Friday, October 05, 2007


(I wrote this a few weeks ago and have been meaning to post it. Unfortunately my internet connection is an archaic dial-up for the time being, which makes me significantly less active.)

I went to the pub after work today. It's the first bar I visited in Egypt, a long time ago. In fact the first bar I visited in my life. For a couple of years I found a certain smart humor in telling people about how I (my 17-year-old self) was startled to find myself consuming alcohol from labeled bottles, bottles served to me by a staff, how it was a strikingly different experience than buying alcohol in a plastic water bottle, alcohol which tasted harsh and ugly, and drinking it with friends in parking lots and parks.

I got to the bar a good while before the friend I was meeting there. It was quiet, there were only a couple of other tables occupied by people who were sharing whiskey and conversation. I thought about all the people whose conversation I’d sought out in this place. One in particular; a friend with whom I have spent more time conversing than I have with anyone else in Cairo, with whom I think I’ve talked about more things and more nothings than anyone I can remember. We used to wonder a lot together. About people, mostly, and why they seemed the way they did, why they talked or didn’t, how they laughed or didn’t, why they made love the way they did. I haven’t spoken to her in over a year.

I wondered if I looked any different to the staff who had seen me walk in a good six years ago. I wondered if I seemed less curious and more self-aware. Less keen and more worn (like the shirt I have with the hole in the armpit that’s small and hidden, but just one indication of why I should stop wearing it).

They were playing classical music, some Beethoven at some point. And I felt like writing. About the place, the bar, the black guy with his back to me who was having a glass of wine alone, how when I light cigarettes in bars I always think of the movies (although no decent silver-screen woman would be lighting her own cigarette in a bar), about how amusing it is to sit and think about the different people I’ve sat down with at this very table, some lovers, some friends, some inconsequential (as much as a person’s interaction with another can be), how few of them are a part of my life now (if any). I wanted to write about the cigarette smoke and how it can look like a dance, even though that’s been written about already in every way possible, about feeling a woman at the next table turn her head and look at me for a while, about the music.