A Date on the Banks of the Nile

View over the Nile in Cairo

A beautiful smile allows inner beauty to shine through one’s shell. ’Cause, believe me, eyes are the window to the soul. A steely gaze is all it may take to win another person’s heart over. Attend the meeting: an itch to laugh, cry, and hold one’s breath.

Now that I have polished up my infamous seduction skills and sharpened my wit, I am ready to buckle down to my task. I glance at my watch. It is still early. My reflection on the window of the car parked on the side of the road stares back at me. A current of air has disheveled my coif. I therefore fish a small comb out of my pocket and rake it through my hair to make myself look smart again. I examine my shoes. The outside has already started to strike out at my spotless veneer of self-maintenance with its filthy tentacles. I get a napkin, bend down, and wipe them clean with a few graceful strokes.

First, we will walk for a while along the Nile side by side. While she slides her gaze over the sunset, her eyes will turn twilight blue, her hair will look exquisitely sleek, and her long neck—well, let’s just say it will strike me as unbearably majestic.

I take another quick peek at the clock. The hands are inching toward the hour we had set to meet. I look around me, almost expecting to find her arriving just a fraction ahead of time.

After a short stroll, I will help her climb on top of the wall that commands a clear view of the Nile. Then, I will just stay there by her side and contemplate her, reveling in the sight of her until her image is indelibly branded on my retinas. I am willing to write poems about her lips, stories about her nose, and songs about her ears. Furthermore—and please forgive my indiscretion—I am willing to sing roundelays about her figure. She will smile bashfully, perhaps uttering a nervous laugh while begging me to stop even though she is in truth asking me to persevere.

I think I see her coming from behind a huge tree. I stare at the unidentified silhouette for a moment too long, but no, it’s not her: just some random look-alike.

At some point, street vendors will pounce on us to try and sell anything and everything we could possibly wish for: sparkling water, peanuts . . . We will probably end up running into the boy carrying simits and eggs; the woman who importunes passersby to purchase necklaces made of jasmine flowers; the old man who—well, it’s not like one can keep track of everyone’s business ventures, right? The point is that without having to lift a finger she will be wearing a necklace of jasmine flowers. She will be holding a bottle of sparkling water in one hand and will have to do a balancing act between the simits and the eggs with the other. At her side, standing in line to be devoured, will be a cone of peanuts, a can of hummus, a jar of lupins, and some cartons of juice.

I check the time and then look around me. I take a deep breath and start to pace back and forth.

I will accept her apology, entertain her with my talent for storytelling, and listen to her dreams. I will buy whatever yarn she chooses to spin, because, with her close to me, I won’t be able to distinguish between a rational tale and a mental delivery. It’s not like I will regret my helplessness afterwards either. I will trust that she knows what she is prattling on about and be as happy as a man can be.

Half an hour after the time she was supposed to show up and still no sign of her. But there is no reason to panic yet. Nowadays, with just any flimsy excuse, everyone feels entitled to flout punctuality.

After a while, I will help her climb off the wall. No doubt I will fail miserably at keeping my hands from assessing the goods. At least I will be able to say I tried to resist the temptation. She will pretend nothing happened. I will look at the sky and pick a star. I will point at it. We will rename it and claim it henceforth as our token of good fortune. We will laugh our heads off. We will laugh and laugh and laugh. Then she will kiss me.

I consult my watch once more. She is already an hour late! I hope she has a good reason to keep me waiting this long.

We will continue wandering along the shore. We will shoot a look at the Nile and it will bounce off its surface and come back at us. Hand in hand, progressing to arm in arm, building up to eye to eye and heart to heart, I will demonstrate to her all the love and tender devotion I feel for her. I would be willing to fetch her this planet’s moon and the ones beyond it. Not that I would know what to avail myself of for such an enterprise, but I would embark upon the journey anyhow, no questions asked. I would divert the course of any river so that it could render moisture to her feet. I would rewrite history in order to present her as the hero and would restructure the globe in order to place her at the equator.

Here I am, still standing across the Nile. It is been three hours since I arrived. I guess she is not going to show up after all.


Written by Dr. Magdi Mostafa Al-Qousy.

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Choose your own adventure

He would have waited for her forever.

a) Alas, if only she had shown up once!

b) He had nothing better to do than build castles in the air where he could cater to her every whim.