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Friday, January 06, 2006

I have a little story...

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

...and it goes like this:
The first time I saw him he was standing in line waiting for the medical checkup. While I managed to get there in my Speedos, he was only wearing cheap, worn-out cotton jockeys. Utterly disgusting, I thought. But didn't give it more thought. I was more occupied with pondering the 1 to 3 years I'd have to spend in this shit hole, my well-paying job I'll have to forgo, and how I’d manage to live with similar white-jockeys-wearing guys.
When the inevitable happened and I knew that I'll be spending my year there (while my world was tumbling down, and the earth shaking beneath my feet), I saw him for the second time. This time he was standing with a bunch of his friends and laughing. The bastard, I thought, he must have had his luck and escaped this shit. Involuntarily, I moved nearer, trying to hear what those army-evaders were talking about. All I heard was a guy telling him "your mom, son of a bitch, will throw a real celebration for you when you're back in your shitty village....at last, she'll be able to get you out of home for three years...” I didn't believe it. They're cool with that? I can't stand the thought of spending 400 days there (I was already counting the days), and they're laughing about it. Then I thought that's probably because they don't have any job out there, and they practically don't have a life. The army is actually a step up for them. Yeah, that's it. That's the reason they're happy. Yeah, it is...
Three weeks later I saw him in boot camp. He was sitting beside me in mess. I was disgustingly, playing with the strange looking food in my plate. I was thinking about the daily insults, the exhausting drills, and the long hours we had to stand under the burning sun in attention. It was too much for me, I pushed away the food. "Gonna eat that ya dofaa?" he asked, calling me this hideous term that I hated. "No" I replied. He immediately pulled my plate, and gestured me a thank you. Typical, I thought.
Shortly after I was transferred to my base unit, I saw him coming through the gate, holding his mekhla (sort of the military handbag). Obviously he recognized me, because he came in my direction, with a wide smile across his face, and as soon as he was near, dropped the mekhla, and hugged me. I was puzzled. "I can't remember your name, but I remember you" he said. "You never knew it" I said in a typical deadpan fashion. He was hurt. I thought I should make it better. "My name is Wael" I said as I forced a smile. "Ahmed Hassan" he said enthusiastically. "You're a university graduate, right?" he said as I walked him to the barracks. "Yes, I am" “I guess you're having it easy" he said "you're out of here in no time" "10 months!" I protested "that’s a lot of time". "10 months! I have 37 left" he said in a hurt voice. This time I didn't sympathize. You're not missing anything out there, I thought.
A couple of months later, I was standing on guard, when it happened that his shift was the same time as mine. On that night I wasn't able to smuggle in my little mp3 player, so I was pretty much bored to death. He moved closer, and started whining about the army. This would be a long night, I thought. A couple of hours later, he asked me: "so what are you a graduate of?” I told him. "And how much do you pay as fees there?" he asked. Unlike my fellow classmates who went to the army, I had no problem answering this question. I didn't like to lie, and I never thought it was something to be ashamed of. So, I told him. "60000 pounds a year for college!" he exclaimed. I nodded. "And I ended up in the army, nevertheless" I said trying to smooth-out the situation. He didn't consider my last remark, and went on "I'll never have 60000 pounds in my whole life”.”Surely you will" I said trying to lift his spirit. "What 60000 pounds ya am Wael?" he said in a broken voice "we're really poor people..." And then he went on telling me about his family, their little home in a village near Mansoura, his dream to work as a menady for a microbus driver "I can get 500 pounds a month doing this" he said in an excited voice. This time I was really interested. In some level I felt a connection with him. He had a life that he had to forgo to get into the army. But more importantly he had a future to dream of. He had aspirations and he had hopes. This I could relate to, I thought.
Since this night on the gate, I really started to like the guy. Despite having a hard life, and a harder time in the army, he was very funny nevertheless. He would joke about officers who call him names while he is driving them around. He would joke about how he didn't see his mom for 2 months while we, stationed in Cairo, were able to go home every couple of days. He used humor to battle his misery. And he was winning.
The day I was leaving the army for good was the last time I met him. In his typical, smiling manner he told me that he will be transferred to Rafah to serve in the border guard. An officer was being transferred there, and wanted to take him there with him. I promised him to keep in touch. I never did.
I did hear about him though. Three months later, his name was published in Al-Ahram under the headline "The name of the Egyptian Army martyrs in the Rafah border clashes", and next to an article be some guy trying to play the incident down because of "political considerations"

This story isn't fictional. Although I don't think I knew the guys who were killed on the border, I will never be sure, though. But even if I didn't, somebody else did. Because they all have families, hopes, and aspirations just like Ahmed did, and nothing, absolutely nothing can justify their murder. I can't stop thinking that it could have been me, a relative, or a friend who received those deadly bullets. I wouldn't care whether it was a Palestinian, an Israeli, or a godamn mormon who pulled the trigger. The tragedy had happened, and nothing could bring back those very real people who were killed.
What's tearing me apart, though, are people who, sitting in the comfort of their homes, demand to cut the killers some slack, because they're being killed and harassed themselves. How about: no we won't cut them any slack! If they grieve for their dead and pray day and night for vengeance, it is only respectable to our dead that we do the same.

Moved on!


A story that can be true for any of us,
Told in a very touching way,
Enjoyed it, although it reminded me of one of the many new year grieves

By Blogger Socrates, at January 07, 2006 4:03 AM  

In the long term, the names of the soldiers will wither away.

Only the names of the Sultans shall be remembered.

Tomanbay intersecting with Selim I!

By Anonymous Alif, at January 07, 2006 5:55 PM  

do you really think?
I mean their names wither away from "official" memories, but all the Troys, Zeba2as, Tomans, Ibrahim pachas of the world prove otherwise.

By Blogger Tomanbay, at January 07, 2006 6:32 PM  

Hi Tomanbay,

I liked your story, it's touching like socrates it. We're above vengeance, just an acknowledgment of our humanity and self respect as a people would be an achievement for now. I posted about this as well:


By Blogger Seneferu, at January 08, 2006 5:19 AM  

well, u have a very good point. Maybe it didn't came across as i wanted, but I really think that we should be above venegance....the problem is that sometimes u become so frustrated with the apathy some ppl have towards lifes which are so real that i lived close to at some point of time. As you perfectly put it: "an acknowledgment of our humanity and self respect as a people would be an achievement for now"...but i can't stress enough the "for now" part!
take care

By Blogger Tomanbay, at January 08, 2006 3:07 PM  

ah...a very stupid error: in an earlier comment I said that all the "Troys, Zeba2as, Tomans...." How stupid is that? There is nobody called Troy, it is a city! I meant Achilles
Sorry for all history buffs!

By Blogger Tomanbay, at January 09, 2006 4:03 PM  

Are you AUCian?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 09, 2006 9:53 PM  

Very moving story, thanks for sharing.. It reminds me of someone I knew who used to be fun-loving, very lively, spontaneous and always smiling. One day a friend of mine called me and told me (while crying) that that person had died in a car accident, at the age of 19. That made me extremely aware that death really leaves nobody out and that it can happen to anyone..

By Blogger The Sphinx, at January 09, 2006 10:00 PM  

anon: yup...was!

By Blogger Tomanbay, at January 10, 2006 3:12 AM  

Beautiful my man. You really managed to unabashedly capture the reality of what is sadly an ugly class system we all, sometimes unwittingly, participate in. Good job.

By Anonymous karim elsahy, at February 28, 2006 3:45 PM  

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