Swimming

“All of my friends have a ring on their finger
they have someone
Someone to care for them, it ain’t fair, I got no one.”
Jeff Fortgang, Some guys have all the Luck

I’m becoming fluent again in Arabic, my father’s language.

All those years stolen from me when I could have spoken it, but instead it was replaced by something else, something foreign, not Egyptian. Even the air I breathe here is better.

I was sitting with some people in Abu Tig at a restaurant and then a couple showed up.

The guy talked to a friend of his, but the woman looked at me and said you look Egyptian. Finally I’m no longer a Mister.

Where are you from? I replied, and she said Lebanon. We talked and I enjoyed listening to her speak, using the word “hoan” — the Levantine assal accent, like honey poured over a Cedar branch in a torched Beiruti nightclub.

You are not Lebanese, I said.  Inti felesteeniya, mish kidda, wa’lla eh?

She looked at me again, her eyes glistening in the dark.

Wi mallo? she said.

Let me ask you, I said in Arabic, do you like to swim?

Yes I swim all the all time, she said.

In the Mediterranean?

Where else?

When was the last time you swam there?

She was about to chance a flirty answer, but then her boyfriend noticed and he took her by the arm and said nice meeting you and they left but not before she looked back at me as they left. I haven’t been looked at like that in a long time. Those daily pushups by the pool must be having some effect.

If I had stayed in Egypt when I was young, I probably would have married a Lebanese girl, or two.

We might have gotten along swimmingly.

We might have spoken mannered, beautiful French. I would have told her about Montazah Palace, and Aida beach, where I used to swim. I would have bragged stupidly that the DNA that built the Pyramids is within me, that a Royal cartouche should never be turned into a cartoon.

I would have.

To both of them.

leaving america

 

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