Cairo, Chapter One

I​ ​land​ ​in​ ​Frankfurt​ ​at​ ​2:30.​ ​My​ ​flight​ ​to​ ​Cairo​ ​doesn’t​ ​leave​ ​until​ ​7.​ ​The​ ​first​ ​coffee​ ​shop​ ​I​ ​pass​ ​has too​ ​long​ ​of​ ​a​ ​line.​ ​I​ ​keep​ ​walking​ ​and​ ​order​ ​at​ ​the​ ​next​ ​one.​ ​The​ ​barista​ ​is​ ​young​ ​and good-looking,​ ​and​ ​he​ ​speaks​ ​broken​ ​English​ ​with​ ​a​ ​thick​ ​Austrian​ ​accent.​ ​My​ ​passport​ ​falls​ ​out of​ ​my​ ​bag​ ​as​ ​I​ ​order.​ ​He​ ​glances​ ​at​ ​it​ ​and​ ​grins.​ ​“Donald​ ​Trump!”​ ​he​ ​says.​ ​“I’m​ ​sorry,”​ ​I​ ​say.​ ​“I didn’t​ ​vote​ ​for​ ​him.”​ ​He​ ​hands​ ​me​ ​a​ ​coffee.  
 
I​ ​strain​ ​my​ ​eyes​ ​out​ ​the​ ​plane​ ​window,​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​see​ ​the​ ​city​ ​as​ ​we​ ​land.​ ​It’s​ ​late.​ ​There​ ​are​ ​only small​ ​patches​ ​of​ ​light​ ​surrounded​ ​by​ ​a​ ​vast​ ​expanse​ ​of​ ​desert,​ ​invisible​ ​in​ ​the​ ​night​ ​sky.​ ​The airport​ ​has​ ​closed​ ​when​ ​we​ ​arrive.​ ​The​ ​terminal​ ​is​ ​quiet​ ​and​ ​empty​ ​except​ ​for​ ​two​ ​women​ ​with their​ ​heads​ ​covered,​ ​mopping​ ​the​ ​floors.​ ​They​ ​hand​ ​me​ ​toilet​ ​paper​ ​as​ ​I​ ​walk​ ​into​ ​the​ ​restroom, and​ ​I​ ​tip​ ​them​ ​in​ ​American​ ​dollars​ ​because​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​Egyptian​ ​pounds​ ​yet.​ ​Their​ ​eyes​ ​light​ ​up at​ ​the​ ​sight​ ​of​ ​it.  
 
I​ ​exit​ ​through​ ​customs​ ​into​ ​a​ ​hurricane​ ​of​ ​human​ ​voices.​ ​Men​ ​who​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​are​ ​taxi​ ​drivers​ ​do their​ ​best​ ​to​ ​wrestle​ ​my​ ​suitcase​ ​from​ ​my​ ​hand​ ​and​ ​lead​ ​me​ ​toward​ ​the​ ​exit.​ ​“La​ ​shukran,”​ ​I​ ​say, hesitating​ ​on​ ​the​ ​pronunciation.​ ​“No,​ ​thank​ ​you.”  
 
You​ ​are​ ​there​ ​in​ ​the​ ​eye​ ​of​ ​the​ ​storm.  
 
I’m​ ​distracted​ ​and​ ​exhausted,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​almost​ ​walk​ ​right​ ​past​ ​you.​ ​You​ ​step​ ​in​ ​my​ ​path.​ ​“Ready​ ​for this?”​ ​you​ ​say.​ ​I​ ​throw​ ​my​ ​arms​ ​around​ ​your​ ​neck,​ ​which​ ​embarrasses​ ​you.​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​care.​ ​Neither do​ ​you.​ ​“Let’s​ ​go,”​ ​I​ ​say.​ ​You​ ​take​ ​my​ ​bags,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​do​ ​my​ ​best​ ​to​ ​follow​ ​you​ ​through​ ​the​ ​dense crowd​ ​until​ ​we​ ​reach​ ​our​ ​taxi.​ ​I’m​ ​suffocating​ ​and​ ​exhilarated​ ​by​ ​the​ ​noise​ ​and​ ​the​ ​lights. Suddenly​ ​we​ ​are​ ​in​ ​the​ ​car,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​chaos​ ​outside​ ​is​ ​muted.​ ​My​ ​face​ ​is​ ​pressed​ ​against​ ​the window​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​take​ ​it​ ​all​ ​in.​ ​“It’s​ ​dark,”​ ​you​ ​say.​ ​“Too​ ​dark​ ​to​ ​see.”​ ​But​ ​I​ ​don’t​ ​notice​ ​the darkness.  
 
You​ ​take​ ​me​ ​to​ ​dinner​ ​at​ ​an​ ​outdoor​ ​Lebanese​ ​cafe​ ​where​ ​the​ ​staff​ ​all​ ​knows​ ​you.​ ​You​ ​order​ ​me a​ ​coffee.​ ​“Right​ ​away,”​ ​you​ ​say.​ ​“She’s​ ​American.”​ ​“You’re​ ​American,”​ ​I​ ​say.​ ​You​ ​smile​ ​like you’re​ ​not​ ​convinced.​ ​It’s​ ​midnight.​ ​The​ ​place​ ​is​ ​packed.​ ​It’s​ ​winter​ ​in​ ​Egypt,​ ​so​ ​the​ ​dining​ ​room is​ ​covered​ ​in​ ​a​ ​billowing​ ​white​ ​tent.​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​entirely​ ​certain​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​dreaming​ ​this.  
 
The​ ​desert​ ​wind​ ​is​ ​surprisingly​ ​cold​ ​as​ ​you​ ​walk​ ​me​ ​back​ ​to​ ​the​ ​apartment.​ ​You​ ​give​ ​me​ ​your coat.​ ​“Watch​ ​out​ ​for​ ​the​ ​dogs,”​ ​you​ ​say.​ ​“What​ ​dogs?”​ ​“The​ ​strays.​ ​They’re​ ​desert​ ​dogs.​ ​They’re everywhere.​ ​Be​ ​careful.”​ ​You​ ​point​ ​to​ ​a​ ​bush​ ​as​ ​we​ ​cross​ ​the​ ​road.​ ​There​ ​are​ ​two​ ​skinny​ ​dogs huddled​ ​up​ ​together,​ ​sleeping.​ ​They​ ​are​ ​the​ ​color​ ​of​ ​the​ ​sand.​ ​They​ ​don’t​ ​even​ ​raise​ ​their​ ​heads as​ ​we​ ​pass.​ ​They​ ​look​ ​peaceful.  
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About planecrush

I am a freelance theatre director and world traveler based in Milwaukee, USA. I am passionate and slightly irrational about the following: classic literature, film, and theatre; travel, aviation, wine, shoes, fascinating people and places, beauty, art, my dogs, and peanut butter.
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