Aswan

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the far lost world of the nubian desert, everyone is a stranger.

Submitted: December 22, 2015

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Submitted: December 22, 2015

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By now, I’ve learned that it was considered rude to stare at people’s faces so I kept my eyes on the floor. The smooth earthen ground of the alley was a pale red that turned a flaming copper under the baking noon sun, somehow I liked it, it made me feel warm and loose, something I couldn’t say about the callous asphalt streets back home, I could almost feel the stiff frost around my limbs melting as I walked down the alley. I liked this city; empty, deprived and hostile as it was, I may even end up loving it, though I knew it would never love me back.

Aswan is only a harsher version of the cities I knew before, places that from the very first second, judge you, and then give you the permanent label of an unwelcomed stranger.

His words welcomed me in a dialect that I would never dare to understand, but his eyes, fiery dark Nubian eyes, said otherwise, he didn’t trust me like the rest of the Aswaneese, his tongue would slip sometimes and, in a brisk poise peak, ask me why I chose to come here. Yet no matter the arguments or the words that I carefully craft to justify my odd choice, he’d never believe me, and like a stubborn child too scared to go deeper and too willful to let go, he’d only give me a polite nod and spend the rest of the day in an angry silence.

His disbelief doesn’t strike me as a surprise, I, sometimes, don’t even believe it myself, and I’d wake up in the morning wondering why I’m here. I had a decent life back home, the best I could ever hope for probably, yet when the call came, I didn’t ask too many questions, all I remember was taking a long flight, followed by an even longer train trip, followed by a couple hours drive on a vehicle much closer to a cart than truck. The whole thing felt like a dream. And when I woke up I was in this far lost world.

My dusty window wouldn’t show me much of the city or the river for that matter, but if I leaned back enough I had a good view of the rounded roofs on the top of high hill.

Aswan was supposed to be a colorful city, houses were usually painted in bright colors, but under the potent sun, the old and faded blue, green and pink paints looked all like some sort of yellowish golden color, it gave the whole town a fairy-like tale aspect.

The Nubian city had that fantasist effect; it seemed to stand in a queer equilibrium between times and places, it had played with the centuries like a talented juggler and shaped its own timeline that was feebly connected to our world. Aswan was a link on a chain of broken places and times, a loose link in a broken chain, it was just a huge mess,  and I was in the middle of it.

“Pardon me”

“I asked you if you’re going to the dam today”

“Oh, No”

Andaei, was my shadow in Aswan, during my first month he even walked me home after work and waited for me the next morning. It took me forever to convince him that I was capable of doing the five-minute walk home on my own.

He tried his best to be gentle and helpful, but his traditional uprising was too dominant in him and his uneasiness was obvious around me. For him I was a poisoned gift, I got him out of the laborious work at the dam and gave him a fairly easy job in an air-conditioned office, but I compensated for that by making him constantly uncomfortable with my presence.

He would sometimes overcome his natural shyness and talk heartily about his city and people with the naïve confidence that only he could master. Yet whenever I questioned some of the Nubian traditions and customs in my typical cynical way-something that I did purposely most of the times-, he’d stare at me in his usual fuming silence and never respond. But even I, in my modern gullibility, couldn’t miss that his struggle was real, and I believe he hated me for that.

I didn’t have any problem with Andaei or the Nubian traditions, my problem was with traditions in general, I wasn’t exactly a conformist even back home, but things here were different, the people cherished their traditions and roots and took them a bit too seriously for my liking.

It was well past five; Andaei had left a while ago thinking that I’d be home by now. When I got out of the office and turned to the wide alley-still narrow by modern standards-, the sun wasn’t setting yet, so instead of going home, I took the “cart-truck” thing and went to the dam. The second-shift workers were already there and their judging, disapproving eyes followed me as I climbed the small hill on the east side of the dam. I took off my shoes and felt the sand run between my toes, a worker with a sunburned face muttered something and the rest of them burst into laughter, It didn’t bother me, I didn’t even care, they treated me like a stranger anyway, so I had the right to act like one.

I know I’ll miss Aswan and its people, even if they never accepted me in their city. I could see myself leaving it even more lost than when I first came, another step in the wrong direction, but one that I won’t regret. 


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