Meriem “How it Could be”

When Meriem was 9 years old, she met her neighbor’s family friend for the first and only time. He was shorter than her father, shorter, she thought, than any grown up man she knew. Older too. Everybody was happy to see him, deferential, she thought, like they would be for any man his age. She watched as her grandmother, uncle and mother asked him questions like, “Every time I eat anything with too much garlic, I get heartburn. What should I do about that?” or “My knee hurts whenever I go like this. Why do you think that is?” and “Why do people shrink when they get older?” He very patiently answered all of their questions. He was soft spoken; she could barely hear him from the hallway where she sat on the floor drawing in her notebook the calendula plants growing in her mother’s garden.

In the middle of the question-and-answer session, the old man called Meriem over. He took out a piece of candy from his pocket and put it in the palm of her hand. He took her hand in his and asked, “What good have you done today?” She was confused because most adults asked her, “What’s your name?” “How old are you?” “What grade are you in?” or “How is school?”. He watched her struggling to understand the question and he added, “Anybody you have made smile today?”
Meriem remembered an incident earlier that day and whispered, “I danced for my little sister to stop her from crying.”

“Good job,” he said. “She was not feeling good, and you made her better. You were of service. You gave her medicine. You can do good every day.”

Meriem didn’t get his name, but they called him Doctor…

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