A group of modern Egyptian youths struggling for their existence
|1. Ghosts in the town of the living:
It was too hard to concentrate on the Math assignment. Maha was sitting in her room trying to solve the thousands of problems that stood afore her, challenging her to succeed in unraveling their mystery.
Maha sighed heavily and pushed away the papers scattered in front of her, rubbing her eyes, she thought about her next move. Obviously, she'd have to leave the assignment untouched up till tomorrow when her mind would be much clearer and less crowded with thoughts.
“Thoughts?!” she smirked as she headed towards the door and quickly hurried downstairs to grab something to eat. What was her head full of anyway? Almost everything and nothing at the same time, since she was eight she never stopped thinking, worrying about tomorrow, wondering about where her carefully chosen steps would lead her to.
She was always suspicious, never trusted anybody with anything in her life, not her mother, not her grandmother -who lived with them - not even those few friends she'd had for the past years, boyfriend? Well she never had a boyfriend and it surprised her how tolerant she was to live without a man in her life although she literally didn't have one, not a father, not even a distant brother who'd tease her or fight with her over silly things like her friend Sandy and her elder brother did. She was alone and she would always stay like that, she’d carry her lonely heart full of secrets, her ripe brain full of madness to her grave.
Opening the fridge, she took out the carton of milk and poured herself a glassful; drinking greedily, she thought about her life in Alexandria.
She really hated it in Cairo but she couldn't say she was hundred percent satisfied here either. Alexandria was a beautiful small city, the streets weren't as crowded as Cairo nor as muddy as Tanta - her mother's hometown - and the Sea certainly was a relief to look at, but despite all those attractions she felt very heavy hearted and bummed.
She had the widest imagination ever and she always thought about people, things and actions that never existed and could never take place in her ordinary life which -to her- was as narrow as a pinhole. Her life never changed and her weekly schedule was always the same except for a few silly events that took place every now and then.
She had always found the real life shallow and boring to death because she never overcame her obsession with change, that fire that burned inside of her and never lost its glow. Her wild strong imagination, her imaginary friends, foes and the only man she loved were all creations of her tormented inner consciousness.
She couldn't say that she was completely detached from real life, she had a few friends, some pathetic enemies and some silly boy crushes over her but those latter ones were ended before they began.
She could never get attached, she knew herself, silly little Maha who sometimes became bored of her reflection in the mirror and used to pray to reach her sixteenth birthday so that her mother would allow her to wear make up. She never wore make up out of intention to look prettier or become more likable to boys, her reasons were far more complicated and she hated to have the same insignificant look everyday.
"Maha, where are you?"
She turned around to see her mother holding her grandmother's hand, motioning the old lady towards the main door and when Maha did a quick check of the huge cuckoo clock on the wall, she realized it was time for her grandmother's daily afternoon walk by the beach.
The everlasting walk, something that was as stable as the pyramids, one of the many unchangeable things in this small life of hers, it was a shame that someone with a mind and creativity as hers would spend her whole life with her mother and grandmother, watching TV before going to bed, going to the beach and attending school, just like any normal teenage girl.
She walked obediently towards her mother and grandmother, held one of her grandmother's hands and walked through the open door. They were three ghosts walking in an extremely fresh, lively city full of lights, three ghosts walking unnoticed, trying to forget about the painful fact that their estrogen driven life lacked something big. Something much more than just walking by the beach every afternoon and buying ice cream when they were feeling down.
Maha and her mother were on good terms with each others but you could easily tell the difference between them. Maha was short, fair skinned, pale and slim with slight curves here and there. Her hair was very short, black as the night in Congo, smooth as silk. Maha’s mother, Mrs. Shereehan was a widow in her mid thirties with round face and kind eyes, she was extremely tall and a bit plump with a distinguished chic style that could never be neglected. Maha on the contrary never imagined herself out of her jeans and boyish looking shirts. She wore a lot of tight clothes that resembled men’s sportive tops, and her jeans never had a distinguishable design.
The difference between Maha and Shereehan surpassed the outer appearance, it was embedded deeper in their cores, and was apparent to a keen observer in the slightest action or response to a certain situation. Maha mused with herself that her mother and she were like two poles of the same magnet pointing in opposite directions, never intersecting but could also never be separated.
Maha always used an example to simply frustrate her mother, an example her mother considered as “truth hurts.” It was in the way Maha held her grandmother's hand with strength but no compassion, just like an eagle that fixed its claws on a branch on a crooked tree, he wouldn't break the tree to support him later on, yet he wouldn't give a damn if it was broken by a storm.
As for Maha's mother, it was obvious the tenderness she carried for her mother in the way her fingers melted in her mother's wrinkled palm and one of her hands surrounded her mother's waist, so that she wouldn't fall.
The three of them walked silently as ever and Maha suggested they sit on one of the stony, old looking benches and buy cotton candy.
"Don't bring anything if it's more than three pounds each!" her mother noted sharply as Maha stood up and took some steps towards the vendor.
Maha called out at her mother without looking back, "It won't be that much, Mama, probably two pounds a piece, not more than this." She added later and in a small dark voice, "Just mind your own friggin' business and let me handle this."
Maha stood in front of the sales man, took out her manly looking purse and started counting her money when she heard that voice behind her saying,
"Three pink ones, please."
She turned around and thought she just stared directly into the sun, behind her directly, was an extremely and probably ridiculously beautiful boy, standing with his hands in his pockets, his soft chocolate brown hair covering his forehead and probably the tip of his eyes and his soft natural red lips twitched firmly, showing traces of dimples on his smooth cheeks.
He was scarily tall, probably twice her height but he was too skinny she could almost see his ribs from underneath the tight white shirt he wore. Beside him was the hugest, blackest and probably scariest dog Maha had ever seen and though the dog barked once at her, she didn't back off and smiled saying in a daring, friendly tone,
"Hello, boy, how're you doing?"
The dog wagged its tail and its owner smiled at her saying in a polite yet reserved manner,
"His name is Nosferatu,"
Maha raised her eyebrows in admiration and said, "Well, the name suits him perfectly. But you must’ve watched Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s movie, I believe?!”
“I actually did.” The reply came with a smile that made Maha’s heart thud louder than it should.
“I like this name better. It has a diabolical tinge to it more than the Dracula name."
Maha watched the boy's eyes widen with interest which made him even look more beautiful and he said,
"You do know a lot of stuff, for a girl."
Her tone was hostile and sarcastic as she said, "And you look too soft and fragile for a boy."
The boy's face became blank and he lowered his eyes in shyness while Maha smiled in victory and turned to the vendor to ask for her cotton candy.
On her way home and as she finished through her last bite of cotton candy, Maha thought intently about the handsome boy.
She knew boys in Egypt were usually far from being gentlemen, if a girl answered roughly they might answer back in a harsher tone, they might make a sexual reference or get physical but that extraterrestrial being was very decent and acted like a gentleman despite the first impression that she formed about him.
"I never fail at human analysis." Maha murmured as she positioned herself on her rough, cozy bed.
She grabbed a scary story and started reading herself to bed. The story was quite interesting; a young girl who just discovered that her aunt was a witch and her grandfather along with her father burned the aunt alive in the cellar. Now the aunt was after the young girl, trying to convince her to continue her evil work and make use of her hidden powers.
The story was both suspenseful and scary and the depiction of the aunt Aliaa with her half burned, gruesome face and Bahr the rebel school student who hated her current life and strove for more, made Maha eat up half of the book in less than an hour.
Maha was haunted by the events and the images that formed in her head till she reached the climax, where Bahr discovered her best friend, Marwan was a demon followed by a big black Dashaund called Nosferatu!
Maha sat up in her bed and imagined Nosferatu, snarling and growling viciously at her while she, imitating Bahr, jumped off the highest cliff in Al Mukatam Mountain.
The thoughts and the hideous imaginations made her a little scared and disturbed, she turned off the lights and threw the book across the room, she wasn't scared of Nosferatu, in fact, she was scared of her wicked mind, its ability to create gold from copper, to turn dust into diamond and see death in the eyes of a healthy looking pretty boy with chocolate brown hair.