This is an example of one of my recent daily writing sessions. It is being republished here unedited except for spelling, grammar, and for any purposes of clarity, although I obviously won’t guarantee any degree of clarity. Remember, this is free writing, where I didn’t plan what I was writing and didn’t revise it and didn’t try to make sense out of it. Remember also that it was written at 5:30 am.
Lately, I keep recalling a phrase I wrote while free writing about fifteen or sixteen years ago. For some reason, this phrase keeps coming back to me. It goes something like this: “It was the night of a thousand crickets.” But the strange thing is that all my nights and even mornings have become nights of people walking in the unpaved road between our house and the main street.
Well actually, that’s not really true. My early mornings have become bird mornings — something very few people in Cairo experience, I guess. But there are few birds who have decided to brave all the dangers of being a living creature in the city of Cairo, Egypt. It’s like being alive in spite of everything that conspires against this life. The pollution, the noise, the crowds, the potholes, the heat, the dirt.
Even the streets can attest to this — if you look closely enough, and sometimes not even that closely, you’ll find that the streets of Cairo are furry. They are the unofficial and thoughtless graveyards of many a furry animal and quite a few feathered ones too. Cats, kittens, dogs, mongooses (or is it mongeese?), rats, mice, sparrows, the odd pigeon and the odder crow who was too hungry for the dead rat in the road to worry about safety regulations and oncoming cars.
Sometimes, however, there is the human being who is knocked down by a speeding car or the criminal monstrosity that acts as the backbone of Egyptian public transportation, and is known as the “micro-bus”. But generally speaking, the authorities tend to pick up the human beings who fall and pack them off to hospitals, as both sides of a busy, high-speed road slow down to take a look. Is he really dead? Oh my God, I just saw a pool of blood! Did you see how smashed that car was? Look at all that shattered glass! Allah keep us safe.
Then they pass by and pick up speed, many not even caring enough to swerve to avoid the dead dog with his guts spilling out onto the street. Until a few days later, there is nothing left to swerve or not swerve from except a patch of furry asphalt.
And we haven’t even started talking about the homeless humans — never mind the animals or you’ll grow crazy — somehow surviving, or acting as if they do, or doing their best to survive in spite of everything.
And the cars that slowed down all go home — those that don’t get into their own accidents, at least — and, soliciting sympathy (or is it attention?) simply say, “There was a terrible accident on the way.” And that explains why he or she is one hour late — well, actually two, because the default here is that everyone in Cairo is one hour late to everything. And then they have to reheat their lunch, which starts to look wilted and unspectacular, and un-cooking-show-like and may get scorched a little in the reheating. And they sit down to this reheated meal, both thankful that the accident didn’t happen to them, and both silently angry about how picture imperfect the food is.