Written by Alaa (aka Lols)
Cairo University was slowly emptying; another busy day had come to an end. The lampposts all around the campus suddenly sprung to life illuminating the seeping darkness that crept upon Cairo. A few students, however, could be seen lingering about, heartily discussing how soon the second semester’s midterms were and that it seemed like only yesterday that they started the new semester after a long mid-year vacation (it lasted more than 6 weeks due to national security issues across Egypt).
The Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences was probably the only institution that was still going strong after the usual hustle and bustle of the day. As the last of the undergraduates left the building, a handful of graduate students walked the halls of the faculty to their respective classes. On the fourth level, as a few students chatted outside the classroom waiting for their International Relations professor; Samir Tabarem sat quietly in his office.
He had all the lights turned off except for his desk lamp. His musky tobacco scent filled the room, combined with the slow melodies of his jazz collection playing in the background. Samir had his back turned to his office door; his gaze set on the plethora of building roofs his office looked upon. He puffed on his pipe tobacco intensely; the only consolation he had at this time of the night. Before his mind dwelled deeper into the memory, a soft knock on his office door brought him back to his senses.
“Mr. Tabarem, I was going to head out for the night” Laila, Samir’s research assistant, stood in the doorway.
“Did you finish the report on the educational reform analysis I asked of you?”
“Yes, it’s already on your desk sir. I also started working on the paper regarding human capital accumulation and its relation to growth.” Laila answered in a determined tone. She always felt proud and smarter whenever she talked economics. Samir turned around to face his assistant with a smile on his face despite his troubled mind.
“Excellent! I’ll read your report, hopefully by tonight. Keep up the good work, Laila. I’ll see you on Sunday”
“Good night, Professor” Laila returned the smile and left.
Samir’s smile immediately vanished and was replaced by a sad look in his eyes and a frown. He placed his pipe down and turned on his laptop screen. His desktop had the following quote written across of it.
““…it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.” ― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness and the Congo Diary
Samir then opened his home folder and revealed a hidden folder called “memories”. A small window appeared asking for the password which was quickly entered. A flood of images and videos suddenly appeared on screen. Samir scrolled down, passing many moments of a life he once had until he reached one particular video. He stopped the jazzy tunes that were reverberating around the room and played that piece of memory.
“Is this thing on?” came Nevine’s voice through the dark screen, “I don’t see any blinking light!”
“Oh, you’re so technologically illiterate! Give it to me!” said Sarah, through a still dark screen, “My God Nevine! You had the cover on the lens!”
A few laughs could be heard in the background and then suddenly, the screen was filled with a lot of people going here and there in a vast illuminated hall with a red carpet running down the middle.
“Okay, guys come on let’s do this! HEY SAMIR!! IT’S YOUR GRADUATION DAY!” the Gang cheered him on: Fady, Salma, Nevine, Sarah, Karim and Ibrahim were all there. All of them had their fancy suits and dresses on for an occasion of a lifetime and one important trait was easily noticed on their faces; they were the happiest they’ve ever been.
“So, we thought we’d record this video since well, you seniors are taking way too long to show up for the ceremony!” continued Sarah as she frowned then laughed at an unheard joke Fady said. The camera then passed over to Nevine and Ibrahim.
“Semsem! Finally, God, I love you so much and congrats honey on your big day!” said Nevine as she blew a kiss to the camera.
“You made it, Prof.! I know I know you’re still not technically one but hey, you’re one step closer! Congratulations my friend!” said Ibrahim as he stood by Nevine and smiled to the camera. Fady said another joke that wasn’t caught on camera and the couple laughed as they passed the camera back to Sarah with Karim now in the frame as well.
“Bon monsieur! C’est ta journée! – “
“Karim, you don’t have to show off your French heritage, you know?” Sarah teased, as she came into focus.
“The guy knows French! You’re just jealous because you don’t know French…”
“Anyway!” Sarah cut Karim off, pushed him away and stood in front of the camera, “Congratulations buddy!! You’ve finally made it!! I’m so proud of you truly! – “
“Yes, we are! So fiers, mon ami!!” added Karim as he retook the camera from a protesting Sarah. Then, as the two of them teased each other and laughed with Nevine and Ibrahim, Salma and Fady came into view.
“Buddy, congrats!! I’ve made you a cake for this occasion but the guys ate it all as usual”
“HEY! So much for keeping it a secret, Salma!” Ibrahim called.
“…and a helium balloon which in the presence of grown-ups, was no more!” Salma added, teasingly.
“And there goes the other secret! Honey, you suck at secret keeping” said Fady, as he planted a quick kiss on his fiancée’s head.
“Aren’t you going to say something?” asked Salma as she handed the camera over to Fady. He looked into the camera, took it away from the jubilant crowd and just stared at the lens. For what seemed like ages, he didn’t speak, undoubtedly looking for the right words to say. Shortly after a couple of minutes, Fady spoke.
“Well, you know I suck at words…I’m not as great a wizard with them as you are but, I figured I had to say something for this occasion otherwise, you’ll start going cuckoo on me and I hate it when you do that! Anyway, I’m really proud of you and I’m really happy that you’ve achieved that milestone in your life. And I know you’ve been debating about what you want to do with your life next and I know I seemed like I haven’t been listening to you but always know that I have your back and support you in whatever it is you want to do. Congratulations bro! You deserve only the best and the great of everything. ” Fady smiled at the camera and the video ended.
Samir stared at the blank media player and replayed the piece of memory. He put it on repeat, re-lit his pipe, turned his chair to face the window yet again and listened to the past repeating itself.