Recently, I joined three of my guy friends for dinner at a tiny Middle Eastern restaurant on the other side of Broad – one I walked by frequently but never dined in. As we entered a symphony of tiny bells rang overhead, announcing our arrival. The owners, sat at a table, huddled over, speaking softly to each other. All of the other tables were empty. The wife stood up and went directly to the kitchen while the husband with a full gray beard and rounded belly approached. He stood comfortably erect, and although short in stature, his pride swelled high above him, making him appear taller.
After going over the specials, he asked my friend Neil if he was interested in marrying his daughter. The owner explained it was Egyptian custom for the mother and aunts to select their daughter’s husband, and only after the selection was made could the two contact each other. “Never tea,” he said waving his finger sternly in the air. “In my culture we do not date, we do not understand wasting all of that frivolous time. The mother and aunts know their daughter well, her tastes, her behaviors, what she needs in a partner, therefore we leave it to them to make a wise marriage match to prosper.”
“Sir, do you have a son for me?” I interjected.
He raised two fingers explaining only one was available. “I have pictures.” He said drawing his phone out of his pocket. First he showed us a picture of his daughter, then his son, and finally one of himself in Egypt, wearing a white cloth over his head. “Do you know why I am so serious here?” He asked. I shrugged. “Because I am a sheik. I am a judge. Thousands come to me to settle domestic disputes and affairs. Sometimes simple cases – a disobedient wife not cooking to the liking of her husband – I come along to explain to her the importance of her role in the family unit.” I nodded, wondering what I would ever do if this man were really my father-in-law, how insubordinate he’d find me. “But you would be taken care of, we’d see to it that your family was paid a big dowry.” He smiled smug in his riches. “In fact, we just sold this restaurant and the two buildings behind it for a big fat check. Two weeks, I’ll be officially retired at 73. This is why I tell my children to vote for Trump, to protect our assets. ”
I looked into his shining, beady eyes feeling a mixture of warmth and contempt. “Tell me young lady, what do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
“What do you write?”
“How about this, I’ll give you the titles of three different poems and you select the one you’d like me to recite.” His eyebrows twitched together in agreement as he picked Feline Philosophy. With as much intensity as I could muster, I delivered the poem maintaining eye contact throughout while his pupils poured into mine. I believe it was the line ‘if you really are a lion standing amongst ordinary men’ that unsettled the owner. And at the end, he swallowed hard before casting his judgement, “You have a lonely heart.”
Don’t judge me,
A Warrior Princess