Hope Lane

Cairo Egypt

It’s almost 4 a.m. and I am lying on my bed unable to doze off. I rarely suffer from insomnia. My bed is my favorite place to be, but now it feels uncomfortable, as if it has shrunken all of a sudden. I walk out of my room and head for the house’s large balcony to gulp down some fresh air. I am hoping it’ll help me conquer my anxiety, my sorrow, and eventually, my insomnia.

A perfect peace has settled over the city, and it is only faintly disturbed by the occasional honk of a car driving along one of the neighborhood streets. The image of the street from the balcony will stay etched in my mind for as long as I live, because I have known it since I was old enough to remember. The street itself has witnessed much of what I have been confronted with in my own life: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I then decide to brew a fresh pot of tea. I bring water to a boil and add three cloves and a spoonful of honey to the concoction. As soon as my cup of tea is ready for consumption, I take it back with me to the balcony. Why can’t I fall asleep? Everybody else seems to have taken off to the land of Nod. There is something bugging me, something that won’t let me shut my weary eyes. If I only knew what it was . . . The air smells as clean and the sky looks as clear as ever.

My insomnia may be related to the fact that I don’t feel geared up to fully and honestly recognize what has been taking place inside my head. The pressure in my chest is killing me. I know it won’t be long before adopting a blasé attitude toward what is going on in my head won’t cut it. It’s about time I faced the facts: if not for anybody else’s sake, then for my own. My boyfriend has ditched me for another woman. I have no choice but to come to terms with this painful truth. She may not be prettier, smarter, more patient, or more understanding than me, but she sure as hell beat me at winning him over. I cannot blame her for stealing my man, because she has played the game by the book—albeit with the silence and stealth of a hungry cat.

As I take another sip of my tea, I let my lungs fill with the air carried by the last breeze of a quiet night. It tastes delightful. The balcony enjoys a commanding view over our street, Hope Lane, the road that has attended to both the birth and the demise of our love. It has seen everything go down: from the very beginning to the bitter end. It is a long street with each and every paving stone holding the power to jog my memory and elicit a muted response from me. It has more than one tale to tell, with each proving that truth is stranger than fiction.

Swishing one more sip of tea around in my mouth, I breathe in deeply and heave a heavy sigh of wistfulness for the days of yore. I had hoped it would hurt a little, but the emotion was breathed out of my system without a hitch. I had expected my eyes to water as I looked back on our common history in order to turn the page. It wouldn’t have surprised me to feel the kind of fury that makes people develop a taste for blood bubbling up inside. However, it seems I have been able to bundle the pain of the breakup into an exhalation that has already joined the outside world. My self-control is so unreal, it almost scares me, and I have to sit down to take it in.

Before going to bed that night, I had felt a burning desire to know who she was, the woman who had eclipsed me in beguiling him. But now, at the crack of dawn, with the first morning breeze, I have lost interest in her.

The sunrise is a marvel to behold. I have never really paid attention to it before, never taken the time to watch it play out. At this time I am usually asleep in bed. I have missed out on so many things . . . However, after tonight, I am not going to let the ghosts of my past take over my life. This I know for certain. I live on Hope Lane after all.

Noha el Masry


Written by Noha El Masry.

Choose your own adventure

She wore red lipstick and dressed in little more than thongs.

a) How could I not forgive her for having her way with my man?

b) How can my man not see that red lipstick has long gone out of vogue?