Written by Alaa A. Rahman
I yawn, stretch out (I know it’s weird when you’re in public but watch me not give a damn!) and decide against taking a right down Road 9. I was exhausted from the day’s events, all the advertising, some in-prompt interviews from overexcited students and introductory classes (for which already some of the professors are asking quite a lot, given that it’s only the start of the semester. Ah, the insanity of our economics major staff! They expect too much from us, youngsters…)
I take a left down Road 9 towards my house, located on Street #10…
…which is funny at first when people point it out then becomes downright annoying. The thing about Maadi is that its streets are numbered and very few are named. On top of that, all the areas are alike: a long street, a square, a florist, a kiosk, a long street, a square, a florist, a kiosk… etc. It’s like the urban planners who built Maadi didn’t bother innovating: they just copy, paste, repeat!
I pass a donkey cart with a merchant selling peaches, tomatoes, celery and watermelons. He was arguing with an old lady over the prices. The old lady argues back with the loudest tone she could muster but I didn’t quite discern what she said (given that her teeth were nowhere near visible so I assume they’ve fallen).
A small shop stands next to a market where tons of people come out carrying nuts, cashews and all-you-can-think-of bags of sweets! A family of five can be seen stepping out of the stationery with school supplies and new backpacks. They cross the street to buy Falafel and Kocher from “Gad” across from the stationery. What’s really remarkable, though, about that side of Road 9 is how people don’t really care for pavements: bystanders just walk in the middle of the road among cars. Mind you, the pavements are in bad shape; but so are the roads.
Broken, cracked, dusty and bumpy, I don’t know how anyone manages to drive through these streets.
After passing a couple of microbus drivers shouting at people and at each other, I can finally hear my thoughts spinning in my head. The road to my house is quieter but still dusty and rough. A few towering skeletons of buildings can be seen being erected. A mosque calls for prayer, a few kids can be seen pedaling alongside cars down the narrow street, a shoe shop turns on its neon lights signaling the start of the evening shift: the evening life blooming in that part of Road 9.
A rollover of today’s events starts spinning in my head. Meeting my classmates after 3 months of summer hiatus from our group discussions, studying and fretting over exams, new professors, heavy junior year curriculum for economics (embedded with a hellish class called Econometrics I) and freshmen with their dread quite visible in their eyes, I find the rollover stop at a specific part of the day.
Adam came back to the booth with his lunch and sat next to me, his face indented with a frown that was deeper than the Mariana Trench, which is sometimes normal for him. He was silent, which is unusual of him, and looked as though he was swimming in his own ocean of thoughts. As I sat staring at people (which I love to do), I noticed a black and blue bruise on Adam’s right arm.
“Adam! What happened to your arm, bro?” I asked, anxiously.
Adam looked at his arm for a brief second, “It’s nothing. Hit the door in the morning”, as he chewed on his sandwich.
“Don’t you want get it looked at? It’s pretty bad!” I said.
The bruise was deep in colour and looked quite fresh indeed. Adam shrugged off my worry and continued eating in silence. By now, I started to get used to his sudden mood swings. One second, he could be the friendliest, funniest and most outgoing person you could ever meet and the next; he’s just distant, quiet and filled with hidden rage and anger that could be sensed from a kilometre away. You could almost hear the cogs in his brain spinning and turning, weaving and threading his thoughts and images. The one strong bond we have, Adam and I, is our unique way of weaving events and manifesting a vibrant imagination. Mine is usually set on paper and with pen, accompanied with the occasional self-reflections, drawings and one way talks with myself. Adam’s, on the other hand, are mysterious, usually occurring under his skin, inside his skull, imprinted only on his brain cells.
My phone’s vibration cuts my string of thoughts short… I read the caller’s name.
“Hey, dumbass! Where you at? I’m at your place. We’re going for a ride.”