(ed note: this is part II of Peter Fortunato's posts about Qatar. To read part I go here.)
“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” Delmore Schwartz famously wrote; and like him, I brought with me the ghosts of my parents and all of their immigrant aspirations to my life in a foreign country. It was never easy being seven thousand miles and twenty two hours of air travel from home, a world away from family as well as the freedoms and cultural touchstones of the West. Most difficult of all was the separation from my wife, who had decided after one semester to return to teaching in Ithaca. It was a joint decision that I would commit to four years, yet on a day-to-day basis it was primarily a matter of my own determination that kept me there. Was I a fool? Had I been seduced by some received idea, an outdated masculine ideal about self-worth and income? Was I guilty for having let my wife labor so long at a job she didn’t exactly love, because of the financial benefits it delivered? Or did I just want to get away from it all, assuaging my doubts with the reassurance that since she and I are both writers, this adventure would be good for both our independent souls?
All of the above. I spoke continually to her and to myself about all of the above. And I dreamt often of home, of my childhood, of my rural youth in the Hudson Valley, of my first girlfriend, of all my girlfriends, of Cornell as it had been in the 60’s and 70’s, the liberation it had given me and that I wanted to communicate to college kids on the other side of the planet. In fact, I felt quite young again, a bachelor, even if that was not completely to my liking. In that gender segregated, tolerant but Islamic society, I daydreamed about sex constantly. I fantasized about the wife of a foreign ambassador and almost embarrassed us both one day at our riding club when she lent me her whip. On another day, a young lady, a Qatari, began to chat me up while we brushed our horses -- until her stern protective maid stepped between us.