Selim Al Zebag
18 years old, I suppose. And me, 7 or 8. He collects me at our house at about 5.30pm. We walk down the road to catch a red British-made bus. We might pick it up at Tariq Ibin Ziyad Street, or at Amman Ibim Yasir Square. We live in the south quadrant defined by Abdul Hamid Al Katib Street and Tariq Ibin Ziyad Street.
The journey would only take 15 minutes: through Sadoun district, along Nidal Street, past the building where my parents ran "Conoisseur" - a Hi-Fi and record shop - past the Armenian Church immediately afterwards to the right hidden behind trees, it's top poking out; or maybe we would go straight up Sadoun Street to the roundabout at the Jumhuriya Bridge. Either way, we will jump off there to cross to Raschid Street.
The cinema was about a quarter of a mile up Rashid Street on the right, down a blind alley. Jailhouse Rock
was showing. There would have been was an air of excitement as we milled around outside, the young Baghdadi men and boys in crisp shirts or jackets and ties, smarmed down hair shiny with sweet smelling pomade.
After the film, coming out into the dazzling light of late afternoon, we would have been hoping for cool but be disappointed: it was high summer. Honey soaked puff pastries at a little cafe at the side of the Bridge, near the river. I remember getting very thirsty, being bought an ice-cold Coco-Cola, no doubt.
A quick bus ride, passing the Alwiyah Club
, back home to the "Mushtamal": through a large, dusty, wooden door in a ten foot high mud-brick wall and into our secret garden, full of date and orange trees and one, tall, white mulberry tree. I would have stayed out late into the evening, Mum and Dad sitting outside talking quietly, sipping Iraqi or Indian beer, or a Gin and Tonic, surrounded by a large, loud, out of tune choir of frogs, nonchalently standing around on the large marble patio like cinema goers in a foyer. We two boys dunked our heads in the gurling fountain to keep cool and practice holding our breath. Then, perhaps running around the grape trellis arranged in the shape of a cross, ducking down behind the low privet-like hedges that ran either side of the trellis paths, acting out the action of the film till bed time.