WARNING!!! THIS POST HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, iPAD APPS, INFOGRAPHICS OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU’RE USED TO READING HERE! BUT IT’S NICE, SO SUCK IT UP AND READ IT ANYWAYS…PLEASE :D!
Once in a while, I like to reminisce and go through some old files on my PC. Yes, you read right…I said PC! I think I’m still one of the few PC people out there, even after all the valid Mac arguments I’ve heard. What can I say? Right clicking is an integral part of my life. Though I hear you can do that now on a Mac! Alright, maybe my next laptop then. Okay, waaay off track here…back to the point…Tonight, I was browsing through the “College Files” folder and reading some stories from an old creative writing class when I came across this particular piece. Of course, there are tons of others, and much better written than this one – that’s for sure, but maybe less appropriate, too personal or too “college paper like” for nittyGriddy.
Now even though this one is a little about me – with a few embellishments here and there, I still thought I would share it here (for some odd reason or other). It’s about an old life, a long time ago, when I lived in Cairo, Egypt. This was written over a decade ago for a class assignment at Boston University. I wish I could remember what the exact assignment was, but for the life of me I can’t. Maybe you can tell me after reading it. All I can tell you is that it’s a creative short story where we obviously had to describe something and that it was for Mrs. Peknik’s class. Reading it again tonight made me feel like I was back in that moment and life almost 20 years ago. I said ALMOST! Ouch, I never thought I’d get older and be able to say that. The ALMOST 20 years ago part (it’s actually more like 18). Still in denial of being 30 something young!
I decided to keep it as is, and not fix up the grammar in any way. I was pretty nocturnal in college as well as the queen of procrastination – which means, this was probably written at 5 am! So please forgive the few mistakes or typos that you may come across – no worries, they’re minor! Hope you enjoy it and please feel free to comment :).
Promenade Up the Nile
The sails were almost twenty feet high. Brown from the dirt and torn from their ancient presence. Held up by wood instead of metal, they still worked. It’s been almost nine years since my last cruise up the Nile River, but my memory remains as clear as if it were yesterday. I was only sixteen and I was dissatisfied, uncooperative, and misunderstood. I escaped to places I thought I’d find whatever it was I was searching for.
The felucca in Egypt is equivalent to the gondola in Venice. Maybe not as attractive and romantic but just as efficient and agreeable. To foreigners felucca’s were museum quality items. To us locals, they were part of Cairo. It is still a mystery to me how some of them didn’t sink, for they were built from old wood, where the cracks and molds were visible even at night. The sails could have dated as far back as the discovery of the papyrus plant but miraculously managed to accurately sway with the gentle moonlight breeze. There were no chairs or tables, only extended pieces of wood with old rags and carpets to sit on. It was only the larger ones that had cheap plastic fold-up tables in the center. As primitive looking as the captain maneuvering them, they deceived you into thinking that you had temporarily regressed to the Neolithic period. But as the city lights gleamed at night, seeing a felucca sailing left you mesmerized. It was nature in full force: beautiful, simple, and urban – allowing you to take nature and your surroundings for granted.
The color of the water was between a dark green and a brown depending on the day and the distance from the riverbank, looking almost thick enough to carry but dirty enough not to. Splashes of water during the promenade were usually avoided but after a few too many alcoholic beverages, they didn’t seem to bother us as much. To the peasants who lived along the river, the Nile was their swimming pool, their sink, and their bathtub. They used it to bathe as well as to wash their clothes. Rumors of the famous Bulharisia worm were the last of their concerns and the first of ours. This inch long worm that lives in the shallow parts of the river is said to get into your skin and attack your intestines. It is the local and miniature version of Jaws.
Regardless of what direction you turned towards, you would see small white, stone houses every few feet, inhabited by families of ten or so. If the kids could see that you were a foreigner, which was usually very obvious from either our lighter skin tones or form of dress, they would often run alongside the felucca as it passed by. Dressed in traditional long white robes known as Galabiyas, or simply in old underwear, their filthy little bodies had a way of making them look endearing. They waved at you as they yelled out random words that most of us couldn’t understand. I was amazed, for they seemed to be able to say hello in every language.
The stroll up that river was my getaway, but to others it was one big party. Many of the foreign students from the many international high schools had turned the feluccas into replacement frat houses and clubs. They would rent them for the evening as they danced and drank themselves into oblivion. Alone, I would take only a notebook and escape into a world of free association. I felt inspired to write and my stream of consciousness dominated. For those few hours my troubles would disappear and everything around me was peaceful. I would stare at the peasants crouched low enough that the back of their robes rested in the water as they scrubbed their clothes on a wooden washboard. The expressions on their faces as they saw you pass by were worth all the money they didn’t have. They were poor but rich with life. During that time I appreciated everything about my privileged life. I was part of a postcard that portrayed the reflection and shadow of the moon onto the water. The sight of it left you speechless and in awe.
Once I reached that stage of harmony, I forgot about the pollution around me and the unsanitary smell of sewage that engulfed my nostrils. I entered a dream world and became concentrated solely on the imaginary clear sky and the aroma that now smelled like freshly picked gardenias. Often I imagined that I was Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot in “Murder on the Nile” or even Cleopatra as she was being escorted by her slaves to see Caesar. Most times I was me- lying in a bed of flowers as my charming and incredibly handsome lover serenaded me. My imagination always amazed me and left me thinking about the few too many movies I had seen. Regardless of who I pretended to be, it was my fairy tale and I was invincible. It was as beautiful as I wanted it to be and as inspiring as I made it. Most people go on an escapade to India to find themselves. I walked down the street to what had become my backyard lake, and embarked on a two-hour long journey of self-discovery.
As I sit here enclosed in this four-walled room, I watch the thick smoke from my cigarette rise towards the ceiling as I ponder these treasured memories that to this day leave me breathless. They make me think of the many places I have been and how today more than ever, I appreciate the little simple things in life that we tend to take for granted.