She was muffled up in the warmest coat she owned—a leather one with a fur collar. Yet, the low temperatures and humidity didn’t encourage lots of dawdling outside. Hence, the lively pace with which she forged through the mud and the puddle-riddled road.
She reached the place where she had arranged to get picked up, tore out a few empty pages from the notebook she was carrying—which she immediately tucked under her coat to keep dry, for it had started to drizzle again—laid them out on the marble stone seat where she was expected to wait for her lift and sat down on them with crossed legs. She didn’t want her butt to get wet.
Time passed, the rain got heavier and the increasing delay of her pre-arranged transportation lead her to fear that she would have to hoof the rest of the way. At some point, she decided that she had waited all she could afford to, and thus, stood up and left.
The shops were closed and the streets were empty. She seemed to be the only fool who wasn’t curled up by a warm hearth, aside from the police officers who patrolled the streets in their armored vehicles.
Although she had tried to remain as whole and presentable as possible by sticking to the path running under building ledges and roof edges along the way, by the time she reached her destination, her coat was soaking wet and her shoes were covered in mud. Everything seemed to indicate that this day would prove to be an extremely long one. For the next three hours, she would have to remain seated on a hard chair and in a dead-silent room with stuffy atmosphere, and concentrate on passing her midterms. At least, she had managed to arrive on time.
As soon as the exams were over, the students hurried outside. The rain had ceased and the sky had cleared. Suddenly, she started to hear voices shouting in unison. The clamor rose gradually; it came from the South. She turned her eyes to the Orabi Bridge and saw an approaching sea of people. The appalling racket they were making drew people out on to their balconies, as they were curious to see what was going on. The mass of protesters was so huge and stretched over such a large distance that three different people standing at three different points had to hold loud speakers so that the whole assembled crowd could keep up the chants.
Her city had never before witnessed protests of such scale and ferocity, at least as far as she was concerned. That could only be read as a bad omen. Suddenly, a woman dressed in tatters next to her started screaming, “Bring them down! Bring all those who have destroyed our lives down! To hell with them all!”
A few youngsters had climbed atop the statue of a white horse standing close to her in order to take down a government sign. Everyone rejoiced and praised them when they succeeded. Well, everyone except for the uniforms that had just showed up at the site. Suddenly, black smoke began to fill the air. Next, shots were heard. Blood-curdling screams of terror bounced off the university walls. Some protesters fainted and the crowd began to run in all directions.
Her mother’s admonition to avoid demonstrations at all costs echoed in her head. Even though it killed her to admit it, her mother might have been right all along. In the wake of that realization, she suppressed the guilt she felt for letting other individuals risk their lives to fight for what might improve her own living conditions and decided to scram.
However, a few meters down the road, she saw the crowd reassemble. She very much wanted to move away from them, but, for some reason, all she could do was stare at them, transfixed by their inspiring resolve. Before she had time to confer with her inner guide and reconsider, she found herself walking silently among the angrily shouting protesters, almost as if she were being dragged by them.
A few minutes later, someone encouraged her to add her voice to theirs. She thought it wise to at least pretend, and thus, opened her mouth and let out a barely audible cry lacking conviction. However, after a while, she started to feel more and more like a part of something bigger, and, before she knew it, she was screaming at the top of her lungs, “The people want …”
Written by Doaa Gamal.