The Price of Happiness

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Amman, Jordan

He felt tired and it would take him forever to walk all the way back home, so he thought about spending the last dinar he had left after his excursion to the bakery on catching a shared taxi. It shouldn’t be hard to find one. He was, after all, in East Amman, where the high chances of finding a shared taxi around every corner to take anyone anywhere else were what made a visit to that crappy part of town worth while.

However, the warmth of the sun on his back felt glorious, more so given how terribly cold the past few days had been. Thus, at the last minute, he decided to hoof it.

He passed by the house where he had stayed for a few days a long time ago. He felt guilty that he didn’t remember exactly which of his relatives it belonged to, but, to be fair, he had a big family—14 members!—and, as mentioned earlier, it had been a really long time ago. Memories have this annoying tendency to fade, like the trails planes leave in the sky. There were events of his childhood, though, that he still remembered vividly, like the celebratory meals after Friday prayers. Friday used to be the day when all the members of his extended family came together.

He also went by the house that used to belong to his uncle Hamdan, who, a few years back, contracted a disease that confined him to bed for a long time before killing him. He remembered him as a generous, strong-willed, trustworthy and respectable family man, who made the room go silent whenever he opened his mouth to speak. He had left two sons behind. One was just a teenager when his father died, which complicated his youth greatly, and the other had recently been hospitalized in Egypt for heart failure. It was as if that particular branch of the family was under a curse.

The casual stroll he had decided to go for on the spur of the moment was turning into a trip down memory lane that was leaving him feeling down in the dumps. In what world did it make sense that some micro bug could defeat a man who was as strong as an ox, to the point of leaving him unable to even get out of bed without assistance?

Indeed, compassion has never been destiny’s strong suit.

He turned the corner and entered a dark side alley, flanked by derelict buildings. It reeked of the garbage that lay on the pavement next to overfilled containers.

As he was about to return to the street he had come from, a small girl approached him.

“Sir, have you seen my 35 cents?”

“No, sweetheart, where did you lose them?”

“Here. I was running, and I lost my pocket money and that of my brothers.”

He felt sorry for her, so he put his hand in his pocket, took the dinar he hadn’t spent on a ride home, and gave it to her. She smiled at him and he smiled back. Suddenly, a wave of immense joy and pride swept over him.

As he walked on, the sun, which had briefly hidden behind the tall buildings, came out again and caressed his face.


Written by Mohammad Hamdan Reqab.