Requiem for Saudi Arabia (or, "In Which Abu Halen Plagiarizes Himself")

I wrote the below post in August 2014, a week or two after finishing my two-year assignment in Saudi Arabia. I posted it to my blog back then, but Shannon made me take it down because she was worried someone would read it and I would get fired. She needn't have worried. First, no one actually reads my blog and, second, even if they did, I've learned in the years since then that people write and say a lot more incendiary things than this and don't get fired. And, third, the song "Won't You Be My Neighbor" is more incendiary than this blog post. So, because it's been awhile since I've been able to write any new content for ye olde blogge, and because I'm actually pretty pleased with the below fine piece of literature, let's get this out there.

Passing is allowed, maybe, we're not sure actually. (Empty Quarter, Saudi Arabia; April 2014)

Do I miss Saudi Arabia? Yes. The same way you miss having major oracular surgery. Sure, it's painful and you have to eat through a straw for a week afterward and blood trickles from the corner of your numb mouth as you try to smile sweetly at the cute nurse from your post-surgery wheelchair while your still-slightly-anesthetized eyes cross and you pee in your pants a little because you're sort of having a semi-waking dream about Hoover Dam.

But it's also kind of endearing the way you can't feel your mouth so you smear ice cream all over your face trying to get it between your lips. And it's kind of interesting how your cheeks look like hot air balloons and the pain medication makes Pink Floyd exciting to listen to. And also you sound like Brenden Fraser when you talk. But it's all kind of funny and interesting and strange in an exotic, morphine-addled sort of way. I miss Saudi Arabia sort of like I miss that type of thing.

I miss waiting for flights at Jeddah airport. As I await my final flight out, Pakistanis sleep stretched out on the tile floor next to a dreadlocked Spaniard snuggling with his halter-topped girlfriend. I'm not quite sure why this couple is in Saudi Arabia, and I am even less sure why they are cuddling in public in Saudi Arabia. Cuddling in Saudi Arabia sort of seems like making out during Mass or something, except it's the kind of Mass where the priest has legal authority to decapitate you.

I decide to use the bathroom, just for nostalgia's sake, because the bathrooms at Jeddah airport are so funky. The humidity rises 30 percent as you step through the doorway, and it smells like there are holes in the ground with pee in them behind each stall door. This is because there are holes in the ground with pee in them behind each stall door. Also, if you want to wash your hands when you're finished, you have to wait for the guy in front of you to take his feet out of the sink. I usually take my chances with the germs.

I have a layover in Paris. I have a headache, but I can't decide if it's because I'm tired or hungry or if I got consumption back in the bathroom in Jeddah. I try to catch some shuteye, but I'm self-conscious of how my jaw unhinges and my mouth hangs open when I sleep, like a python eating a cow, so I give up and pay 20 bucks for an "omelette" that is the size of a large potato chip but probably not as healthy.

Me and those one guys (not pictured: the fact that it was 105 degrees in that tent). (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; July 2014)

On the 11 hour flight from Paris to Salt Lake City I am seated next to a Nigerien grandmother and her daughter. And her daughter's 10 month-old twins. I feel sorry for both myself and the Nigerien ladies. I try to watch an educational documentary on Pearl Jam, but I feel bad for watching Eddie Vedder crowd surf while the Nigerien grandma wrestles with the babies beside me. So I volunteer to take a baby for awhile and the grandma says yes, and then, there I am, bouncing an African baby in my arms as I stroll up and down an airplane aisle, which is not something I ever really foresaw myself ever doing, to be honest. I sing the baby "Let It Go," because I'm too tired to remember any Death Cab For Cutie lyrics, and I think my bad breath short circuits some of the baby's neurons, because she calms down. Later, the grandma tells me in her broken English that "Americans have tender hearts" and I almost laugh in her face. Americans! Tender hearts! Ha! She's never been to Reno.

In Salt Lake City I stand next to the baggage carousel until I'm the last lonely man, waiting for a bag that will never come. It's okay though -- I got the bag with my extra clothes hangers and alarm clock and yoga strap in it. They only lost the bag with all my clothes. All. My. Clothes. This is how the universe repays me for bouncing an African baby for two hours.