Written by Alaa (aka Lols)
Previously on From Another Realm: Decisions in a Halo
As soon as the phone call ended –abruptly, Ibrahim grabbed a questioning Nevine and left the mall as fast as they could. He practically dragged his fiancée to the parking lot with people giving the odd couple a quizzical look.
“What’s wrong, Ibrahim? You’re scaring me…and hurting my wrist while you’re at it” said Nevine as they approached the elevator leading down to the lower levels of the parking space. She detached herself and rubbed her reddened wrists from the pain.
“I’ll explain on the way” was all Ibrahim could answer at the moment. As he pressed the button going down and waited for the elevator, his feet started to nervously tap on the marble floor. Nevine shot him a worried look as she waited next to him. Once the feet start to tap, Ibrahim slips into his own bubble of thoughts; that much she knows about her future husband. And she was right. Ibrahim was clouded, lost and anxious. The phone call he received from his best friend sent shivers down his spine. He felt an iron grip get hold of his heart but somehow, with what’s left of his nerves, he fought down that grasp and the feelings that come with it.
Finally, the elevator pulled up and people started flowing out, not taking notice of the distress that seemed to have filled the waiting area. Ibrahim, grabbing his fiancée by her hand, pushed through the masses impatiently into the elevator and pressed the button. As the doors were closing, Ibrahim told Nevine about the phone call, how desperate Fady’s voice sounded and his last words over the phone. Nevine had her hands clasped onto her chest. Worry got hold of her as well. After all, Fady was her friend too having been together in Law School. They were born in the same year, on the same month with only a week apart from each other. They shared a special connection, one that was unfortunately ruptured because of Fady’s downward spiral and loss of control over his life.
As Ibrahim pulled out from the underground garage, he redialed the number Fady called from. A beep, two beeps, three beeps, an infinite number of beeps reverberated in Ibrahim’s ear but at the end, no answer came. He tried again and again and again; with each try, his heart pounding faster and harder. His blood was poisoned with fear and anxiety for his friend. Still no answer came; no Fady’s voice to reassure him that he’s okay, that all he needed was his friend’s comfort to be the reason he called.
“Should I call the police?” asked Ibrahim, as he turned to Nevine.
“And tell them what? “Hi, I think my friend is in trouble and a danger to himself but I don’t know where the hell he is”…that’s absurd!” answered Nevine, playing with her chain necklace over and over as a sign of stress. The streets in Nasr City surrounding City Stars were crazy; packed with cars, people honking and yelling at each other, micro buses blocking the streets while they loaded with tired and fussy passengers. The surrounding environment only added to the frustration Ibrahim felt. He rolled up both their windows and let whatever was felt as silence appease him and clear his head. As he waited for the green light, Ibrahim closed his eyes for a few seconds, pressed on the bridge of his nose, took a few deep breaths (all under the watchful eye of a tense and scared Nevine) and finally, slowly opened his eyes. Immediately, he grabbed his cellphone and dialed his other best friend’s number, Samir Tabarem.
“Hey, how’s it going?” Samir’s voice resounded against a flap of papers and some light music in the background. He was probably still at his office. He usually works late, the kind of guy who likes to bury himself in his work.
“Listen, we don’t have time to chit chat Samir. There’s something really important I have to tell you…” and Ibrahim recounted the mysterious phone call he received from their best friend, Fady Ibrosen. All the while Ibrahim was talking, Samir was quiet. Except from his breathing, he didn’t say a word making Ibrahim think at times the connection was cut off. After Ibrahim finished his tale, Samir sighed.
“What does that mean, Samir? Come on! It’s enough I have one mystery on my hands. I don’t need you to be cryptic too. Listen carefully, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to call every single person who might be in contact with Fady till this very hour and see what I can find: his mom, his brother, his father even…”
“And I’ll go to his house and check. It’s not too far from the university anyway. I’ll make some calls too and see what I can find” said Samir. He knew he had to act despite everything that happened leading up to this very evening.
“Great! I’m going to drop off Nevine first at her folks and I’ll meet you in an hour or two at Fady’s house”
With Nevine and Ibrahim arguing about her staying with them and looking for Fady in the background, Samir hung up and called Laila in.
Samir Tabarem inhaled the musky scent of his pipe deeply. It usually sent a delightful sensation through his lungs and streamed in his blood. It relaxed him. It shut out his loud thoughts and annoying theories. It made him feel alive and pulsing with energy. His senses somehow get heightened when he inhales the misty and mystical smoke of his pipe. It was a few years ago, when he got the professorship at the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences in the French Department at Cairo University , when he started smoking the pipe. He always had this vision of himself: a well-dressed professor, bow tie and all, glasses mounted on his face, his wavy brown hair mingled with a few locks of white and his pipe. That’s how he saw himself. Except for the white hair and the glasses, Samir at least got the bow tie and pipe right; and of course the dressing up well.
But today, he didn’t feel like smoking it. He actually didn’t feel any of the relaxing sensation he usually felt whenever he smoked his pipe. After he hung up with Ibrahim with the newest development of having Fady reappear into their lives (with a theatrical mystery as a bonus), Samir called Laila in and dismissed her for the night. She asked if he needed anything else before she left. He declined and bade her good night with a gentle smile. Now it was just him, his mahogany polished pipe, his musky tobacco and a long list of contacts to go through on the way to Fady’s house.
As Samir gathered up his suitcase, stuffing it with papers and books (like he usually does every night) and closed up the office, a lot of thoughts and memories coursed through his head. It’s been almost 5 years since he and Fady stopped talking to each other. It’s been almost 5 years since the two of them shared any details about their lives, jokes, laughter, news, gossip (which weirdly enough, went well with these two guys). It’s been almost 5 years since he last heard his voice, seeing his face. Suddenly, he’s just back into his life. Focusing on the task at hand, Samir, with his pipe hanging on the tip of his mouth, took out his cellphone and started to scroll through his contact list.
Deciding on leaving his car parked near the University lest he didn’t find a parking space in Messaha Square, where Fady lived, Samir walked the distance which wasn’t that long. He also took it as an opportunity to call the people Fady might still be in touch with. But when he thought it through, he narrowed it down to his folks only, whom Ibrahim was taking charge of contacting anyway. So Samir put his phone in his pocket and smoked his way towards Fady’s house. With every step Samir took, a memory flashed before his eyes. He remembered the one time where he, Ibrahim and Fady were walking down that very street, Al-Messaha Street, late at night with one of their phones blasting “Hotel California”. Another memory brought him back to when both he and Ibrahim went over to Fady in Ramadan, broke their fast, took the car and went on a road trip to Alexandria without their parents knowledge. A puff of smoke revealed the time where, with the Gang still shaping up, they would all skip their lectures –Nevine, Ibrahim, Fady and Samir- eat at Pizza Hut then go hang out at the club for the rest of the afternoon. A gust of wind reminded him of when all the Gang was invited to have dinner at Fady’s place. It was that very same day where Fady and Salma got engaged.
And that’s when Samir’s head clicked. He remembered Al-Masry Al-Youm’s issue of the day. On the first page, there was a political analysis written by their glowing reporter, Salma Al-Maleb. A rush of thoughts swelled up in his head. He felt them bubble up and on the verge of just spilling from his ears, nose and eyes.
Could Fady have seen it?
As thoughts enchanted Samir and put him in a trance, he almost passed by Fady’s building. Doubling back, he jumped up the steps to the front door of building number 15, Messaha Street and entered the hall. It was a vast hall with granite composite for the walls and ceiling. It was dimly lit with stairs climbing up from the sides into a darkened second floor. In front of Samir, stood two elevators closed off with fer forgés doors. It seemed like only yesterday that he used to come over to Fady’s more than he spent time at his own place. There was a small wooden desk set up by the elevators with a small TV like device propped onto it. Samir went to the intercom and buzzed number 811, Fady’s apartment. No answer. He buzzed again and again with no answer.
“Can I help you, sir?”
“Oh…yes, I think you can. Is Mr. Fady Ibrosen home?” Samir asked the security agent who seemed to have materialized out of thin air.
“I’m sorry, sir but I’m not familiar with any Mr. Fady Ibrosen. You sure he lives in this building?” asked the man.
“Yes on the eight floor, apartment 811?”
“No sir. Apartment 811 belongs to a trading company. No residents on that floor to tell you the truth”
Samir paused for a bit, thanked the man and left. He went outside and started to pace, smoke puffing out of his pipe like a chimney. It was a habit he acquired when he started teaching. Whenever a theory, a research or an idea worms its way into his head, he paces his office usually, sometimes up to an hour or two without tiring, with or without his pipe. And it usually does the trick. After a while of pacing and racking his brain, Samir realized that his theory and assumptions were right. His thoughts were spot on.
After a couple of hours have passed, a Peugeot 506 stopped in front of a pacing Samir and honked, breaking the spell his thoughts cast on him.
“Any luck?” asked Ibrahim as he got out of the car.
“No, he doesn’t live here anymore. But all is not in vain, mon ami” answered Samir, a grin drawn on his face.
“What do you mean?”
“I have a theory…and a good one at that” said Samir, as he held his pipe and puffed the last of his tobacco out in the winter cold air.
Your comments are most welcomed
As always, the Cairo Contra team encourages the interaction between the readers and the team itself. If you have any comments or opinions regarding today’s entry in the “Decisions in a Halo” story line, I can’t wait to read them.
Until next time!