We are away for the weekend, the boyfriend and I. We are at a camp in Sinai, in the blistering heat, because i have missed Sinai to no end, and do not want to go to Sahel again, because i have spent the past two months dealing with my mothers devastating illness and simply because i nagged and nagged and nagged till he agreed to drive south in August and take me to a place where there is nothing but mountains, bamboo and silence.
The boyfriend is sitting in the common area, reading. I am standing in the joint kitchen, cutting up vegetables and cooking. The boyfriend comes over to the stove and washes up whatever i have dirtied while cooking and goes back to his book. I serve the food, we eat and talk in soft voices, he gets up to get me a drink, washes the aftermath of dinner, comes back to his book, kisses my hand and continues reading. Periodically he will look up from his book and ask me something, or tell me something, i will either laugh or smile, and eventually my eyes start to get heavy and i put my head on his shoulder hinting that it is time to call it a night. All the while a girl aged twenty something sitting at the end of the table watches us in shy silence.
The next morning i wake up craving coffee, the boyfriend tells me to follow him to the common area and he will make me coffee while i change out of my pj's into people friendly clothes. I follow him and find my cup of coffee on the table covered by a little plate as protection from the flies and placed in front of him. He is reading "awlad 7aretna", a book i read ages ago and remember nothing from, he tells me the latest of what he's read while i sip my coffee, and then i slip into my book and we both read on in silence. Periodically he will put a hand on my back, or bring my hand to his lips, all the while reading. I am so used to this i barely look up from my book. I see that same girl looking our way, wistful, sad.
She looks at me with the far away eyes of a girl who is watching an unattainable miracle.
I want to walk over to that girl, i have so much to say to that girl, i want to tell her about the amount of times i got the look she is giving me now over the years.
The first time i got that look was in December 2004, my ex, THE EX, was visiting me in France, i had just moved there, we were at Cannes train station, it was days before Christmas and we were booking train tickets across Europe. We were at the counter, he had an arm around my waist and the other draped around my shoulder, he held me so closely like he could not bear the thought of wind blowing between us, he nuzzled my neck with his nose as we giggled over the destinations we would hit for Christmas not giving a damn about the outrageous cost of it. Then a girl standing alone across the counter looked at us, in her eyes i saw the reflection of two young people in love, two people swooning over each other without a care in the world.
I remember looking her in the eye thinking; if only you knew. What she was witnessing were the last ten days i ever spent with my ex, ever talked to my ex, and we both knew it at the time.
I got used to getting those looks all the time when i was with T. Every time he took me out to dinner at a fancy restaurant and leaned over and held both my hands over the table. Every time we were at a bar and one of our songs came on and he grabbed and swung me all around the place. At the end of every night with friends when the night slowed down and it was a bit cold and he snuggled up to me for warmth as we talked away on our hosts couch. Every time he introduced me to one of his friends as his Egyptian Princess. I got the look all the time.
The look is a mixture of many things, hope that love does actually exist, jealousy that some people have it all, envy that they are alone while i am not, desperation in wondering what i am doing right that they are doing wrong, admiration that i have it so together and look so confident, aspiration to the picture perfect life, as part of a picture perfect couple.
Little did they know that almost every time i got that look, my heart was on a free fall towards the ground on its way to being shattered into a million little pieces, and then stomped on.
I so wanted to go talk to that girl, i wanted to tell her that looks are deceitful, i wanted to tell her that i can look that way when i know i am with a man who will soon leave me, i wanted to tell her that she should not waste her energy being deluded by what she sees.
I wanted to tell her that this time it was real. I wanted to tell her that what she saw really was as good as it looked, and the most thing i wanted to tell her was that it didn't matter.
Having this didn't add or subtract a thing to who she was, that it was out there for every single person, the second they stop thinking that it is all that matters.
I smiled at her, she smiled back, i think that made me more human to her. I didn't say anything of course, it wasn't my place, and i sunk back into my gratitude, and hoped that through that smile she knew i understood, and was far from gloating.