Few years ago, when I was alone in Riyadh.. I used to get bored a lot. One day, I went to King Faisal Hospital. I went to the recreation center, Al Qusi. From that day onwards, I went there everyday for 3 years almost. I made friends with almost everyone there. The different nationalities all mixing freely in one place. Friendships developed. Friendships that will last forever. My very good buddy, SHAKEEL – who runs the carpet shop there.. all my Saudi friends, Americans, Britishers, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Arabs, you name it.. everyone was there and we are still connected in some weird way. Even people we just used to say a far away HI to. . friends.
And there was, Mr. Willam. William Bell I think. But we all called him Bill. And that is what I called him too. An old man. An American, retired. His wife worked in the hospital. So, each day, Bill would come there at around 4 pm and sit with me and Shakeel , Helen the Canadian In charge of Nursing, Donovan the South African cool guy, and many others. We would talk every day about new things, different things.. issues and life in general. Bill had a lot to tell. His many years in this world taught him many things, and he would share them with us. Personally, I learnt a lot from Bill. He would teach a lesson in the most subtle way. He could, he used to be a teacher. I once told him that his students must really love him a lot. He just smiled and nodded, “yes, ali my friend, teaching was fun”.. Smoking his Salem cigarettes quickly before his wife showed up , Bill would talk to every person. He had been doing this there for 15 years.
Life changed over time, my business started growing – demanding more of my time. I got married and busy with family.. and 2 years passed without me visiting Al Qusi. Many of my Saudi friends stayed in touch and we would meet up for an occasional coffee and chit-chat, some became business associates. I lost touch with most of the expatriates though, since they were probably MORE busy than me and that hour in AL QUSI was probably the only time they had. Two years have gone by since I last went there regularly.
Yesterday, Shakeel, the carpet guy called.. we talked, he told me his news and about newer shops in Olaya..
I asked him how Bill was..
” He passed away some days ago in the US”.. silence. “Oh?” I said.. “yes, he had a heart operation and he died during it”…
Gone. Puff. Not a shocking thing.. just a surprise.
Just for the record, Mr. Bill was a good man who taught us all something new each day from his experience. Not much else I can say except: Farewell Bill. Al Qusi WILL miss you…