Can I ask you how is Cairo? I always wanted to go -certainly, these are not the times to do it-
I never really know how to answer this question because it’s so broad, and because Cairo isn’t mine to represent. So whatever I say isn’t definitive and is just one experience from the outside looking in, just take that as given.
Cairo is traffic (cars, trucks, donkeys, horse-pulled carts, bicycles, scooters, handcarts, pedestrians) and noise and people yelling. They might be fighting or laughing, but either way it’s loud and it’s over quickly. Cairo is random individuals deciding it’s on them to direct traffic and usually making it worse. Cairo is everything from corrugated metal shacks to concrete blocks to Neoclassical architecture to stunning mosques to the Roman acqueduct to the ramshackle building next to the Sphinx where I used to go to play D&D, with the stable in the ground floor. Cairo is Chipsy (the brand of potato chips you see everywhere) and guava juiceboxes and the woman who sells tissues outside the Metro station every day. It’s trees and the river and drinking wine on a felucca, and it’s air pollution so thick you can see it on some days. It’s women who yell at the men who get on the womens’ car on the train until they get the fuck out and then mutter about how we should have beaten them up. It’s men who inform you they want to fuck you and men who genuinely want to help you find the place you’re looking for. It’s hijabi girls who compliment you on the way you braided your hair and women who ask you where you’re from and why you came here. It’s the guy at the bar around the corner who would always stand guard outside the bathroom while I was in there and all the shopkeepers who would let me pay tomorrow. It’s awful, overpriced nightclubs and five sandwiches for a dollar, a chicken coop on the sidewalk and people who somehow manage to spend 40,000 LE in a month. It’s the cab driver who gave me water and pretzel sticks at four in the morning because I guess he was concerned I was going to be hungover. It’s inefficient and frustrating and lots of times you have to take 20 flights of stairs because the elevator’s out and the bawab thinks it’s your fault. It has a beautiful park that was literally built on top of a trash heap and a massive cathedral dug into solid rock by Christian trash collectors and a tiny community of Jews who still have services even though they can’t technically get a minyan together anymore. It’s so many calls to prayer at once you never do figure out how many mosques are within hearing distance. It’s covered in political graffiti, gorgeous murals honoring the martyrs and “FUCK MORSI” alike.
I could go on probably forever, but basically: it’s big, loud, chaotic, dirty, beautiful, and very, very old, a big jumble of rich/poor, old/new, every skin color you can imagine, ridiculously perfect color coordination (seriously, I don’t know how those girls manage to do that, it’s damn impressive). It’s a city, in other words, but it’s the only one like it.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”—Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013 (via maisiewilliams)
You lose her when you forget to remember the little things that mean the world to her: the sincerity in a stranger’s voice during a trip to the grocery store, the delight of finding something lost or forgotten like a sticker from when she was five, the selflessness of a child giving a part of his meal to another, the scent of new books in the store, the surprise short but honest notes she tucks in her journal and others you could only see if you look closely.
You must remember when she forgets.
You lose her when you don’t notice that she notices everything about you: your use of the proper punctuation that tells her continuation rather than finality, your silence when you’re about to ask a question but you think anything you’re about to say to her would be silly, your mindless humming when it is too quiet, your handwriting when you sign your name in blank sheets of paper, your muted laughter when you are trying to be polite, and more and more of what you are, which you don’t even know about yourself, because she pays attention.
She remembers when you forget.
You lose her for every second you make her feel less and less of the beauty that she is. When you make her feel that she is replaceable. She wants to feel cherished. When you make her feel that you are fleeting. She wants you to stay. When you make her feel inadequate. She wants to know that she is enough and she does not need to change for you, nor for anyone else because she is she and she is beautiful, kind and good.
You must learn her.
You must know the reason why she is silent. You must trace her weakest spots. You must write to her. You must remind her that you are there. You must know how long it takes for her to give up. You must be there to hold her when she is about to.
You must love her because many have tried and failed. And she wants to know that she is worthy to be loved, that she is worthy to be kept.