Me and Hans

Ahhh... the nostalgia. I'm once again a student on a university campus. I can't decide whether this is cool or pathetic. I try to radiate the impression that I'm cool -- you know, I say stuff like, "Oh, that's pretty dope," or "Yeah, I'm fly," or "I can fly," or "Charles Barkley is my dad." But I don't think I'm pulling the wool over anyone's eyes. I can't fly. But Charles Barkley is, in fact, my dad.

Being back on a campus reminds me of the good old days with my college buddies. Actually, my college buddy. Actually, my inanimate college buddy. His name was Hans Wehr. He was a dictionary. An Arabic dictionary -- I'm really into having a culturally-diverse friend pool. A very, very shallow culturally-diverse friend pool, but a culturally-diverse friend pool nonetheless. I'm also really into sentence clauses functioning as complete sentences.

At first, I didn't want to be friends with Hans. He was fat and green, and he took up a lot of space in my backpack that I needed for other things, like letters from my dad, Charles Barkley, advising me to throw elbows and curse words at kids who tried to box me out in line down at Coldstone.

I also resented the fact that I felt like my friendship with Hans was unfairly forced upon me by my Arabic professors. Shouldn't I be allowed to choose my own friends? True, my mom chose my friends throughout my middle school years, but, man alive! I was in college now! I could stay up past 8:00 if I wanted! My professors wanted us to use Hans Wehr because the words aren't organized alphabetically therein, like they are in that sissy Mawrid Arabic dictionary, where all you do to look up marur ("destruction") is look up the Arabic letter for "m," follow it down, and there's your word. Shoot, the drummer for Kiss could do that.

Hans is organized by Arabic root, so that to look up a word you have to figure out its three-letter root. Often this is easy, like, for instance, if you're Stephen Freaking Hawking. But he'd need someone to help him open the book and turn the pages. But let's not pick on Stephen Hawking. I like him.

But a lot of Arabic words have a lot of letters, and when your dad is Charles Barkley it's hard to do things like figure out what the three-letter root of an Arabic word with 10 letters is, or like talking to someone for more than 12 seconds without punching them in the head.

But I sighed and accepted Hans's friendship, and, contrary to my expectations, it truly grew and blossomed. We went everywhere together. I fondly remember that time when he fell in the sink in the boy's bathroom while I was washing my hands. For weeks afterward he smelled like mildew, and his pages stuck together for over a year, but I was faithful in my friendship and never left him home just because people wrinkled their noses when I walked by. It's easy to have high self-esteem when your dad is Charles Barkley, and you know he'll punch anyone in the head who picks you last for basketball, or kickball, or tetherball, on the playground.

Hans came to Syria with me. My wife got jealous because I looked at Hans more than I looked at her, but, don't worry, not in the same way. Me and Hans aren't like that. Nor should any person and any book, respectively, be like that.

Hans came to Jordan with me too, but I ignored him for most of those two years because my kids were starting to pray for Hans in our family prayers like he was part of the family. I draw the line there. I mean, I like you Hans, but you're a book. A fat, green one. See how I have no issue throwing my friends under the ship if it suits my fancy?

Now Hans is way up high on a book shelf and I never look at him. But maybe I'll pull him down this week since I'm feeling so nostalgic. Maybe I'll throw him in the sink for old time's sake, and we can laugh together like old college buddies. Me and Hans. Sigh.