This is a story of love gone wrong and murder.
They met in New York on the 46th floor of the World Trade Center. He was visiting his cousin and asked to be introduced. As he was in town for a short time, she impulsively accepted his dinner invitation, canceling previous plans.
At lunchtime, she went downstairs to buy a different top and accessories to change the look of her suit, so she could meet him, straight from work.
At dinner at Maxwell’s Plum, a bouquet of colourful balloons magically appeared at their table. Lively conversation, dinner and a bottle of wine later, they were off to the Angie Dickinson movie “Dressed to Kill.” Afterwards, they went dancing at New York, New York. Still, neither wanted the night to end. A moonlight stroll along the East River; a sunrise breakfast at a 24-hour diner.
After that first blush of love many many such nights followed, in New York and San Francisco; in Santa Clara and Las Vegas; in Tucson and Amman. They were a striking young couple: he with black hair and brown eyes; she a blue/green-eyed blonde. Their relationship was tempestuous, filled with passion and energy; with jealousy and anger.
He was the kind of man who needed to be the center of attention wherever he went. In a supermarket, he’d sing opera arias and toss groceries into stranger’s carts, suggesting with a smile, “Here, try this! It’s the special of the day!” And no one got mad; they’d smile and shrug good-naturedly and continue on their way. Sometimes they’d even buy that “special of the day.”
At a movie theatre, he told the ticket clerk they’d been there earlier, given her the tickets, then decided to “take the kids home.” When she replied, “Oh, yes, I remember you!” the woman had to bite her lip to keep from laughing out loud.
At an Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s Ghiradelli Square, he told people at a table nearby that they were on their “butter moon.” They thought he was Italian (he was always wearing clothes from Milan) and laughed at his misuse of the term “honeymoon.”
At a concert, he regaled people with stories of their four (imaginary) children; of how she was a famous journalist and so preoccupied with her work, she sometimes couldn’t remember her children’s names. He said all this with a wink and a smile, in such an earnest way that everyone would be taken in; caught up in his childlike enthusiasm and the joy of the moment. She was exasperated, but couldn’t help joining in the laughter.
Wherever they went, a scene ensued. At a friend’s party he had two beers - he never could handle liquor - and flirted with a thin brunette with waist-length hair. The woman poured a drink over his head, then locked herself in a bedroom and refused to come out. Yet wherever they were, if the Chris Cross song Sailing was played, he’d break off any conversation; stop whatever he was doing to find her and whisper how much he loved her; that he’d been waiting for her all his life and was so thankful she’d finally appeared. And that song followed them wherever they went.
Once they were driving in Santa Clara when he suddenly stopped the car, kissed her and said, “I’ll be right back,” then ran up the stairs to an apartment building. She saw a beautiful brunette open the door and let him in. She waited, fuming, for ten minutes; for fifteen minutes. She refused to give him the satisfaction of going after him. When after twenty minutes he returned with some lame explanation, she was so furious she couldn’t speak, other than a terse “Take me home now.”
Before he’d even turned off the ignition, she was out of the car, racing up the stairs to their friend’s apartment. She locked the door behind her and ignored him pounding on the door. She opened the refrigerator and filled a glass with ice cubes, her hands trembling. He climbed across to the balcony and banged on the glass door; still she refused to open it. She drank an entire glass of Tab, shaking with rage. And for the first time she understood how people could be driven to kill in moments of passion, because if she’d had a gun, she would have shot him then and there. He pushed all her buttons; awakened dangerous emotions she never knew she had.
Finally she calmed down, enough to let him in the door and listen to what he had to say. But something in her snapped; she couldn’t live like that any more. She had to get back to New York, back to the “real world” of work. He was too much trouble; too demanding. Like a small child, he needed constant attention. It was exhausting and draining dealing with all his self-created dramas; his round-the-clock neediness. She needed to find herself again.
Still, they found it hard to say goodbye. They were drawn back to each other time and time again, the magnetic pull of explosive chemistry stronger than reason.
One New Year’s Eve she was in New York, he in Seattle visiting his sister. He phoned her several times during the night, with each call making less and less sense. She couldn’t understand what he was saying, finally asking him if he’d been smoking something. He denied it, but she knew something was wrong. She told him it was just “too hard” to keep doing this and that they really should call it quits for good. He said he loved her and wanted her to be with him. She said she loved him too, but they’d be better off apart. She couldn’t think straight with him around; his neediness consumed all the oxygen in the room.
A month later, she heard from him again. He said he was going to stay with his family in Amman and figure out what to do next. The conversation was loving, tender, bittersweet tinged with regret. It was the last time they spoke.
Four months later she was traveling when her best friend reached her with the news. His family had tried to find her to cushion the blow. At 28, he’d been murdered, shot three times in the head, his body dumped on a mountain overlooking the University of Jordan. For a moment, all the breath left her body. She envisioned the look on his face; his terror as he faced his killers. She'd seen that look once before, when riding the Roosevelt Island Tramway high above the 59th Street Bridge in Manhattan. He'd had to close his eyes to endure it.
For days she wept for the loss of such a bright spirit. She blamed herself for not being more understanding; for not helping him find a way out of the periods of depression that sometimes clouded his judgment.
He had known his killers. They’d come to his family's business and taken him away in a car. He, the well-dressed Italian-suited bon vivant, left his jacket behind, expecting to return. His killers were never brought to justice, despite an intensive investigation by police and the Muhabarrat (secret intelligence).
And what of the woman? She found love again. But he haunts her dreams.
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