the mysterious Arab friend

by Evans Yonson

(Note: The series Mondays in Africa were originally written and published on September 2005, as a countdown for The Light Traveller’s leaving his university residence in Madrid, Spain.)

one of those things that i learned and developed while travelling is the keen eye for observing and seeing people. i try to remember everything clearly as much as possible and write down as detailed as possible my observations after. with the subject that i am taking right now at the university, i am forced to write down my observations on the spot, which i am trying to master. speed and memory are testing my brains everyday. in 2004, someone beat me this skill.

how does a person tick another? does it take a special skill for lights to spark?

i arrived in madrid, spain the first time on 25 September 2004. i had the greatest opportunity of being hosted by then couple Carlos and Carla. on 1 October (a Saturday), Carlos brought to me to the Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Senora de Africa. it was almost the end of summer so i wore my favorite cargo short pants and red t-shirt. i was received by the receptionist with my dark blue samsonite maleta and my smaller orange maleta. the excitement must have overpowered my senses that i barely noticed anyone in the lobby except the ukrainian receptionist, whose i don’t even remember now. i was assigned to the basement. mind you, it’s your filipino idea of a basement, where mental patients are admitted. we were three in the basement, a brazilian guy and a mexican lad.

four months passed by and i had made lots of friends in the dormitory. i made friends with most of them except for some busy people who were always in a hurry. and one very mysterious guy, an Arab man. by his looks and his stares, he is Arab. he could have been the younger version of Sean Connery. he knew one of the filipina-companions and he asked her that we be introduced. it sent shivers to my soul that an Arab man wanted to make friends with me through another friend. honestly, i was excited and thrilled that this Arab guy wanted to know me more.

so, we were finally introduced after being set-up by my friends. the first time we spoke alone, he said the most remarkable words that made me very curious about him even more.

“i remember very well how you came on the first day here in the dormitory,” he said. “with your two maletas, the dark blue and the orange. a spanish guy brought you here and you were wearing your brown shorts and red t-shirt. and i never stopped watching you from afar.”

i never stopped watching you from afar… it blew me away. it was like his first hello that brought me to high heavens. from my first day to that moment, he recounted all the instances that he saw me – eating at the cafeteria, strolling along Gran Via, dining at KFC on a Saturday night, or even waiting for my bus to school. indeed, the heavens were playing in my constellation during the next months. he consulted me with matters of gadgetry and Windows and i enjoyed every single moment that i was in his room. no matter how annoying he would get sometimes with his questions but everything just went away when that line comes back to my mind.

he’s far from me now. i am in barcelona and he is in madrid. i may not see him now but i know he is still watching me from afar. and i love that.