still have to figure out how to make him 3aseer 2asab(sugar cane juice) - something else he really loves but is really hard to get here.
Was pissed off at myself because I wasted the few minutes I had with him and forgot to put in a good word for R.
After I got back to my office, I called her. As soon as she heard my voice, she started crying. I asked her if anyone had spoken to her yet. She said no, not yet, they were too busy, that she doesn't know what will happen to her.
I asked her why she was late. She said she was staying with friends in Dubai & she has to take the bus to Abu Dhabi everyday. The poor girl doesn't have a car. I asked her why she was staying in Dubai. She explained that she and her roommates were kicked out of their flat because the landlord didn't want to renew at the same rate & they couldn't afford the new rate. And for two months now, she'd been trying to find affordable accomodation.
She said that she stayed at a hotel at 400 dhs a day for a whole week. And the rest of the time, she's spent staying a little with each of her friends. She and her roommate have finally found an apartment they could share but it won't be available until Feb 8th. Her roommate took the remaining time off & went to see her family in Romania. But R has used up her annual leave so she has nowhere to stay but with the friends in Dubai because she has no more money for hotels.
I felt so bad for her. Of course, I know that rents are exploding in Abu Dhabi because the demand is much bigger than the supply. Everyone says. But I mean, come on. The poor girl can't afford 400 dhs per day. And she can't travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai everyday without a car.
Briefly, I considered asking her to stay with us until the 8th. After all, we have 3 bedrooms & there's only the two of us. But I figured I'd need to discuss that with my husband first.
I told her that when he talks to her, she should tell him what she told me. She's a good friend of ours but she seemed really scared of him. I hope he'll try to undertand.
Haven't heard from either of them yet. I have, however, heard from my mother-in-law. She called to check on my husband and, of course, couldn't reach him all day so she called me. I told her he seemed ok & gave her a brief account of what I saw at the clinic.
She went silent for a bit. Then she said she doesn't like to interfere but I should reconsider because it would be 7aram(religiously unlawful) for me to invite a female friend to stay with us. I asked her why. She said because I can't be home 24 hrs to chaperone them and if am not home then the female friend would be alone with my husband. She said it's 7aram for an unrelated male & female to be alone together.
I thanked her for the advice and hung up. Then I called my mother, told her the story to see what she'd say. She said that if it's for a short time and I really trust my friend and my husband then it's ok.
Haven't made up my mind yet. My husband and I really value our privacy. But it is only 8 days. I'll talk to him tonight & see.