Four years ago, I wrote a fragment of a story that was republished in the Arabist. The story was called Tourab Amsheer. Tourab means dust, and amsheer is the Coptic month that coincides with February. Often, there are dust storms during this month, and earlier today I could not see the Eastern Desert mountains from my back porch. It may have started.
When I wrote this story, I was trapped in Florida, and Obama was still President, and the current regime had removed Morsi and I was thinking about an old writer who had seen everything that has happened in Cairo since World War II, and who was still living in his mother’s now decrepit walkup apartment in Garden City, which is an area of Cairo that used to be quite beautiful, like much of Egypt, the nostalgic prism through which I on occasion see her today.
Today I now live in Egypt, since last September, and am actually experiencing Tourab Amsheer, instead of imagining it, as I did when I started writing that fragment of a story.
I engage in mundane things, the sort of things someone who lives here does, and not just a tourist passing through. I have to pay the utilities bill later today, and after questioning the initial charges of over 5000 LE, I have now been presented with a bill of 1830 LE, or about 104 US dollars at today’s rate. Much more reasonable. A word of free advice for the would be expat in Egypt: always demand to see pics of the meter readings, and the original utilities bill.
I have some other minor things to do Downtown in Gouna, like buy Sandy the cat some more food, renew my mobile phone account (2 dollars per month!), as well as a few other simple chores.
But like other days, this is most essentially a time to kick back, chill, and enjoy being an expat man of leisure, one who spends his days reading books and wondering when the pool is going to get warm enough to swim in. I may not have much money, but in Gouna it doesn’t take that much to feel like a millionaire.
Sometimes I adopt the “Mister” persona, when it suits me to remain distant, aloof, and seemingly uncomprehending; other times I revert to the arrogant Bey attitudes of my younger days; and still at other times I am “‘Am Aly” — the pleasantly avuncular (“‘Am” mean uncle), harmless old chap that the bus drivers and downtown waiters know so well, or not at all, that they say, ala’ mahlak, take your time, when I step down the bus stairs or get up to pay the bill.
Other times I think about the characters who live here, and how some people change when they come here, sometimes for better, and other times not. We are all composites of everything we have ever been or will be one day.
I tuned the TV to CNN this morning, and watched briefly with the sound turned off the news about yet another government shutdown. Then there was a story about the 1,000 point plunge in the DOW in Trump’s bogus economic miracle. I worked on Wall Street a long long time, but you don’t need to have done that to plainly see what transparent frauds The Donald and his weasel hustler so-called Republican friends are; you know, the erstwhile, fiscally conservative bunch.
From force of habit, I read Krugman’s piece on the deficit hawks, and started to think even more about the problems that are facing America, its appetite for endless war on Muslim lands, and what will happen to SS and Medicare, then I stopped doing that, because I don’t give a shit any more, at least, not about much of what seems to animate the Neanderthal half of the American body politic.
Or to put it less crudely, there is very little I can do about any of it, and more to the point, there is even less that America has to offer that interests me any more (other than of course my family there, including my wife, my very own Cleopatra, whom age — not that she be that or anything I’m just paraphrasing Shakespeare, man! — shall never wither, nor custom ever stale her infinite, uh, variety). It’s becoming like a separation that leads to a divorce after 50 years of marriage. America has changed too much. So have I. We don’t go well together any more. I don’t find mendacious, vulgar bullying interesting at any level and we didn’t come here to be subjected to another fucking tyrant.
As time goes by, I can feel it: less and less of the Trumplandia circus act means anything to me, which has had a major positive impact on my health. I have not felt this good in years. I hope the coming Tourab Amsheer, which I saw as a symbol for a coming terrible storm when I started writing my unfinished story, will not last very long.
I don’t think it will.
I hope that by Fall you are going to see a lot of things bite the dust, Allah willing, and the entire world will be better off for it.