Nizam woke in a shock. I was drinking from a bottle of water that suddenly made a loud crack. “Good morning darling! How are you today”, he smiled in a cute Arabic way. Before I could respond he took off to find some coffee, I grunted after him.
The bastard had kept me awake half the night with his Arab style snoring. I would reach over and tickle his Arabic stubble, he would sit up momentarily then fall back to sleep. 6 hours earlier we’d pulled off the road into a dark parking-lot following a one hour run-around at the Bulgarian and Turkish border. At 02:30 am it was time to sleep. We had the last night-cap from a bottle of bad Bulgarian wine and quick puff on a broken cigar. I joked to Nizam that our cars flat-bed seats were like airline ‘business class’ but for free. He boringly pointed out that the difference was that we were parked at the side of a road and not going anywhere.
We were losing precious hours. The plan was for 40 winks but 6 hours later I’m watching the sun rise over beautiful fields of sunflowers, an inspiring start to our late day.
Nizam returns with 2 cups of undrinkable ‘so-called’ Nescafe. “Darling you do look beautiful today.” He smiles and hands me the muddy coffee and pokes at an empty cigarette box. I yawn scrubbing bottled drinking water into my yoghurt stained trousers; an accident from last nights meal at midnight on the motorway. “Let’s hit the road we have 1000 kilometres to drive to the Syrian border.” 3 hours later I am looking for Istanbul but we seem to have passed it. “Fuck I wanted to see it.” It was 20 years since I was last here. We seemed to have missed it. We carry on the long road to Damascus.
Nizam looks at me thoughtfully. “So what is it that is drawing you back to Damascus Sean?” Before I can answer he continues his train of thought.. “You know I feel like I’m one of your disciples, I’m one of your followers on this mission, I’ve pissed off 3 women to be you on this journey and I don’t know why. It felt important to be with you. I believe in you even if you doubt yourself at times. I’m sure St Paul had similar doubts on his travels. I feel like St Nizam following St Sean on his journey of discovery on the road to Damascus.”
I suddenly feel a huge responsibility for him. He cancelled a Bulgarian holiday planned for next Tuesday with his wife and daughter to be with me. I say I hope we find something, someone, that we can call a film to make this painful venture worthwhile. Nizam smiles. “No it is already worthwhile we are together on this adventure and we will find whatever we find. But I feel a force pulling you to Damascus like St Paul had all those centuries ago.” I ask him what he thinks it is that is drawing me back. Nizam pauses, “I think it is the hummus. You haven’t stopped talking about it since your first trip. Shit that sounds shallow”. “No not at all food is great” I reply, “It is life and life is precious”. I wonder to myself if part of St Paul’s mission was also for the Damascus hummus.
We are low on supplies and pull up at a service station, Nizam returns with a bottle of wine and a packet of fags, it feels like a modern scene from the bible…