For as long as I’ve lived in Amman, my eye has been focused on this house. We’ve dreamt about it, fantasized about it, made plans for it. I never imagined it would be ours. After all, it has been in the same family for generations.
In late autumn I began to hear rumors that the family planned to sell the old place. I made my way back over to Jabal al Taj once again to peer over the garden wall at my dream house. The plot of earth is quite large, as is the stone-built house. It’s a two-storey affair with the usual flat roof, shaded by a few ancient olive trees. The northeast corner is occupied by a lone date palm. The smooth, silvery barked sentinel stands perpetually at attention, watching the goings-on in the street. The vine-covered walls, shrubs and fruit trees give almost complete privacy in the garden.
Fairly quickly, the deal was made. Money was exchanged, and papers were signed. I was ecstatic! We had toured the house twice before making the decision, but now I wanted to see every centimeter of it. I want to be intimately aware of every nook and cranny. So many rooms! What on earth would we do with all that space? First things first. A lot of work was needed, so we rolled up our sleeves, called friends and relatives and got busy. The first thing to do was deciding which colors we wanted and get the walls painted.
A ground floor room with an east exposure was chosen for the office. As an early riser, I love to watch the sunrise as I try to pound a few words out on my next “best-selling novel”. Another attraction for that particular room was the built-in bookshelves. That’s something of a rarity in these stone and concrete houses. I knew exactly how it was going to look, too. First, the walls would receive a nice warm coat of paint we had specially mixed for our old place. The color is difficult to describe, but suffice to say it is a nice masculine color with overtones of orange and brown. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? It gives the walls a warmth and depth that welcome and embrace you. The bookshelves and niches would be painted with a darker brown with just a touch of red, much like the desert where we live. That would prevent the ever-present dust from showing too badly, I thought.
I was happily painting away, imagining all the masterpieces I’d write in this room. Friends would drop by, sit with me and take coffee as we shared gossip. I was jolted from my reverie by a crack next to the bookshelf. It was almost indiscernible, but looking more closely I could see it was definitely a crack! Damn. Now I’ll need to find some spackle to fill it in and wait for it to dry before I could finish. Frustration reigns supreme! As I inspected the crack to see just how extensive it was, I was rather surprised to see that it not only rose from the floor, but was perfectly straight and two meters long!
A straight crack? Whoever heard of such a thing? Perhaps there had been a door here at some time in the long forgotten past. So, there is probably a crack on the other side and the top as well. Sure enough, there they were!
Moving down from the ladder, I reached out to steady myself. I felt the shelf I grasped move just perceptibly and heard a definite click come from behind the wall! Snatching my hand back from the shelf I stood on the bottom rung of the ladder and stared in awed astonishment as the entire section rolled back into the wall and then quietly slid to the left. It was a door! Peering nervously into the darkness I could see a narrow stair leading down into the inky depths.
* To be continued… *