Sami was lolling in the garden of the Nile’s island that lays in front of the Egyptian Opera House. He was surrounded by tall buildings and big boats that threw a blue glow on the calm waters of the river, lighting it up at night. In the background, he could hear the deafening music that was always blaring out of the speakers installed inside the boats, which took not only tourists but also locals for a brief trip along the Nile; they gave all those racked with pain a short break from their everyday lives. For almost half an hour, they could lose the crosses they had to bear onshore. Sami, however, was not paying heed to the music of the boats. He had his headphones on and was listening to music he had downloaded from the Internet, which acted as a magical world of sorts. It stood in stark contrast to the real world where one was forced to comply with the allotted default setting when listening to music, when entering the labor market, when writing to be read, and when learning. Virtual reality allowed one to choose. One could bop around until one found a place worth spending one’s time in, a place where one could listen to the beats one had a taste for. Sami always chose the quieter spots down by the Nile to chill in peace, listening to his music and drinking his tea. After a while, he would return to his normal life.
One day, while on one of his fleeting retreats, his dreams came true. At first, he simply heard her laughter coming from right behind him, but when he turned around he saw Rakiya, the only girl he had ever fallen in love with. He hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her since the last time he had seen her. During all the time he had spent away from her, all he had yearned for was a glimpse of her. He watched her as she finished laughing. Then she noticed him. Their eyes met. Time stopped at that very moment and the beauty of their shared recognition sent them years back to when they still aspired to catch the will-o’-the-wisp of happiness. He stood up, dropped his headphones, stirred himself out of his lethargy, and moved toward her. She, in turn, rose from where she had been sitting with her friends and advanced toward him. His ardent gaze locked with hers. He sensed how they both feared that if they were to come into contact they might spontaneously combust. Her friends immediately noticed that they wanted to be left alone with their love, and so they stood up and silently scooted away.
Sami took her hand, offering her the seat next to his, and said, “I hear you, Rakiya. I hear you wherever I go.”
Tears not only of sorrow and pain for all she had missed him but also of joy for finally being back by his side brimmed over her eyes. Then she said, “Oh, Sami, how I wish now I had listened to you and shaken off my pragmatism years ago. I was angry at my parents, at my siblings, and even at myself. I was probably the most cantankerous person on earth.”
Sami used his fingers to wipe away the tears that were rolling down her cheeks. Then he gently brushed his lips against the back of her hand. She felt his kiss percolate through her smooth and delicate skin, mingle with the blood in her veins, swim up her bloodstream, and dock at her lips.
Sami looked into her eyes and said, “Praise God we have found our way back to each other. I had almost lost all hope of ever seeing you again, Rakiya. Missing you all these years hurt so much. I had to take sanctuary from the pall of despondency by shrouding my thoughts and plaguing my soul in this place that has now reunited us. It was only here that I could find some peace of mind: the place where we used to hang out together, where we had the most fun with each other, and where I have spent countless hours remembering you. But now—”
“Now destiny has brought us back together again, my love,” she said, finishing his sentence. “We are stronger than before. Nothing will come between us ever again. We will make up for lost time and all our dreams will come true.”
Those last words echoed in Sami’s ears. Suddenly, his phone rang and he woke up. He then realized that he had been dreaming all along. The whole episode had just been a product of his imagination. The vicissitudes of his fortune had galvanized his inner being into transferring him to an alternate universe.
Written by Abdullatif Mohammed.