Misleading Shadows

A panoramic view over Alexandria, Egypt

In one of the coastal provinces there once lived a thirtyish-year-old man who loved sports and who, for several years, tried to find a job to make his dreams come true. Relentless in his pursuit, he traveled to numerous cities, including Hurghada, Sharm el-Sheikh, and Alexandria, among others. He followed the way he had been told to proceed to the letter: took exams, attended job interviews . . . However, he always received the same reply, the one known to belong to Mr. Computer’s phrasal repository: “We’ll keep in touch.” Although he held a degree in law—with honors at that—he was unable to find a suitable niche for himself, an opportunity to lead the life he was meant for. Nevertheless, a few years later, his prayers were finally answered: he was offered a job.

I looked at the clock and smiled. I was wearing my best suit. In one hour I would at last get to start my first day of work at my new job as a very well-paid chauffeur to one of today’s modern businesswomen. I arrived on the dot and rang the bell at the front door. The lady of the house opened the door. She was a woman in her forties, still quite pretty but with a sad aura around her. She pointed her hand inside and told me to take a seat and wait for her. Then, she entered her room to change her clothes, asking for trouble by not even closing the door behind her.

A female voice instantly hit the roof inside the man’s head. “Who the heck is this lady?” she raged. “For God’s sake, is she not concerned that I might go inside the room while she’s in the buff? No wonder bad things end up happening. But no, it has to be me always jumping to conclusions. How did I even get this impression? Still, whether or not she has done it on purpose, the fact is she has left the door to her room open, knowing I am the only one in the house besides her. And, guess what? In such situations, the far-from-flawless irrigation system of blood in a man’s body does not always allow the specimen to behave in the most chivalrous way imaginable.”

But at the last moment, I was saved by the values instilled in me as part of my upbringing. However, Yousef, the buddy I call when I fancy a drink, crept into my mind and flung himself into battle with my conscience, his most effective weapon being the barbed wit he had flaunted that one time when Aziz’s wife tried to seduce him and almost ripped his pants off. His voice bellowed out his shrewdness in my head, which I swung back and forth in a botched attempt to break up the furious fight that was disturbing the peace of my heart.

The one thing that finally helped me solve my internal conflict was the beatific smile that flickered across her face when with a lovely voice she said, “Is there something bugging you? Before I forget, I should tell you now that I am epileptic and suffer a heart condition. I keep my pills in that bag over there, and this is the number for my doctor. I want you to have it in case of an emergency.”

As if by magic, her words slammed the lid closed on my fevered imagination and I went back to occupying the place I had been assigned. My head stopped spinning wildly and rid itself of all drivel by throwing it out the window. See, shadows often turn out to be misleading.


Written by Fady Ashraf Mokhtar.

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Choose your own adventure

I kept misreading the signals of this successful and thus necessarily wanton woman until

a) she filed a restraining order.

b) God sent me a sign to tell me to stop harassing her.