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Five Stories That Are Almost True, But Not Quite

Next morning when I opened my eyes I wondered where I was. Oh God, yes,
Cairo. I can hear the traffic in the street and my father getting dressed for work. I have
to get up. It is a significant day for me. A new page in my life. A new beginning.
Without Lisa, without my love. However much I ache for her, she is thousands of
miles away in distance and already three days past in time. They seem more like three
months. A deadly combination of space and time.
I got out of bed and left my room. I came face to face with my father. I
approached and kissed him. We were not accustomed to such displays of tenderness
but his sadness at the airport touched me and I felt that he shared my sense of failure.
I asked how he was feeling and he said, “Well enough”. You could not tell whether he
meant he was well or that it could be worse. I asked him for some money and he
showed me the combination of a safe embedded in the wall of his bedroom. He told
me I could draw whatever money I needed from there.
It was understood that I would enter the family business. There was no other
viable option for me in Egypt. I had a few days’ grace before starting work. I went for
a long stroll in the city. I was away from Cairo for only a few months and yet it was
as if I had returned to an alien world. I had taken it for granted that I would eventually
reside in the US but my immaturity, Lisa and my college failure landed me back in
my family’s lap. I could not decide if that, finally, was good or bad luck. It was the
easy way out, that was certain, but as I walked slowly adding and subtracting the pros
and cons, I did not manage to reach a conclusion.
Later, when I returned home, I found Anna and my grandmother there. They
lived two floors above us in the same apartment building. Anna, my unmarried aunt
was much younger than my mother and only five years older than I was. She had none
of the beauty and nobility of my mother or even much resemblance either physical or
of character. She was a pretty, pert, brown-haired girl of normal height and a nice slim
body, which she kept in shape because she was a classical dancer for a time and later
became a fashion model. She was cheery, always with a funny story or incident to
relate and at all times fun to have around. When she switched to modeling her
reputation was tarnished somewhat because at the time the profession was not
considered respectable and her lifestyle encouraged moralists to voice malicious
comments. She was not intimidated and, I must say, her mother was always a pillar of
support. Anna was her one and only weakness.
I kissed both of them and it was obvious that my delight to see Anna again,
was reciprocated. My mother could not hide her happiness either. She had a
permanent smile on her face.
“I hope you're not taking it too hard Michael,” Anna said after I explained why
I was back so soon.
“Well, it was a big disappointment. Sometimes I feel wretched and sometimes
I wax philosophical.”
“Listen Mickey, a little ignorance did no one any harm. Look at me. I did not
even finish secondary school and I'm doing fine. I lead the life that suits me. I am
quite content.”
“Will you stop talking this way, Anna? You give a very bad impression,” my
grandmother scolded her.
“Oh let her be,” said mother, “we're amongst ourselves.”
“That's what you think,” granny replied, “She tends to talk this way
everywhere. She has no sense of propriety. Nor do any of her friends. She has this
fellow Raymond, whom they call Moni, who not only is a homosexual but also talks
as if he grew up in the gutter. He's from a good family too. He's stuck to Anna. He has
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