Waiting for the game*


It’s morning already; damn! Out of bed, into the toilet, washing up, brushing off, dressing up, freshening up, and a final look at the mirror: good to go.

The car is an inferno from the sun, I’m melting into sweat and my loose hair is killing me. My hand on the radio switch in a desperate attempt of distraction; all is talking about the game. I snooze off into oblivion and soon park nearby to grab some breakfast. Everyone inside the bakery is talking about the game. Waiting for the game.

I reach the office, where everything is quite festive. Feigning invisibility, I utterly fail. Some quick but sadly interrupted nibbles on my precious pastrami croissants leave me hungry for more. Still, they’re waiting for the game.

“They can’t play it.”

“They will.”

“Wanna bet on it?”

“All the money I own.”

Out on an assignment, I take the metro. The ladies’ cart is thankfully not crammed, but some immasculated guy is occupying a seat that should be ours, burning holes in every woman who moves inside or outside the cart.

If only I were a man! I think to myself, knowing that if I were a man, would’ve given him the excuse to beat me without flinching.

Off the metro and onto Tahrir Square, the first sight that meets my eyes as I take those tedious steps delivering me from the underground is that of these fluttering flags, that of Al-Ahly club among them. The game is back on my mind.

I finally reach the group of protesting tour guides, forming a circle at one corner of the National Egyptian museum. The deeper I draw into the cirle the smaller I feel. There’s press everywhere. I check out the tacky sandals of one TV reporter, think to myself how glamorous appearing on TV makes people look. I ask another female TV reporter about some piece of information, clueless as her answer implies, I slowly reach the realization that they’re all but pretty dolls.

It is only too soon that I understand that the same stereotype’s being applied on me. The tiny girl with the big shades and blank notebook. If I wear my hair curly, then I’m the cool, rebellious brat who’s gonna twist around their words according to my narrow perspective. Straighten it up and I miraculously switch to that delicate, fragile girl, who’s not even worth their trouble.

It starts to sink in when one protester makes a spectacle out of me by calling me to talk to his friend, whom he introduces as the head of the tour guides’ syndicate. The guy could be a spectator at the most, yet I naively fall for the trap.

A while afterwards, I move forward toward the Arab League; my inner comfort zone. Some distant memory of dressing up, wearing some mini skirt and stunning high-heels to attend one precious ceremony in one of the league’s biggest halls a year ago quickly replays in front of my eyes.

The glamour has been dusted off the league, all but the dull ugliness is what remains, with a big, empty tent nursing a giant Syrian flag not too far away from the entrance.

Syrian refugees, yummy. I think to myself with every stride I make toward the tent. Little do I know that all the tent shelters is a bunch of Syrian con-artists, to say the least; switching between the Egyptian and Syrian dialects according to what the moment dictates, whispering to each other as they try to suppress their laughter every time I ask a question, claiming to be helping the Free Syrian Army with funds and weapons without once cringing, dictating their side of the story without even allowing me to verify it.

“I’m here to report on the hunger strike.” I thus introduce myself.

“We’re not striking. You can look for those striking next to the League’s building, that is if you find them. They only strike until four pm, you know!” Some insolent laughter.

The friendliest of them, the one who refuses to have me hear any stories but his, leads me out of the tent and tries to invite me over for a cup of coffee at some café nearby.

“No, thank you. I’m in a hurry.” I say, internally freaking out, entirely sure that he knows so and thus shall make the worst use of this realization.

I finish off, still not giving up on finding the actual strikers. At some quiet tree shade next to the parked police cars, I find them. Three young men and a middle-aged woman; all looking non-Egyptian. They have mats spread out on the ground, pillows everywhere. The place feels too warm that I find myself on my knees, immediately interacting with them with utmost ease.

At the bottom of my heart I’m utterly grateful that the Syrian revolution has some representable ambassadors remaining; that we aren’t entirely doomed.

“What about the Syrian tent?” I enquire at the end of my interview.

They seem reluctant to speak up at first. “Nevermind them. So many people are abusing the revolution for their own personal gain.”

Just as I am about to investigate further into the matter, two men from the Syrian tent suddenly invade our conversation, with the most cunning/victorious smile on their faces. They immediately take a seat right next to us and I think to myself They must have been spying on me. Paranoid much, I know. But I nevertheless break away before any more problems arise.

Back on the metro, there are security personnel everywhere.

If only that bastard of a man shows up again at the ladies’ cart, I swear to God I’m gonna call them over! I vow to myself. It’s their job to protect the passengers’ safety, and women just don’t feel safe with male passengers invading and colonizing their carts.

Up on the cart, nothing seems out of the ordinary, except when the metro starts moving and a normal passenger phenomenally transforms into a vendor and starts roaming the cart, chanting for her pins. Just as the metro nears the next station, she converts back to the normal passenger and is immediately replaced by another, this time male, vendor.

“No fears; there are no security in this station and neither in the next.” He tells a fellow vendor, muttering to himself: “Goddamn them those who make us feel like we’re stealing and not earning by the sweat of our own brow.”

I loathe him to the extent of imagining scenes with me beating him up; mercilessly. Yet, doing his business, he carelessly takes a tour around the cart, distributing the table mats he’s selling on the passengers by throwing them on their laps, then coming over for another tour to collect them. Nobody buys anything; as usual.

Back to the office, on foot. I’m definitely dehydrating with heat. Frappe is all that’s on my mind. As I pass by Cilantro to grab a cup, another game conversation gets the better of me. Damn that game!

Upstairs in the office, I eagerly try to enjoy my frappe through broken sips, as talks about the game keep breaking into my privacy.

“How will they play the game if the Ultras, their main audience, are not attending?”

“They don’t care about the stadium audience; it no longer provides them with money. All they care about are those commercials they keep cashing when the game is aired on TV.”

“But it’s gonna be cancelled. Morsi’s just gonna announce it right before the game in order to seem all heroic and amazing.”

I write my stories silently, leave as soon as I can.

Dying with hunger, I jump into Pizza Hut, order myself a pizza. As I wait for it to be baked, my eyes absent-mindedly settle on the big plasma screen hanging up on one flat wall. Jennifer Lopez is all over the screen, break-dancing like the pro she is. Yet, no sound is audible.

Soon, the channel is switched to show the arrival of the Al-Ahly and Ennpi players in Alexandria where the game is supposed to be played, supposedly at seven.

“Seven or eight?”

“I think they’ve postponed it until eight, just to buy some more time.”

“Can I ask a question?”

“Shoot.”

“If both the league and the cup have been cancelled last year, then who’s playing whom in the super?”

“Last year’s winners.”

“What the hell? But hasn’t this very game been played last year already?”

“All the more money.”

I’m saved by the waiter who delivers me my pizza.

Back at home, I eat my dinner in silence as my mum keeps updating me with the latest news from twitter.

“The game has been cancelled.”

“Yay.”

“It hasn’t been cancelled.”

“Which is it?” I ask, crossed.

“It’s hasn’t.”

“Crap.”

“It’s been postponed until nine.”

Feeling I can no longer take those conflicting reports, I take over twitter and start updating myself instead. Drained from the long day, I soon fall apart … drowning into heavy sleep.

We want security to return to touristic sites.

Which newspaper do you work for? You know nothing, do you?

… Free Syrian Army …

The children are dying!

No-fly zone.

Table mats.

The game.

Pizza.

The game.

The game.

The game.

I start up in bed, his voice being the last I’ve heard before being roused from slumber.

It’s nine pm already.

“Has the game started?”

*The game: a soccer game scheduled between Al-Ahly club and Ennpi club to win the super cup. It was the first game to be scheduled with an audience since the February 2012 Port Said massacre which left over 70 ultras supporters dead after the stadium was attacked. Ultras Al-Ahly were trying so hard to cancel the game, refusing that any soccer games with audience are played until justice is served regarding those responsible for the Port Said massacre

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