Back when I was still in Istanbul, way back when I was on my way to Egypt, I met an Egyptian, an Alexandrian if I remember correctly, that warned me against Cairo. “If you stay more than one day, you will be lost,” he told me. But the thing is, when you’re never going anywhere, you’re never really lost. Are you?
I love big cities, I always have. And I was as sure that I would love Cairo before I had ever been as I am now having fallen so hard for it. To me, Cairo is a perfect city.
It’s exactly the right amount filthy; there’s just enough grime and garbage that I trust it and respect it, and the train reminds me much more of the MTA than the spotlessly clean Metro in Istanbul.
Skopje is objectively small; it’s the small capital of what is maybe the most overlooked nation in the region, but fuck me. It’s really gorgeous here.
And while I thought before I came that I couldn’t last more than a week in Macedonia, I’ve been here almost three so far, and I have more than half a mind to go check out a few more cities before I head to Albania.
I don’t know what’s happened to me here but I’m having the exact same feeling I had upon arriving in Istanbul and Cairo, where I feel like I’ve woken up just a little bit more, as if the flight or the change of scenery or whatever has just jarred me even further from the trauma I endured during all of those months in South Africa.
And it’s so crazy because every time this happens I think to myself how I had already thought I had basically fully recovered, and yet I still find myself capable of reaching this new plateau. It’s almost as if that’s how depression works: that thing where it convinces you so thoroughly that it’s not hanging around anymore so that you believe all the nonsense your head is screaming at you.
But then you wake up a little more, and that person you just were that you thought was fine seems insane compared to the person you are now.
And with this brand new and ever-evolving clarity maybe you indulged in your favorite vice, one that didn’t exactly go as planned when you came out of a pandemic-induced retirement just a few weeks before. And maybe, though you so value all of this clarity, let some basketball player put his hands all over you because they made you forget what we are all living through.
And maybe you just kept inviting yourself over because even though half of the conversation is in Macedonian, it feels just like any of your friends’ couches you might find yourself perched on anywhere, just shooting the shit and smoking way too many cigarettes.
And maybe despite how pretty and kind he is, you’re now desperate to leave because you’ve finally put the pieces together and know that everywhere new you go, the fog that’s taken up residence in your mind for the better part of a year seems to clear a little more.