Look, I’m not exactly sure when it was, but with some distance between us I can safely narrow it down to two specific times that where I remember feeling like I was being shaken from any stability I managed to regain over the summer.
They were both over beers, as our times seem to frequently be, and the first, though not so definitive as the latter, was so shocking and off-putting that I wasn’t sure what happened. But we were seated at the Greek Club, against the wall, and everything seemed normal until it wasn’t.
You were explaining to me a short film you had made, and I was listening in rapt attention because just like I do, you have this way of wrapping a story around a memory. And just like it was that night, when we’re very lucky, that story is punctuated by a couple of words so simple and poignant that they stick around to ache in your body.
I want to see you when I wake up in the morning, you said, I want you to see me. And it wasn’t me, that was understood: the you here is this general you: the one that’s so rare in countries like your own where unmarried women are relegated to waking up alone. Seeing no one.
But I so naively assumed that I was shaken by your story rather than your words, so I was unprepared when the other time came.
Remember that time you texted me, you were like hey, I’m going for a quick beer at Cap D’or, do you want to join? And I answered in the affirmative, with an exclamation point, even, if I remember correctly. And everything was perfectly normal save, memory serving, I was stuck on some thing I was writing and spent at least half a beer complaining about it.
It’s weird because I’ve waited my whole ass life for my job to be to write stories, yet still I find myself still writing all the important ones, like this, for free. Because in some ways now is no different from being in my 20s when I would write all these things down and expect them to perform some kind of a spell, like if I could just get a couple hundred words out of my body then all of the ideas behind them would fail to have power over me anymore.
But I could write down a hundred times about that time we left the bar and were headed in different directions. I could type out thousands of words about that time you said it was so nice to see you as we parted on the street. But none of them would matter because none of them are taking away that time immediately afterwards when I clutched my chest and thought this is it, it’s happening as I walked home alone.
I’m so fragile lately, aren’t we all? I don’t know who’s thriving in 2020 but I’m sure I’m not one of them, and I’ve been taking the easiest possible route through the tail end of this year lest I threaten the shaky progress I’ve made inside my head since I left Johannesburg. But now that I’m back in Istanbul, and all those times in Egypt don’t feel so close anymore it’s hard to know how real they all were, like the way I used to melt into you when you touched me feels as ephemeral and unreal as all the things I tried to say.
But if you’ll excuse me, my bestie here has just returned from the suburbs. We spent some times together over the summer that now all look like postcards in my minds eye, and now we’re going to spend some hours reliving those times like we can snatch them back, like it’s not cold outside, like it’s before Jordan and before Egypt. Like we can have summer right now, and like neither of us has to feel fragile anymore.