Everything happened suddenly and without warning

My big summer read

I woke up a little later than usual today, 5:30am instead of 5.

The sky was a deep blue mauve color, and I could hear various birds announcing their intentions for the day, with some bravura I might add, given the feral cat situation, as they darted about the bushes and flowerbeds in my back yard.

I went through my usual morning  ritual — ablutions, coffee, adhan on YouTube — and said “il hamd lillah” to no one in particular, except to God.

I repeat that phrase every morning, before I go about my day. It gives me comfort to believe that the angel Gibreel has been watching over me ever since my parents one day decided to abandon the land of the believers, and took my brothers and I with them.

After reflecting on the likely events of the day, I scanned the headlines.

The usual global machinations seemed to be in particular abundance today, confirming yet again the wisdom of my decision to essentially withdraw from society, seeking nothing from no one as a general rule, except in the most basic ways needed for survival.

In a few moments I shall get dressed and walk down a steep hill to buy a plain bagel and the Sunday Times. The hill is excellent exercise; I walk it every day at least once. The bagel will sustain me through till the morrow, when I plan to begin another fast. The Times I buy out of long habit; it saddens me to see what has happened to the once mighty Book Review section, but at least it still exists, albeit in a misandrist state of literary anorexia.

But the big event today shall take place when I crack open David Aboulafia’s magisterial The Great Sea. I used to know a young boy named Guy Aboulafia when I lived in Cairo. He was a classmate at the Lycee at Bab el Louk.

The thing about Guy, who was Jewish, and quite smart, is that he was very beautiful — not effeminate, or even handsome — but beautiful in that way boys sometimes get when they are not quite yet men. The blueness of his eyes were particularly remarkable. All the girls wanted him, and some of the older boys too.

Then one day, as he was riding his bicycle in front of the Gezira Club in Zamalek, his front wheel got caught up in a gutter grating.

He fell head first into the stone pavement. An entire side of his face was crushed by the fall, and when I next saw him in school, he had an ugly large scar across his broken cheekbone.

No-one wanted to be near Guy after that. Suddenly, he was coldly shunned by all his ertswhile admirers, and soon thereafter, Guy left Egypt, and I never saw him again.

I shall no doubt think of Guy, as I read this book, and hope that, despite the calamity that befell him at 13, he somehow survived, without drowning in the great Sea of Sorrows.


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