An evening with an Arab

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“You wanna go see Mo?” he asked me while talking on the phone. “What? Mo?
Sure!” I hadn’t seen Mo in forever, ever since he moved up to Detroit.
“You know Mo, right?” Dick asked when he got off the phone. Did I know him?
I would have become his 11th wife, had I agreed. “Well, don’t mention that.
He’s married now,” Dick laughed.

I’d coached Moteb (the Saudi Arabian otherwise known as H-T on the boards) on
history in return for breadsticks purchased from the snack shop until he left
to get married and transfer to another college. Before that I’d had several
midnight chat sessions with him on the Neutral Zone.

Driving down in Dick’s new car he got for $200, we peered through the foggy
windshield and belted out the lyrics to tunes playing on the radio. Every so
often, he’d hit the horn, which was in perfect tune with certain songs. We
walked into the Clarion Hotel and spotted them. Sting and his other were
seated at a table with Mo and his diminuative wife wrapped in a traditional
Arab head scarf. Mo has always been big, but he’s gotten bigger since I’ve
seen him last. His wife could understand English, and evidently speak it,
but instead she told jokes in Ababic and had Mo translate them.

Deciding to head to Darryl’s, we piled into Mo’s rental (this huge sedan he
somehow talked his way into renting for $26 a day). It was parked out in
front of the hotel. “See this red line?” asked Sting, “It means fire. Only
fire trucks can park here.” “It’s not my car. This is a rental,” responded
Mo. “Have you ever driven with a Saudi?” Sting tried to prepare us. I had,
once. He offered to take me over to my car parked in the far lot at UM.
There was a tape of voices howling in Arabic playing when he cranked up his
Amiga. This time, the radio was set to the alternative station. “Hey, we
were just listening to that,” Dick and I exclaimed as Mo turned it off.

He pulled east onto Airport, performed a Uie, and weaved in and out of the
lanes into the left hand turn lane on Airport, coming THIS CLOSE to a truck’s
bumper. “Crap!” came Sting’s voice from the back. “Hey, we had PLENTY of
room,” I observed from the front seat. “Yeah,” agreed Mo, “Jonah knows what
she’s talking about. You obviously know how to drive. Besides, it’s a
rental,” as we came THIS CLOSE to another car turning into the parking lot.
“Plenty of room,” I repeated.

Inside, a waitress said it would be a 20 minute wait for a non smoking table.
We opted for first available instead and went to sit down at the lounge.
The discussion turned to how Mo has this innate ability to get people to
give him stuff for free. A girl came over to take our drink orders while she
handed out cocktail napkins. “These are my friends from Bulgaria,” Mo said
to her, “Seriously!” “Okay,” she muttered. “And so you need to give them
something complementary since they’re visiting from overseas.” I don’t think
she caught that but just took our orders. Sting’s other ordered a virgin
strawberry daquiri, so I pointed to her and nodded that I’d have the same
when it came my turn.

As she returned to the bar, the buzzer they’d given to Mo went off. We
tromped back upstairs and followed the seater to a very cramped booth. They
agreed to push another couple of tables together while we waited. A waiter
came up to spread out cocktail napkins before we told him that we weren’t
REALLY sitting there, just waiting till they got us a better table. He
picked up the napkins and left. As we returned back downstairs, we wondered
if the lady with our drink orders would ever be able to find us.

For the third time, someone came up and asked what we wanted to drink. “Uh,
I think this girl was getting stuff for us,” Sting conjectured. The waiter
asked what she looked like. “Red shirt,” said Mo, “and glasses!” “Blonde
hair,” I added. He went off to search for her, then came back a bit later
with all the drinks except for the daquiris. “And who had coke?” he asked.
We all looked around. “I had a sprite,” said Mo, “but you can leave that
here. And could you bring us a pitcher of sprite? We’ll be drinking a lot.”
He reappeared with the sprite and the pitcher and then our daquiris. I
sucked on mine and mused to Dick, “I should have got a real one.” “Get one,”
he said, “I’ll drink that one.” When the waiter came back, I asked him for a
real strawberry daquiri. He asked for my ID.

At one point, the waiter asked Sting if he still went to University of
Mobile. “My name is Marty,” he said, “I just graduated.” Sting had
graduated, Mo had transferred, and Dick and I still went. Sting’s other is a
Spring Hiller. When he left, I asked Dick, “What do you think his major
was?” “Hmm? Business. Maybe nursing. But he looks like a business major.”
I asked Marty when he came back what his major was. “Business and finance.”
“Ha! You were right!” I exulted to Dick. Marty looked surprised but asked
us what we majored in. “Music,” answered Dick. “Political Science,” added

Mo picked up on the conversation, asking Marty where he was from and his
major. Then he asked, “You married?” “No.” “You’re single then? This is
Jonah. (What’s your major?)” “Political Science,” I said. “Her major is
political science. She is single, and she’s gorgeous in this black dress…”
A few days before my 20th birthday, I went through a rebellious stage as a
result of the realization that there were only a few days left of being a
teenager. One of those days, I went to class in goth/stoner regailia,
wearing heavy eye makeup and “dressed” in a black t-shirt, black gloves,
black stockings and shoes. I walked into the computer lab after English
class to find Mo staring open mouthed. He mentions this “black dress” every
time I’ve seen him since.

A bit later, a pack of waiters laid seige to the table next to us singing
happy birthday and presenting the victim with pie ala mode. Mo caught
Marty’s attention and gestured toward Sting and his other. Marty disappeared
again to get some pie for the birthday girl. It is Sting’s other’s
birthday… but not for another couple of weeks. The pie accompanied by the
army of waiters arrived a few minutes later. Sting his other shoved the pie
into the box with their partially consumed cake as soon as Marty left, and we
all watched the al amode melt alone on the plate. I mixed some sprite from
the pitcher into the rest of Dick’s daquiri so Marty wouldn’t have brought
the extra beverage in vain.

Back in the car, Mo pulled out onto Airport with a semi truck blocking the
view of who was coming as Sting shouted “Oh crap!” from the backseat. It was
just down the road to the hotel. “Do you want to go somewhere else?” Mo
asked. “Sammy’s,” laughed Dick. “Sammy’s? is that a restaurant?” Mo passed
the hotel and turned toward the strip joint. “It is NOT a restaurant,”
insisted Sting, “Two words. Kenny Rogers. Roasters? Hooters?” Mo suddenly
accelerated past the intended target. He turned back onto Airport
announcing, “I’m pulling in front of a red Mustang.”

We made it back to the hotel safely anyway. Parking in a real parking spot
this time, we got out next to a car phone lying on the ground. “You want a
phone?” asked Mo, “take it.” I picked it up to turn it into the front desk
(not the first time I’ve done that at that hotel) but handed it over to a
couple of elderly rent-a-cops sitting on the tailgate of a nearby truck.

Then exchanging goodbyes, we left and listened to the radio all the way home.

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