When the table crashed over spilling beer and broken glass everywhere for the second time, I decided to go home.
Before I even say anything about this whole event I have to confess that I know who reads this blog and I’m afraid that in writing about it I’ll be setting a poor example and that I won’t be a good role model for the young’ns. On the other hand, I’d rather tell the truth than lie about handling any situation whether I did it well or badly, because nobody can learn from your mistakes if you pretend like you don’t have them.(Though having said that, I’m now worried that this post won’t live up to the expectations I’ve set in saying it!)
Last night being Halloween and Cairo being full of expats, I badgered my roommates until they took me to a party at their friends’ house. It was at the apartment with the Angriest Kitten in the World, so I was looking forward to seeing the little guy again.
Let’s skip past the part where we arrived an hour before anyone else, past the part where we decided to raid another party a couple floors down and steal all their guests, and straight to the part where the party began to get a little crazy. I haven’t been to a party like this in a while. And as the night began to get weirder, that old song covered most notoriously by Three Dog Night began thrumming in my brain: Mama told me not to come…
The irony being that my mother in fact encouraged me to come, I think in relief that I was actually getting out of the house for once. My mom being who she is, she probably still would’ve encouraged me even if she’d known in advance about the glass, and the fire, and the strange cat.
Consider this a highlights reel of the party: somebody had put up blinking christmas-tree lights against one wall (that’s fairy lights for my British readers). At one point in the evening somebody else thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we shut off all the overhead lights and had as our only source of illumination some piercingly strobing siezure-inducing lights? So the next two-thirds of the party were spent primarily in the dark.
After drinking a variety of the available liquids at the party I decided to sit down in the makeshift shisha den, formed by piling all the couch cushions on the floor and then setting up three shisha pipes in front of them. (I’d like to remind everyone that shisha is just plain old flavored tobacco, nothing more exciting…not that I needed anything more exciting at that point.) While sitting there next to one of my roommates, idly looking around the room, we saw a dark shape flit in from the building hallway. “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” Lucy shouted over the music. At first I thought it was the Angriest Kitten in the World, but it transpired that it was a mystery cat who’d come in from outside. One of the (drunk) guests decided to joke that he was going to throw the cat down the garbage chute. The other guests also being drunk they didn’t at first realize he was joking, which led to a whole lot of panic, including the cat’s. The cat eventually managed to kick the young man in the face which actually knocked the guy flat on the floor, then fortunately the poor thing escaped and not a moment too soon.
I went on the balcony for some air and promptly got in a hysterically funny fight with a young man (come to think of it, it was Cat Guy) over the US elections, much to the amusement of the Austrian students and embassy workers standing around us who were rolling a joint at the time. Then I heard a crash. The lights inside went on and there was liquid all over the floor. Somebody had knocked over the table. Once it was cleaned up I went back inside to sit down, but not before the Austrians shared their botanical concoction with me.
At this point I should note that whenever I go to the doctor and they ask if I smoke, I always say no. This is in fact a blatant lie. While it’s true that I have never once touched a cigarette, I will gladly smoke other people’s cigars, shisha if it’s around, and occasionally various other smokeable products. I know this is bad for my health, as I was reminded this morning when I could hear my lungs saying, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??”
So, sitting back down in the shisha den and continuing to smoke was probably not a very good idea in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, this is exactly what happened. Almost immediately somebody accidentally kicked one of the shisha pipes over, causing red-hot coals to spill all over the cushions and, both hilariously and horribly, right into the back of Lucy’s trousers. The young man sitting with her siezed this opportunity to attempt to help her fish them out, but fortunately damage control was swiftly initiated by Eva who whisked Lucy off to the bathroom safe from the clutches of the aforementioned young man.
Shortly after this, the table crashed over again and I decided to leave while I was still having fun. (That ain’t the way to have fun, soooon…)
There is a second layer to this whole story. In fact, the second layer applies to basically every aspect of my life in Cairo. And everywhere, all over the world.
No matter what I’m thinking about or writing about, there is always one thought running quietly in the back of my mind. It’s a little bit like the moon behind the clouds: it sometimes gets covered up, but it’s still there. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to find yourself ramaining faithful to someone who has declared in both words and deeds that he no longer desires your fidelity?
Because of course the thought is that I’m still in love with my former boyfriend, John. And if you’re wondering the reason I don’t use a pseudonym for him is that for so long he truly felt like another part of myself that I can’t imagine trying to call him something else. It would be like trying to come up for another name for my own arm.
Before I’d been with John, I’d spent an awful lot of time wondering how I would really know if I loved somebody, if it was possible to be in love with someone and not know it, what that word really means, if everybody who says they’re in love is always describing the same feeling, and all the rest and so forth. (And every time I admit this my inner research student gets an urge to write a very dry, possibly even mathematical, paper full of lots of Very Serious academic jargon.)
But when I was with John, I didn’t have any doubts any more. I knew exactly what it meant. I knew what love really was.
And of course I love my friends and I love my family, but this was different. It was new and old at the same time. And there’s no point in describing it any further, because if you’ve been in love you already know what I’m talking about and if you haven’t, then no amount of description in the world is going to make it real.
So here I was at this party full of young, spirited, interesting and attractive people. Some of them had tried to chat me up. I’d looked around to see if there was anybody worth trying to chat up (since the ones trying it on with me weren’t up to my standards.) Then I had the very dispiriting realization that the only person I wanted to chat up was about 3,000 miles away. And broke up with me three months ago.
I found myself behaving as though I were attached even though I am most definitely, most clearly, without any shadow of a doubt, single. Don’t get me wrong, our breakup wasn’t in any way rancorous and we are still friendly with each other. I just mean that there shouldn’t be anything holding me back from making new attachments and yet I don’t even want to meet anyone new.
The sensiblest part of me knows that the John I am still in love with is just a fantasy, because the John I am in love with would never have broken up with me and obviously (notwithstanding my sincere efforts at denial) this did in fact occur. But despite my pretensions at graduate studentship and all-around smart-personing, the sensiblest part of me doesn’t always get a say.