Helwan, Egypt

How many days had gone by since her return? She had spent the last fifteen years abroad and had only distant memories from back when she used to call this place home. She used to be a timorous little girl who wore her hair in braids. She had not only left the country on account of the area’s political and social unrest but also because she had needed to gain insight on how to deal with the world’s contradictions.

She never had the chance to break free from her mother’s vigilant eye back then, save for when she sprinted. Her mother chose to deck her out in short Sunday dresses so that it would look like she hadn’t gotten any older; she wanted her to come to the realization that she had become a woman as late as possible. Was her mother concerned about her welfare or maybe afraid of what she would actually become? That was yet another question she didn’t really want to know the answer to. She had her sanity to thank for the fact that she could come to terms with leaving questions such as those provisionally unanswered. She was fine with reconciling her beliefs with the alarming aspects of reality; doing so opened up countless possibilities. But how long would she have to acquiesce to living in a reality based on refraining from asking questions? Would her soul with her errant ways be left to harbor its niggling doubts for eternity—long after she had been put six feet under?

A feeling of déjà vu suddenly came over her. It was not the first time that these thoughts had flashed through her mind. She might have been good at hiding it back in the day, but she had never been a fool. However, now was definitely not the time to mull over what she had lost on the way or why she had returned home in the first place. She just wanted time to elapse until something new cropped up, preferably something unforeseen that would be completely unrelated to her past.

The ones who wound up returning home were always those whose ambitious plans to conquer the world had fallen flat. Some contended that they needed to be rocked back to sleep in order to recharge their batteries before getting back in the game, but she presumed many were just heartened to observe that back home not everyone had made it in life. Who knows? Perhaps they came back to stay out of temptation’s way.

For her, it was different. She just wanted to feel safe, inspired, home. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t short of a new beginning or because home—namely, where she had gingerly started developing her vision for the future—had never felt comfortably familiar. She chalked it up to the mantra that we are ourselves and our circumstances.

At least that’s what she had taught herself to believe. But, if truth be told, she couldn’t continue down the path she was on any longer. She was very close to collapsing due to the pressure she was under. In a way, she was on the track of the ghost that would have risen from the ashes if the circumstances that, latched on to her, had conspired against her for so long, had wound up silencing her and if when crunch time came she had yet to find the answers.

She was banking neither on finding herself again nor on unraveling the mystery as to where she was headed. Her expectations weren’t that optimistic. She just wanted to be able to hold an opinion on the affairs of everyday life, of which she so often had washed her hands up until that very moment in order to be able to rely on her judgement later on. She wanted to avoid becoming mainstream—that and stay true to her uncannily stubborn nature. That was the extent of her wish list. No more posing vexing questions: Just let the matter of her brain’s befuddlement drop.


Written by Nehal Khaled.

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Choose your own adventure

Don’t bother asking about what

a) you don’t want to know.

b) you need to know in order to figure out where you are headed.