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Escape from Egypt


silk. For all the showy luxury of their establishments and the arrogance of the
members, the aura of the second-rate was palpable. It was manifest in the officers’
plump, vulgar, cantankerous wives and noisy, ill- mannered children accompanied by
girl child-servants. Little girls of ten to thirteen years of age, badly dressed, badly
treated with the trademark white kerchief covering their hair. The little bonniches,
forgotten even by God.
The golf players were the old- money, leisured few. The very few who
managed to hold on to their wealth and the many that had been stripped of it but kept
up the show, kept up hope, and their old habits. I was simply leisured, educated, and
adrift, rubbing shoulders with this fading elite in the golf pavilion, where they
socialized, drank their cocktails, and exchanged their low-voiced hate and derision for
the regime. Due to my golfing prowess I was accepted and befriended though I could
not share the lifestyle of my friends. I could not share the outings at the nightclubs,
the girls they courted, their excursions and escapades. Even at the club I pretended I
did not drink so I would not be offered a drink and have to offer in return.
Do not imagine I was complacent with this state of affairs. It was all I had in
front of me. I knew I was wasting my life. I wanted to get out of the rut and was
waiting for the opportunity. What opportunity? I had no idea. I was waiting for a
miracle. Are not the idle, the lax, and those lacking in ambition always waiting for a
miracle? I was twenty seven, already almost three years at the Institute, wondering
when the time of reckoning would come. When a Senior Director or an Under-
Secretary of something or other would call me and ask me what I had been doing
these last three years. Ask to see my reports and send me to jail for wasting the
country’s money. For all the thieving and hustling that was going on in the country,
surely a pip-squeak like me would be the perfect scapegoat. In my saner moments I
did not think it likely. But a diffused worry and guilt was forever hovering in my
thoughts keeping alive a minuscule, implausible hope that one day I would leave this
comedy behind for something more worthwhile. So many years had gone by so fast.
Where was I heading? Would I stay in Egypt? To do what? Take over my father’s
grocery? Marry? Live in boredom and dejection; to wallow in mediocrity? Add more
children to the overpopulation?
My short and long term worries, the serious and less serious, were
overshadowed by a worry of no real consequence but one that consumed me and at
times drove me close to madness. My human nature and age of twenty seven. My
sexual virility and sexual starvation. I was in the prison of my penury. I did not accept
my station, my prospects and I could not rise above them even though I lived as if I
did. It was an empty bit of make believe that made me dream a little, kept my
ambitions smoldering but ultimately frustrated me. O h, the frustration of my empty
pockets, my empty life, my absent love and the shameless female bodies of my
fantasies that I could not embrace. The lovely girls at the club I would never kiss, hold
in my arms and feel the tremor of their passion. So many times I insincerely wished I
were ugly and unattractive so I would give up hope of being accepted, desired, but the
fact was that they were not indifferent to my looks those boldly staring girls and it
was I who had to feign indifference. For how would I tackle them? Where would I
love them? K iss them? Smell them? Do all the crazy things I dreamed about? Things
to excite them and enslave them. Things born of a feverish mind and galloping
imagination. Where, without a flat? Without a car for a drive away from prying eyes
and the welcome discomfort and privacy of its back seat. I never craved to become
rich. There are more important things in life. But I learnt early on, the pain of an
empty pocket.
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