Memories are neat. It’s neat the way they attach themselves to sensory triggers, like the way a smell will take you back 20 years to a specific place and time, like the foyer of your grandmother’s house, or the way the sound of a sprinkler can transport you across decades to a neighbor’s backyard where you spent hours running around in the water as a kid. It’s neat the way a song, one you haven’t heard in years, can take you back to your first break-up, first kiss, first road trip, first whatever. Suddenly you’re there, back in that moment, transported over miles and years, to some specific moment, seminal or otherwise.
And it’s neat how remembering can give us a sensory reaction, the way just thinking of a place you visited, experienced or explored can take you back to that place, to the point where you can smell the salt of the sea, or feel the gentle crush of a first heart-break, or, alternately, the first jolt of love that courses through hearts, limbs and fingertips.
It’s just neat, to me, how those memories can remain so visceral, so clear.
I spent most of my deployment last year in Kuwait. That’s where I was primarily based, in the dusty, sandy heat of Kuwait. But another part of our team was in Jordan, and I managed to get myself there a few times. John, my former other half, was part of that team, so getting to Jordan was special and significant.
I was there in October, working on a handful of projects. We’d had meetings in the morning and stopped in Amman, the capital city, for lunch. Then, with a little more time to spare, we stopped by the Roman Theatre, in downtown Amman.
I don’t remember a lot from that day. Scrolling through photos shows me who we met with, who else we were with and what we had for lunch. But I can’t really remember it without those prompts, not clearly anyway.
But then there’s this moment, this singular moment of being at the very top of the theatre with John, having walked up the very narrow and worn stairs, and feeling good.
It’s so specific, this memory, this feeling of being genuinely happy. I can’t remember all the details that came before it or after it, but there’s this specific sliver of the day when I can remember almost everything. I was out of breath, from the walk up, and I felt jittery and anxious from the steepness of the climb. There were birds and the sound of the nearby Jordanian flag moving in the wind. I remember being near John, of looking at him, knowing that he made the visit to the theatre happen for me, because he knew how much joy it would bring me. I remember the way my heart felt when I looked at him and I remember the way my big stupid grin made my face feel.
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So many of the days from my deployment blend together. In Kuwait, most days looked the same. My trips to Jordan blend together, too. I went three times, and it’s hard for me to pinpoint what happened on what trip, but this, visiting the theatre, is one of my sharpest memories. It’s one of those memories that takes me right back to that spot, back to the other side of the Earth, back to October, back to him.
It’s a memory that feels good to remember, even now.
The Roman Theater in Amman, Jordan
The theatre, built to seat 6,000, dates back to when the city was known as Philadelphia, when the theatre was the city’s centerpiece. It was built in the 2nd century, between 169 and 177 AD. It’s built into a hillside and oriented north to keep the sun out of the eyes of spectators. It’s a steep but worthwhile climb to the top, over a mix of original and renovated stairs. The Jordan Museum of Popular Tradition and the Jordan Folklore Museum are here too. Both offer visitors an up-close view of various artifacts including antique Bedouin jewelry and mosaics from Madaba and Jerash.
Entry is just JOD 1, or about $1.40 USD, depending on the daily exchange rate.
I was completely charmed by the theatre. It was, at the time, one of the oldest structures I’d ever seen. Climbing it was slightly terrifying. I felt like I was going to tip over at any moment, but it was so, so worth it.
Overall, I really loved Jordan, and not just because the person I loved was there. It’s beautiful, filled with historic and varied landscapes, friendly people and marvelous food. I’d go back, in an instant, just to experience it as a tourist, with more freedom of movement to explore at a more leisurely pace.