On a major thoroughfare between a porn theatre and a filling station, it was just past the central cemetery and the bridge over the railway lines. A young communist lived in the room across from yours. He worked in a hotel. You had no job and no prospects but, for the moment, didn’t care. You’d sit together at the brittle table in the kitchen, all dark browns and orange, smoking, and listening to cassettes of sixties pop tunes, with small cups of coffee, now and again a beer. You had a couple of books and some traveler’s checks. Day after day you’d wander the sunburnt city, surprised, over and over again, at how often you got lost.
There is no escaping the fact. Since 2011, I haven’t been in downtown Cairo except twice, heavily sedated and only for as long as it took to run my unavoidable errand. With the help of medication, my condition had improved enough for me to go there frequently when the protests started in January that year, instead of being confined to Heliopolis as usual. After I was shot with a pellet gun and had to run away from hospital on the first day of protests, for a few weeks I returned to the hotspots of the revolution, but tear gas, shooting and all kinds of attacks often forced me (along with everyone else) to run for my life. This fucked it all up again, in time. Protest hotspots became indistinguishable from vast, crowded spaces too far from home. And, succumbing to my terror of both, I confined myself to Heliopolis.
On the Bus
Caught up short on the express bus and those drivers don’t stop for shit. I avoid the express because of my affliction but it was filthy out, brown cold rain, and here come the bus, and jostling, and I don’t notice, and it’s an express, and it won’t stop.
I’m good at first, plop down in a seat, bag under my feet, floor wet but seat warm.
Claude said it come from eating out of trashcans and such. They fixed us so we could not ever have kids and road us on a rail out of Utah.
I like to look into the houses, warm glows of lights, the bus passes.
I consider my options.
Bad to give us a bad name. And I do not call myself that. I’m a traveler. A time traveler. I travel all the time. Round and round the city I go.
But I can’t hold it any longer, and this an express bus, so here we go.
Need a boat to paddle out of here. Gives a whole new meaning to disembark.
Literary Magazine Interviewer: First question. Do you see yourself as a “promising young writer”?
Promising Young Writer: That depends. Do you mean “promising” or “young”? You can easily apply both to me, or dismiss them. It’s a matter of perspective.
LMI: Let’s see, then. How old are you and what have you written that’s promising?
PYW: Well, I’m 28. So far I’ve written two books of poetry and one of short stories. I don’t like to evaluate my own work. It depresses me. And you can’t be objective about it. But it’s easy to say that I like only two poems in my first book, the rest belonging to the realm of lame beginnings. Maybe I will have a view of my two later books after some time. I guess it takes time to see your own writings as external objects so you can evaluate them as you evaluate other things. Actually, I admire and hate my own work with equal force, and that applies to everything related to myself. I also finished my first novel, the first part of a trilogy. I’m in the process of publishing it now.
I was a teacher;
I considered that natural.
For this reason I began to bow
to words I did not say;
and to communicate my respects to my children.
I tried to make them understand that it was absolutely necessary
for someone to read,
to review with his parents—
while he hurls his shoe under the bed—
how exhausting and beautiful respect is:
that they have no future without words.