“I Can’t Marry into that Room!” [Archives:2006/913/Opinion]”
By Hassan Al-Haifi
“Dad, I am about to get married, can you tell me where my wife and I will be hitting the sack?” Fuad never had a more serious problem in his life!
“Son, you can stay with us here in the house. Don't you like your spacious room?” The father knew his son had a good question, but wanted to release some of his sense of humor.
The mother said laughingly: “Look son, just because your room is in the Southern Side of the House1, that still means you can enjoy being with your wife in Spring and Summer.”
“First of all, mom, the room is not even rectangular, it is a semi circle with the angles at the tips of the diameter not more than 10 degrees. You can't even fit a bed in there.” Fuad could see that his parents haven't caught on to the seriousness of his predicament. He continued: “Besides, the stray cats always come into the room because the door rises above the ground by about six inches.”
Dad saw a chance to carry on with his humorous mood: “Well son, after you get married you will get a more refined audience peeking through the bottom of the door into your room.”
“You are not serious, about keeping me in the room that used to be where the goats were kept when Sana'a was still a farm town. I need a good room, that will fit the nice bedroom set I just ordered from Italy. I have been saving for it all my life, by putting half the money I get from anywhere in a savings account. It will arrive any day now and I can't even think of where to put it when it arrives in its boxes.” Fuad was pointing out the first problem with the room while noting that the house itself is unaccommodating for his furniture.
His mother couldn't help carrying on with the joking: “Son, why don't you show your wife the room and let her see how cozy it will be for both of you. The old houses of Sana'a have such a nice cuddly aura to them. Just think! You will always be so close together, no matter where you go in the room.”
“Mom, If I come within five meters of her house now, her brothers might shoot me to pieces with their RPGs. You know, now they even refuse to let her talk to me on the phone, let alone allow me to pick her up to come see our absolutely cozy room.” Fuad brought on some of the logistical and social shortcomings the relationship with his fiancee was undergoing as the date of the wedding nears.
He then turned to his father: “Dad, you were lucky to have been able to build three new houses in the good old days, thanks to the land you inherited from your father. Why don't we get out of this sardine can and move into one of them. They have such nice rooms and it will be a good way to let my wife feel assured that she will be able to see during the day, without having to switch on the light. That will save on the electricity bill. There are actually windows in the rooms of the new houses. My current room does not even have a window. With the electricity off and on without any notice
The mother cut in: “
“You see what I mean, your room is just right for newlyweds. Candlelight will do just fine. Your father and myself always liked to sneak into that room, even when it was a barn before we did some renovations in the house to turn it into a modern house!”
“Mom, can you show me where the modern description fits into this house? If you want to go modern, let us go to the house we have on Haddah Road!” Fuad wanted out of the old house and sees no other solution to his problem.
“Oh no son, that house gives us the highest income. If we live in that house, how can I support the family? The other two houses together do not bring in half the rent the Haddah House brings in.” The Haddah house rent is enough to sustain us.” The father wanted to put the economic factors in their right perspective.
That is exactly what Fuad was driving his father into saying: “Then let us move into the House in Madhbah on the Western side of the city.”
The mother wanted to point out that economics is not the only consideration to bear in mind: “Son, you know how your father can't leave his Qat session group here in the Old City. He does not even know the names of our next door neighbor in Madhbah or Haddah. He is been with the same Qat session group for forty years now and there is nothing that will change that. No, you will just have to convince your wife that this is really where life is at and I am sure she will understand.”
Just then, he heard some shouting by the door of the house and the revving of a truck engine. He remembered his furniture: “Oh no, what do we do now with the furniture?”
“Son, go down and show the driver where the house near the Airport Road is. “Quickly now, before the other truck comes in to pick up the furniture we will take with us from this house.” The father was frantically trying to release the surprise they have been hiding from their son for the last two weeks, since he came from his studies overseas.
The son was so elated, he ran to pick up his dad's mobile and was heard mumbling: “Khadijah! We are moving to the airplanes today, get ready now for the good life!”
After waiting to hear her reaction he all of a sudden turned red from embarrassment and said: “What airplanes? I mean to the house near Airport Road. I better get there before my brothers get there to take the room, which I had in mind for us. Can't you tell those brothers of yours to put away their RPGs for a couple of hours while I take you to see the house?”
After he finished, the mother asked what was the last thing his wife to be said. He answered with amusement: “She said, If I do that, they will shoot me before they shoot you! You know how conservative my family is on such matters. You are lucky they let you peek through the keyhole so you can see me on our engagement day. It will just have to be long distance romance for now until our wedding day”.
The mother couldn't help already feeling nostalgic about the old house: “You see your current room would have helped make up a lot of lost time!”
1In Winter, the southern side of the houses in Sana'a turn into refrigerators.
Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.