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Monday, 31 August 2015

Bus 18 to Ramallah - Page 2

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We sat down and studied the pictures. A couple minutes later, when the waiter came back, we still hadn’t decided. He looked at me: “Do you want to share a platter?” he asked politely. Mardena nodded at me. “Yeah, thanks,” I said.

More people came in and sat down. Across the room a heavy-set, bearded man hunched over his table, waiting for his order. Pretty soon, our waiter came back with a big platter of yoghurt dips, hummus, falafel balls, a couple of vegetable spreads, and a pile of pita.  

We ate and chatted. “Good,” I said. “Umm,” Mardena nodded, without lifting her head. I glanced around the room; the bearded guy seemed to be peering at me out of the corner of his eye. I went back to my hummus. When I looked up again a minute later, he was still staring, eyes like slits. Was he hostile, I wondered, or just curious? I finished and waited.

“I can’t eat any more,” Mardena finally said, lolling out her tongue. 

“Okay,” I said. “You ready?” She nodded.

While I was trying to catch the waiter’s eye, I happened to notice back near the entrance two middle-aged women in brown burquas making their way down a winding staircase. It dawned on me that Mardena was the only woman sitting downstairs.

The waiter brought our check: Twenty Israeli shekels, about five dollars, ridiculously cheap. I put down thirty shekels, and we left. 

When we stepped outside, I said, “Did you see those women coming down those stairs? I wonder if that’s where women are supposed to sit? Some guy across the room kept glaring at us. He might have just been curious, but he didn’t look very happy. Maybe he was mad ‘cause he could tell we were Americans. Or maybe he just didn’t know the waiter invited us in. I can’t believe the waiter expected you to eat upstairs.” 

Mardena shrugged. “I did notice he didn’t ask me what I wanted. He just talked to you. I have a feeling having us share a platter was a way to avoid asking me.” I hadn’t noticed, I said.

I looked out at the square, still a clamor of cars and pedestrians. “What do you think?” I said. “Should we head back?” 

“I’m ready.”

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Last modified on Monday, 31 August 2015

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