I woke up late and sweaty. The beast I had spent the whole night running from in my dreams had eventually caught up with me. I rubbed my joints and wetted my lips with my tongue. “Today is no ordinary day” I said to myself. I was meeting Louisa in the afternoon. She had promised herself to me. I was to unwrap and savor a woman for the very first time. My body was quivering with anticipation! I had welcomed her suggestion to meet at Le Bungalow with unbridled enthusiasm. I had hit twenty, an age at which men must put their manhood to the test. I couldn’t afford to stay behind in the race to become someone, especially in such an effervescent city like Fouka, and I didn’t want to wind up falling into the category of those Colin Wilson branded as mediocre.
I descended the rusting stairs of the derelict building while staring out over the city stretching before me. The big clock at the square said it was already two o’clock in the afternoon. It was September and at that hour the streets were usually pretty empty. The children were still at school and most men were picking grapes close to Douaouda.
I walked past the city’s old brothel, which boasts colonial architecture, but is falling to pieces and filled with squatters, who the authorities have tried in vain to evict multiple times with the aim of rehabilitating the historic building. My friends are genuinely fond of the services the establishment provides and have strongly encouraged me to make use of them on more than one occasion, but I have not yet been swayed over to believing that I can have a heavenly experience with the heavily bedaubed and thus pretty trashy-looking houris that can be found inside.
By the time I entered the Panorama district, which is also slowly rotting away, I was already bubbling with excitement. The strong winds blowing from the sea in the north have blackened the buildings’ balconies, from which there is always some old woman leaning out to survey the street, unable to rein in her curiosity about what trouble might be brewing in the neighborhood.
The air smelled of fried and spiced eggplant. The pavement was sprinkled with wet bread crumbs. I stepped up the pace.
At the corner of Lorenzo’s Italian restaurant, which lies opposite to the mall The Small Pearl and had become extremely popular remarkably fast, I had to turn left, but first, I decided to enter and order a dish of pasta bucatini. A little while later, Lorenzo himself came out to greet me. I asked him jokingly in French if conquering the hearts of the locals with his food was the first step in his plan for gaining control of the whole country. He smiled and said that I could rest assured that people would still remember him long after his death, the same way Ibn Hawqal is still remembered by the Italians to this day for what he did and wrote when in Sicily. I laughed, stuck a spoonful of macaroni with sardine in my mouth and burped to express my appreciation for the meal. As far as I was concerned, Lorenzo could take over the world any time.
I heard the afternoon call to worship of the Nasara Mosque, which was originally built as a small church by the Europeans who invaded our country, and decided it was time to leave the restaurant. I didn’t want to be late for my date with Louisa.
Not long thereafter, I arrived at Le Bungalow, a small housing complex of one-story apartments which are rented to tourists in the summer and look pretty abandoned throughout the rest of the year. I could barely wait to see Louisa at that point. We had met at university. She had big breasts with pointy nipples the size of the beads in my gramma’s misbaha. She also had the most kissable lips I had ever seen. Just thinking about her made my dick go hard. I tried to rub it while remaining discreet to relieve the itch and kept walking.
I finally arrived at the place we had arranged to meet, in Al-Hawaneet Street, which runs parallel to the sea. I bought a soda and started to nervously pace up and down the promenade. The fishermen were advertising their catch of the day. “Red mullets! Squid! Shrimp!” I sat down on a bench as the sun began dipping below the horizon. My eyes drifted over to the sea and I watched the waves break on the rocks and dissolve into foam. Suddenly, I began to worry. Where was she? I tried to reach her, but she didn’t answer her phone. I put on my earbuds and played Didi, by Cheb Khaled, on my fairly smart device.
I spent what seemed like an eternity waiting for her. The longer I waited, though, the emptier I felt inside. The sky had turned fiery red when I finally stood up to go. It was the color of the blood she would have shed if she had honored her word. All I could do was take comfort in a beautiful though not very promising sunset.
The Author, Walid Taibi: