No matter how hard I tried to clean the house the sand blowing in from the desert invaded my little home through every single door and windowsill; covering everything in it with a fine brown powder.
I gave up after a while and just accepted it like the Bedouin who had lived there on the shifting sands for thousands of years before me.
My job was six weeks on and two weeks off. I could go anywhere I liked on my Rest & Recreation break (a phrase that I have always loved).
I had a friend in British Airways who was the Station Manager in Dhahran so I would phone him to ask to check when his flights had spare seats, and off I’d go, simple as that. Usually First Class and you could smoke and drink to your heart’s content in those days, and with a bit of luck still have a chance of joining the Mile High Club.
So I went to New York one Christmas. It was actually for a business meeting at the time but it coincided with my break from Saudi.
Booked into a tiny hotel in mid-town. Hadn’t made a reservation but it was only a few minutes’ walk from my meeting the same afternoon.
Bored in my room I went for a walk around Manhattan later that evening in a snow-storm. Bollocking freezing cold. Yellow cabs skidding all over. Clouds of steam rising from grates of hell in the pavement.
Cold and shaking to the bone I dived into an inviting looking store named ‘Radio Shack’ to get warm and have a look at all the latest gadgets.
It was packed and bustling with people buying last-minute Christmas presents. I bought a wireless telephone. Never heard of them before in my life.
Noticed a girl serving customers at the far end of the counter. My God she was beautiful.
Had no choice; I couldn’t get near her in the crowd so I paid for my purchase to a weird looking guy and left with my tail between my legs.
Got back to my hotel and sat on my tiny single bed and thought ‘That is the most beautiful girl I have seen in my life’.
A bible and telephone directory are always provided in those sort of of hotels (top drawer next to your bed because apparently this can save many miserable souls who might otherwise have been left unattended), so I got the phone directory out. Looked up ‘Radio Shack Manhattan’.
The phone number was there so I dialled it and I said “Hey, you may think I am crazy but I have just been to your store and I saw the most beautiful girl I have ever seen serving behind the counter.”
Above the jingle-bells music I heard the guy shout “Christinaaaa daaarling, there’s a call for you from some nutcase from outta-space.”
She took the call. I asked please can you meet me when you finish work? Bloody tricky conversation. I tried to explain that I had just arrived from the Middle East and that I was Australian. There was a long pause in the conversation whilst she mentally sorted this out.
OK she finally replied “No problem, got it, you live in Kentucky and you were born in Austria”.
Maybe it was my accent or my explanation but she agreed to meet me anyway. It was Christmas Eve and the snow was falling even more strongly then.
We held on to each other in the blizzard through the ice and snow and walked to Central Park, and there was a horse and carriage waiting there just for us with blankets for our cold knees. So we snuggled up together.
We talked about her life in New York, and about the Bronx where she lived. About her dreams and mine. We fell in love together in that beautiful city in those short few hours, and later shared the night in my tiny hotel room.
I had to go back to work two days later and then went to Majorca for the New Year with my parents. I invited her to come and join us and she did.
It didn’t work out. A girl from New York just didn’t fit in with a guy who came from no-where and didn’t fit into the jigsaw puzzle of her life.
She went home and I went back to work; to my sandy house and the smell and sounds of Saudi Arabia that I was used to then.
I am not ashamed to say that I cried alone when I got back, for both of us, and for a wonderful experience in life.
Months later she ‘phoned me out of the blue. She was a budding rock star. Could I send her money for her first recording session? I was more than happy to do that.
She is not Whitney Houston by the way. But she was a beautiful person and we were very happy to share our dreams together for a short time.
We never met again, but I will always remember.
. . .
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