We brought over the last round of luggage. Tonight we sleep in this other apartment for the first time. We still have a lot of cleaning and organizing to do, before we can feel at home.
We had barely taken a load off and sat down on the couch in the living room when the doorbell rang.
“I’ll go see who it is,” said Tamer. It’s certainly not gonna be me in my sleeveless top, I think to myself.
I stop and listen, I only hear a woman’s voice and understand that it is but a short exchange, there is a brief goodbye and then the closing of the door. Tamer enters the living room alone with a smile and a small plate in his hand.
“The neighbor welcomes us, she brought us this,” he says and continues: “Her husband rode in the elevator with us, and apparently he immediately told her that we were new to this floor.”
Simple pastry on a plastic plate was covered with plastic wrap. Nice little sentiment. How different it is in this house, how different our life would have been if we had neighbors like them before.
“Let’s see, now I have to bake something as a thank you, right…” I begin to scheme.
Chocolate brownies will be on the menu. “Well, not the whole tray, half of it will be for us,” I try to bring Tamer’s concerned eyebrows down.
After a day or two, I finally had all the ingredients and an oven at my disposal. Tamer was not at home, but I didn’t want to delay returning the full plate.
Painstaking mental preparations for knocking on the door followed. Don’t scoff. What kind of consequences on your outgoing status did the quarantine mark you with?
“What should I say, what if I freeze in Arabic and what if she doesn’t know any English…” and then it hits me: “What should I even wear?!”
These are serious matters. I call Tamer, who is outside running errands for work. I ask him, what was the lady wearing when she came to us.
“Nothing special, like a simple robe I think. Or she wrapped herself in a regular prayer dress, I don’t remember.”
Great. I’m not one to complicate things (I told myself with a full measure of sarcasm). I put on a tunic with long sleeves and wrapped a scarf loosely over my hair. No, I didn’t change my clothes twice. Yes, I’m lying.
The door opened by the man we met in the elevator. “As Salam Aleykum,” he greets with a big smile, and before I can finish my reply “Wa Aleykum Salam,” he is already rushing away from the door. I hear a quiet exchange in Arabic and his wife appears at the entrance, instantly covered with a headscarf, years of practice, no doubt.
We couldn’t manage more than a couple of sentences in Arabic. Sincere gratitude and smiles were enough. Well, the brownies certainly were a success, if I say so myself.
The latter can be confirmed by Tamer, who was delighted to find the second half of the tray upon returning home.