It seems that my entrepreneurial wife was right—hosting a foreign exchange student is a lucrative side business, assuming one is lucky enough to get the right student.
I suppose one could end up with a student who actually wanted to talk, or watch TV together, or go to the mall, or share details about his culture, or eat with his adopted family—and of course that might prove irritating.
But with Mamdouh it has been more like hosting a ghost, or a mouse you happen to see scurry across the porch from time to time. We find more often evidence of his presence than the actual corporeal entity. His underwear, for instance, on the counter top in the bathroom. His five packages of pita bread in the fridge. Cheese from home. The peanut butter cookies on his closet floor.
He is a specter, a rumor. There is more of idea about him than actual existence. Sometimes you can smell cologne as you pass his room, but that is all, for he is not there, it is only his scent, an odor of verbena, a whisper, Maaaam-doooo-ooh . . .
Yesterday I actually forgot his name. I kept thinking Marmaduke or Monsoon or Timbuktu.
I did talk to him recently. I think it was on Sunday. He had been out all night, came in sometime during the wee hours, and slept through the day until about 8 on Sunday evening.
“Wow,” I said. “You slept through the whole day, Mamdouh.”
“Yes,” he said.
And then he was gone.