Tuesday, July 17: More Arabic studies today at Al Azhar University. I am beginning to hate these classes because of the horrible conditions at the university in general and the classrooms in particular. I sure liked studying Arabic a lot more from my Iraqi teacher in the USA in an air-conditioned room.
I am expecting a call from R today, but it turns out he can’t call. I get this email from him:
C, Was planning to call you but won’t be able. Seems like the whole spider bite thing isn’t over and so I’m off to the Dr. Not sure when I’ll be done, but I’ll try to call on Wednesday.
Was at the Liberty Tavern with a dozen students and a guest speaker last night. Closed it down. Great time, but I left feeling melancholy. Damn, I MU.
Hope all is going well.
I write him back:
What happened with the spider bite now?? Are you sure it wasn’t a brown recluse? It sounds awfully serious and long-lasting for a spider bite. I hope you’re okay:)
It’s good you had a nice time last night. I know you love to go out drinking with the students and guest speakers. Did you spend the night at the office, or did you get a hotel with a student?? I wonder if you would be as honest as me!
I’m in an internet cafe now and the guy is blaring Arabic music and all I want to do is dance. I’m having such a wild and crazy time here in Egypt, I can’t explain how happy I feel. The guy’s going to burn a CD for me.
Last night was as insane as usual. Between Mohsen and Basim and Lisa, I wonder how on earth I have drawn these people into my life. I have so many stories to tell, but damn, they won’t be half as good in the telling as they are in being there. I am so excited about how every day might unfold. I told Mohsen I’m happy to take anyone willing along on my grand adventure, but since he doesn’t like even the basic things about me, then I’m leaving him by the wayside and continuing on. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I said to him last night. I made him drive me to a date with Basim and yelled at him the whole time because he was poking along. I said, you need to step on it; you’re so pokey. I said, honk your horn and pass that truck on the left like all the other crazy drivers around here. He said he likes to drive safely. I said that is his problem; he’s too damn careful.
Anyway, this will all make sense when I tell you the whole story. Take care and I’ll talk to you when you have time. DAMN, I MU 2!
P.S. Take care of yourself, spider bites, cold showers, and all.
In the evening, Lisa and I get a taxi together to go into Cairo. I am tired of wearing frumpy cotton pants so I decide I will wear jeans. I think jeans are always the most flattering option for my body. But. Not in the Middle East and not in July.
We are sitting in the back of the ancient taxi, sans air conditioning (most taxis in Cairo have no A/C), in the nightmare of Cairo traffic. Stop. Inch forward. Stop. Inch forward some more. So frustrating and so freaking hot. I say to Lisa, in a plaintive moan, “Why, why, why??? Why did I wear these jeans?”
Sweat is pouring off of me. There is no relief. “Why, why, why???” I whine again.. Lisa laughs her head off at my lamentations. Later these words becomes a joke between us. Every time we encounter any problem in Egypt, Lisa says, “Why, why, why???” We crack up laughing at our dramatic renderings of these words.
We finally arrive at our destination, some cafe somewhere in Cairo where we are to meet Lisa’s friend. Sweet, sweet air-conditioning. Why, why, why have I been so enamored of coming to work and live in the Middle East? I have never enjoyed heat, not for one day in my life. Heat is part of the territory in Egypt. What on earth have I been thinking?
After having coffee with Lisa’s friend, Basim comes to pick me up at the cafe in his old Mercedes. He has one ancient decrepit Mercedes and one much newer. I never know which one he will be driving when he picks me up.
He drives me to Ma’adi and tells me he wants to take me on the felucca on the Nile. I think he is hoping that he will have a chance to kiss me; there is certainly no chance to do so anywhere else in Cairo.
Basim hires the felucca for one hour. The felucca captain stares at us the whole time, makes small talk. We enjoy the sunset, the slightly cool breezes from the venerable river. But there is no chance for a kiss because the felucca captain is right there. We are not alone; we are three and one of us is an intruder.
After an hour, Basim tells the captain we will hire the boat for another hour. We head back into deeper channels. Finally the captain stands up and his head is above the awning on the boat. A moment of privacy. Basim goes in for the kiss. A miss, a clumsy miscalculation. When we do connect, it’s awkward. Our rhythms are different. A big disappointment. Oh dear. After all that pent-up longing, this is what it comes to.
I think the perfect kiss is where both partners are flexible. They meld into each other, they adjust their kiss to the other person’s style. But when one person is hell-bent on doing it his way, it simply doesn’t work.
The felucca ride comes to an end. We dock and walk next door to the Grand Cafe on the Nile. We sip on fresh mango juice with little pink umbrellas in them. I think we’re both relieved it’s over.
Basim can be very socially awkward. I think he’s regretting his attempted kiss. I’m feeling frustrated with his awkwardness and want it to be easy-going between us. It isn’t. It’s uncomfortable. So much for romance in Cairo.
He drives me to Muquttum where I meet Lisa and Mahmoud at the beginning of Road 9. Basim takes off for home. When I get in their car, I tell them about the disastrous kiss. I tell them I’m certain I’ll never see Basim again.
Lisa has been practicing driving Mahmoud’s car and she’s very proud of herself to be driving in the chaos of Cairo. We stop in a little cafe for some coffee and tea.
Eventually Mahmoud drops us off at our flat in Muquttum. We wonder Why, why, why does life have to be so complicated?
Despite the fact I am certain I will never hear from Basim again, he texts me late tonight: The floka was nice and the company was great. Looking forward to the next one.