Category Archives: Love

A Dance With A Boy (Preface)

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If two weeks ago, someone told me that that boy, with short yellow hair, who started showing up at salsa nights at Bian Caffe approximately five months ago–yes, that same boy who always seems to be wearing a different variation of a red shirt every time I happen to run into him at any salsa social, and who always, always manages to sit in the same corner, the same corner that just happens to be exactly opposite my corner–and I will be dating, I swear I’ll be like, are you fucking kidding me? Because ha ha ha, that is so unfunnily offensive in so many levels:

1. I don’t know his name, and I don’t think he knows mine because–
2. We never ever danced, not once, and that leads us to–
3. He never ever asked me to dance. Not even once. And besides–
4. Even if we pretend that I know his name and he knows mine, and say that we’ve danced not just once, the idea of dating him or him dating me will be the last thing on my mind considering that–
5. I’ve just had a beautiful breakup with my beautiful Sicilian boyfriend who I’ve had a beautifully crafted four-month relationship with from the night I met him at a beautiful salsa party in Sydney.

So, seriously, ha ha ha. That’s the lamest attempt at a joke ever and the punch line is not even funny!

Until it is.

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A Dance With A Boy (Chapter 1)

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Pamela

Baila Mi Hermano is one of those old-school salsa songs that I will always, always hear at any salsa party in Cairo. I could be dancing salsa at Bellini on a Tuesday night and that song will play. I could be sitting at Nile Maxim on Wednesday and that song will play. I could be standing next to the DJ booth at Bian Caffe on Thursday and I can put my money on it, that song will play.

I don’t especially hate that song, but I don’t especially like it either. I don’t have any idea what baila mi hermano means in English, and I certainly don’t have the time to google translate that now because, speaking of the devil, that song starts playing on cue and it is absolutely no good for drowning out creepy guy number four who starts sprinting towards my direction in an attempt to ask me to dance. So, I quickly maneuver to my table and dig my face to a slice of pizza.

“I’m eating. Maybe later.” I say between mouthfuls that my voice sounds chewy, wet, and stuffed all at the same time. The disgusted look on creepy guy number four’s face is priceless! He gives me an uncomfortable nod then turns around. I think he gets it now: later means never.

I have been dancing salsa long enough to know that there are only two types of guys at any salsa venue–there are the guys who I say yes to because they are there to dance, and then there are the guys who I say no to because they are there for something else. At the moment, there are seven guys who belong to my guys-who-I-say-no-to list and about 100 different ways on my how-to-say-no-to-guys-who-I-say-no-to list.

No, I’m having a break.
No. Maybe next dance.
No, I’m smoking a cigarette.
No. I’m too tired.
No, I told Alaa that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I told Mokbel that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I told [Whattheheck?! Insert any guy friend’s name here] that I will dance with him on this song.
No, I don’t like this song.
No, my dancing shoe broke!
No, I’m eating. (Even though there is absolutely no more slice of pizza left on my plate.)

No. No. No.

But saying no is not the only thing that I know and absolutely not the only thing that I do. I also know the seemingly new faces that pops at a salsa event every once in a while. I know because I am watching closely. I am watching closely not because I am creepy, but because I have been dancing and observing the same people at least two nights a week for the last three years that I can tell who is who just by looking at their shoes. So, if there is a new shoe on the dance floor and that new shoe is killing it, I’m hoping those shoes are from a guy who I can potentially say yes to. But how can I say yes to them if they never ask me to? And if they never grow the balls to ask me to dance, then the answer is always a ballsy no.

However, there are occasions when I do the asking because chivalry is apparently dead and forgotten. Nine out of ten times, I would get an easy yes. No sweat, except when–

“No, Pam, I can’t. I promised Radwa I will dance with her on the next song and this is the next song. Sorry, habebty, next one,” Amr says when I tried to pull his hand to the dance floor the moment Adele Set Fire to the Rain. All the guys who I like dancing with are already doing cross-bodys and underarm turns, and whatnots on the dance floor while I sit on my spot and watch as one of my favorite salsa remixes goes to waste untouched and unloved and unjustifiably danced. The one out of ten times that someone says no, and it has to be on an Adele song!

Despite this minor glitch, I do love going to salsa parties because it can be the only social thing that I do and it can also be the only non-social thing that I do. Usually, when I walk in at a salsa party, I always feel like I’m walking to a red carpet night minus the red carpet designer long gowns and paparazzi. I say hello to everyone and do the cheek-to-cheek a bazillion times before I can find my seat. Or everyone will come and pull me for a quick hug and howareyous before I can change into my dancing shoes. As much as salsa dancing is very social, it could also be very anti-social. Once DJ Migo starts blasting music in the background, that’s the cue for everyone to shut up and start pairing up on the wooden floor. So, for someone like me, who always fails at small talks, and who thinks silence is awkward, dancing salsa is the best bet. I don’t have to speak more than six words to people who aren’t my friends and who I have no interest in being friends with. I can just simply say a non-committal hello, or shrug, or nod, or wave, or smile, or not smile, and no one will think that I’m being rude. In fact, no one would suspect that I’m being rude. It’s like, yey! I get to be rude in your face and you don’t even know it! Awesome!

I’m not forced to be with anyone either, yet I am here with everyone at the same time. I can be an insider as much as I can be an outsider. I can introduce myself to new people, start chit-chatting with anyone at an arm’s length. I can connect and totally disconnect. I can give a fuck and not give a fuck. There will always be loud music playing which means I don’t have to deal with the silence until the party ends, and even then, the silence won’t be so bad because I’ll be huddled and snuggled, and cuddled to goodbye hugs and drowned to seeyounexttimes that it won’t be totally silent at all.

It’s just the best of both worlds for the social-non-social me, and that is probably why I keep coming back every Thursday night even though Bian Caffe is a two hour drive from home on a really bad day. And even though I don’t drive. And even though the only person who can possibly give me a ride home tonight has said no to dancing with me when Adele Set Fire to the Rain, and is still, in fact, dancing with Radwa even after Adele’s voice fades out and Yo No Se Manana fades in.

He better say yes to driving me home tonight!

A Dance With A Boy (Chapter 2)

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Tamer

I consider my options:

1. I could walk back home. The salsa party will end at 10 and the curfew is not until midnight. Pro: I have time, I can walk from Mohandiseen to Heliopolis. Con: after dancing for three hours, I probably don’t have the energy to walk an extra hour and a half.

2. I could call a cab driver I know. Pro: I don’t have to walk an extra hour and a half. Con: the driver is not picking up!

3. I could try to kill Mostafa for not coming to salsa tonight when he lives beside me and could have easily given me a ride home. Pro: Lots! Con: Lots!

4. I could dance on this Prince Royce song. Pro: I like Prince Royce. Con: I don’t dance bachata.

“Guys! Last song!” I hear DJ Migo shout from behind the music booth as soon as Que le den Candela surrounds the entire room. Two things–One, I love DJ Migo for saving the best song for last because Que le den Candela is my absolute favorite salsa song. And two, I have absolutely no idea what que le den candela means.

As usual, I make my way towards my favorite salsa dancer. She always has a quick smile on her face, she has a great spirit on the dance floor that the dance floor would light and fire up, literally. She is absolutely a crowd’s favorite. For some reasons unknown to me, she just has this ability to stand out even in a pool of faces. Maybe it’s because of her super short hair? Maybe it’s because of the elephant tattoo she has at the back of her neck? Maybe it’s because she loves dancing because she loves dancing. I don’t know. What I do know is that I absolutely love dancing with her and that I have never ever danced with her ever before.

I decide to walk straight to her direction. If my calculation is correct, it will take me about eight steps so I can ask her to dance with me. So, I take the first four steps towards her direction. But before I can take the fifth step, a tall and lanky guy with a shaved head grabs her by the hand. I take the sixth step, and the same guy pulls her to the dance floor. Seventh step. He smiles. She smiles. Great, now they’re both laughing. I take the last step and find myself face to face with an empty chair while my favorite salsera with the pixie short hair dance to the tune of my favorite salsa song. So, I turn around and go back to where I started from.

And as usual, I love dancing with her, but as usual, I have never ever had the chance to dance with her.

Six months, Tamer, and you never spoke to her, never danced with her. Nada, nada, nada, how could you possibly do that?

Ya Tamer, you have been taking salsa lessons at Dansation! Don’t be intimidated!

Who says I am intimidated?

You are intimidated!

Why would I be intimidated?

Because you have a crush on her!

No, I don’t.

Then why do you watch her dance every time you see her dancing?

Because yes you do!

Because it’s difficult not to? Because she is a great dancer? Because she’s really lovely and seeing her smile makes me want to smile too even if she’s smiling at someone else and not me?

See, you have a crush on her!

No, I don’t.

Yes, you do!

“You do or you don’t?” Amr blurts out real loud and real fast that, for once, all the voices in my head stops debating all at once and I am brought back to the now half-empty Bian Caffe. The music has stopped, the dance floor is empty, DJ Migo is packing up, and Amr is still waiting for an answer.

“Huh, what?!”

“Do. You. Need. A. Ride. Home. Tamer.”

“I do. I do! I do!”

“OK, yalla, let’s go!”

Pro of riding with Amr? I don’t have to think about options one to four. Con? Zero! And that is why I start following him outside Bian. But before we can reach the door, I see my favorite salsa dancer walking to my direction, except, she is actually walking towards Amr’s direction.

“Are we going?” She asks, totally ignoring my presence.

“Yes we are!” I hear Amr answer, totally forgetting my presence.

A Dance With A Boy (Chapter 3)

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Pamela

“Give me your phone, we need to call mum!” Amr says in a rush the moment we are standing outside Bian. “My keys are in mum’s bag! And she already left with her car.”

I give Amr my phone then realize we aren’t alone. One of the new guys at salsa is standing in front of us. And he is looking at me, looking at Amr, and then at me, and then at Amr, and then at me. And it’s weird, because I mean, he is really looking at me. This time he catches me looking back at him. I immediately looked away for comfort.

God, Amr, when are you going to finish talking to mum? This guy is still looking at me and our ping-pong match at looking at each other is getting awfully awkward!

“Mum’s on the way.” Amr says to me, but for some reason, it feels like he isn’t just saying it to me.

A minute passes and Amr’s mum still hasn’t come.

“Mum’s car is red, right?” I ask as I try to look on the streets for a familiar red car.

“No, it’s green!” Amr says.

How can I possibly forget that Amr’s mum’s car is green? Amr and his mum are probably the two people I genuinely love and enjoy seeing at salsa. They are this mother-and-son tandem who always attend salsa parties. They dance with each other, they attend salsa workshops together, they watch salsa shows together, and I think that their relationship as mother and son is much, much sweeter than a kilo of basbousa.

I think I’ve seen mum dance a few times with this new guy who is, strangely enough, still looking at me. And if this new guy has danced with mum, and mum has danced with him, then I shouldn’t feel awkward that he is still standing in front of me and making me more aware than usual that he is still watching me. I trust mum’s judgment in character.

Another minute passes. When is this guy going to flinch? He doesn’t move, except when he starts talking to Amr in Arabic. I don’t like him talking to Amr in Arabic because I feel left out. I feel a void, a lull, a gap, a hole. It’s like I’m here but I’m not here with them. It’s like I know what to do but I can’t do anything other than stand here. So, I reach for my phone and pretend to be engaged to whatever happens to be so interesting on my phone even though I ran out of mobile data and therefore cannot do anything other than stare at an empty blank screen.

I think I could also trust Amr’s judgment in character. So, if he is talking to this new guy too, then this new guy could potentially be on my guys-who-I-say-yes-to list, if only he asks me to dance. Which I don’t think he ever did.

Another minute and the three of us have all gone silent. Amr’s looking out on the street for Mummy, this new boy is still looking at me, I am still trying to not look at him. I wish I can just look out on the street but this new boy is blocking my view of the street.

Another vague minute, and someone just has to talk or I will go deaf in this awkward silence. I decide to make eye contact and before I can stop my mouth, the words are already out. “I see you at salsa but we never danced together.”

“Really?” Amr interrupts before the new boy can say anything. “Pamela is a perfect dancer!”

“Do you think I don’t know that?” The new boy says looking at Amr instead of at me. Amr looks back at the new boy and nods his head.

“How come you never danced with her?” Amr asks over the honking of the cars on the now crowded street.

The new boy looks at me, and then looks back at Amr. “I don’t dance with her, but that doesn’t make me blind.”

We hear more repeated honking before we realize that the honking is directed to us. There on the street is a green car, inside it is Mummy waving Amr’s keys. So, Amr sets off to mum’s side of the road, leaving me on my side of the road, alone, with this new boy.

“How come you never asked me to dance?” I ask again. It’s my turn to make him feel uncomfortable after the looking and the going. I am not going to be easy on him.

“I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t know you, and maybe because every time I try to dance with you, you are already dancing with someone else? How come you don’t ask me to dance?” The new boy says in one casual breath.

“Because like you said, I am always dancing with someone else. And because I don’t know you as well.” I say truthfully.

“Tamer.” The new boy says as he extends his hand to my direction.

“Pamela.” I say as I shake his hand with mine.

“Guys, yalla!” Amr says as he flings his right arm on Tamer’s shoulder and the other on mine.

“Tamer, are you coming with us?” I ask the new boy as I call him by his name for the very first time.

A Sunday kind of love

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I feel like everyday I have to meet up with a different friend just so I can tell someone about you. It could be any day when I find myself flicking my phone, calling any friend to ask if she’s free to hangout. What I should actually be telling her is that I am in dire need of company, and that I am just actually forcing anyone to see me so I can start talking about your marvelousness already–just so I can relive those days I had with you out in the open.

Some of my friends fall prey and find themselves trapped to my endless blubbering of you and me. Until they can’t take it anymore. Until they’ve unwillingly memorized your name after hearing it 20,000 times. Until my lungs collapse from pure bliss. Who knew my lips could stretch to a smile from ear to ear?

Yet at the same time, there are nights–it could be any night–when I don’t feel like telling anyone about you–like you are mine and mine to keep, and the mere act of telling someone about you means blasphemy. I didn’t want to have to share you with anyone. It is as if you are my precious, little thing, and there is no place for you other than in my secret pocket. So, some nights, I just find myself all curled up in bed, lost in my mind’s little cinema where bits and snippets of memories and photographs are kept alive. I would press play and watch as our time together unfold right in front of me. Then I would pause and take you all in–all the biggest and littlest details–from how your eyes widen and glow a different glow when you are looking at me to how it changes color from blue to green depending on the day. Then I would press play again, until I have to rewind to the very start.

I live for afternoons and evenings like that when I can almost touch you, when I can almost smell you. When I can almost hear you calling my name out loud. “Amo,” you always call me that. All I have to do is close my eyes and I can hear you telling me that “it’s too ot today,” or that you “want to tell me on thing.” You spoke with great enthusiasm, as if everything you say has meaning and purpose and is a living, breathing thing. It’s so difficult to look away from you as long as you are talking. God! I can listen to you speak Italian all day long even if I don’t understand any single word of it. I can listen to you speak in broken down English. None of it really matters because whatever language you are using, your accent is so edible I can taste every word in my lips.

How you make me feel is a different story. It’s frenzy. Like The Notebook frenzy. Only more frenzy because there is no Lon Hammond between us. It’s just you and me, just like it’s just Noah and Allie.The only thing that separates us is the three months we have from now until then, but you taught me to love Sundays. I hated Sundays with great passion and you know it. Sundays always mean that Monday is knocking at the door and work shit is just around the corner, but you said “every Sunday brings us a week closer to each other,” and since then I see Sunday as an ally, not an enemy.

It’s so hard not to miss everything. Not to miss you, or the color of your skin that looks like the sun is shining through a macadamia. I miss how I will look at you and catch you already looking at me. I miss how you flash your winning smile that makes my face just go all soft and gummy. I miss how you pinch my cheeks. How you nibble my ear. How you tickle me to no mercy. Ah, those uncontrollable pinches and nibbles and tickles! It makes me grin just thinking about it now.

I miss holding your hand too, or you holding my hand. Your hand always feels like a butterfly against mine. Sometimes, it feels like a heartbeat. Like, your hand is so fragile yet so complete and completely alive. I try so hard to make sure I don’t hold you so tight. Yet each time we hold hands, I feel like melting, but more violent because I know that I can turn into a pasty pulp yet won’t dare to let you go. And now that you’re not here, I would touch my hand and run my thumb through my palm. But nothing happens, and I’m left wondering–where have all the nerve endings gone? It always seems to be there shooting different sensation down my spine when you hold me.

I also miss the songs you keep playing in repeat. I learned to love Prince Royce because of you. I have all of your songs in my playlist, and in my chest, somehow. Darte Un Beso, Corazon Sin Cara, Stand By Me, and Addicted. Listening to Addicted in particular brings you a lot closer to me. There is something about that song. The harmony is different. Like, it sets my stomach on the edge. There is something exciting about it, something nervous, and it makes me feel everything. “Sleeping in, Sunday morning bodies intertwined” has got to be the best beginning to a song ever. It makes me feel like the universe isn’t what I think it is. If I listen to it and close my eyes, it’s almost as if you are here smoking grape flavored shisha with me even though you’re 1088 nautical miles away in Sicily. And if I listen to that song 10 times, that means I have 40 minutes and 20 seconds to spend with you in my head.

How I wish it’s easy to bend time and space, but you proved that time and space is nothing to two people who are willing to give it a try. Geez, why do you say things at the right place and time? I miss you saying the right words at the right time!

I miss how we always agree to everything important and argue about everything else. We liked the beach, we loved El Gouna. I gave the rucola pizza we had a perfect score of 10, but you said it was blah and gave it a 4. You played Highway Rider, while I played Subway Surfers. We both enjoyed watching documentaries on NatGeo, but I find the channel less entertaining without you. One time, I was irked by how a lioness devoured a deer, and when the blood splattered across the screen, I realized I don’t have your arms to burrow my head into. Yet I could hear you say “no, amo, look, look, just watch, this is the good part!” And after one documentary, all I’d want to do is just sit and talk about it. Well, that’s a lie. In truth, I just want to sit and talk to you. Or just sit and watch you.

I didn’t think it is possible to just look someone on the face, but you look like you’ve been crafted by Michael Angelo. Where I am round and soft, you are chiseled. Define lines. Define arches. Define bone structure! I can just lose time admiring your shiny cheeks. From afar, you are beautiful, but when your nose is just a centimeter away from mine, damn! And when you kiss me, something inside me just dies out of ecstasy or embarrassment. You look like art, and art always makes me feel something. And you demanded to be experienced.

Whatever happens tomorrow, we have yesterday and today and that’s all I know and that’s all I have to know. I won’t wake up to you tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or even the day after that. I will be listening to our favorite bachata songs on my own. I won’t be making you your coffee in the morning. For now, there won’t be breakfasts or lunches or dinners with you, not even a small piece of tiramisu, but that’s ok. I love you anyway. Because you are worth one more day of uncertainty before we become certain. You taught me to welcome everyday whether or not you’re around. And to let Sunday be what it is.

Three months is a hundred years long, yet again, we’re not in a rush. I know one morning from now, we will wake up to that Prince Royce song and we will want to sleep in. Until then, I love you like I love Sunday.

Traffic Lights

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I saw him standing at the intersection
A cigarette stick hung carefully in his left hand
Between puffs of smoke his eyes found mine
It was almost electric
I let his gaze swallow me whole
His lips curved to a familiar smile
So familiar that the pool of strangers drowned in reverie
The light turned red and all the cars reached a temporary end
The flashing man turned green and pedestrians resumed what was temporarily halted
He started crossing to my side
I started crossing to his
Slow, calculated steps at first
And then long strides all at once
We met halfway there
Definitely indefinitely
Where the red meets the green
That is when we kissed

What it feels like

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It feels like not being embarrassed that I can’t do proper math, or the fact that the only number that matters to me right now is the eight hour time difference between us. For the first time, I don’t have to give myself a difficult time for not being a unicorn. I didn’t have to worry that I didn’t know about Tricky, or who Joseph Campbell was, or that I have never used google docs and google calendar before. None of these things matter because what matters is that you are there to introduce me to all these new things, and more. Everyone has their flaws, and you’re someone who appreciates me even more for mine. (I’m close to considering that you’re psycho!)

Recent mornings felt like a thunder woke me up from deep sleep. Whenever you say the words us, we, always, and forever, it scares me, the way a loud thunder scares the crap out of me. These are words unfamiliar to me, completely unheard of, and yet you would string these words to perfection that often makes me squeal, not out of fear, but out of delight. Congratulations, you just successfully transformed me to a giggling, school girl!

Everyday feels like I have the world’s best publisher. I just want to sink myself in blank paper just so I can write our story. I know there will be days when I will complain about damn writer’s block but I take comfort in knowing that you will be there to inspire me.

We will support each other in the biggest and littlest of things. We will encourage each other. Even if salsa dancing is not necessarily your thing, and c++ is definitely not my language, I know we have it all figured out. We know that coffee and tea don’t mix well together and that is actually a beautiful thing. You are your own person the way I am my own. Yet we know that wherever there is coffee, there is tea. Doubtful? Just look at the beverage aisle in any supermarket, or check my kitchen bench.

What it feels like is exactly what I feel like when I’m traveling. It’s something that I would want to do even when I’m old and grey, and it is also something that I would want to do with you even when you’re old and grey. I want to explore with you, to hold your hand and try new things, and discover new places. We will tirelessly look for our happy place which actually sounds silly because I know that any place with you is my happy place.

You remind me of the time I just started learning Arabic. At first, nothing made sense. I couldn’t even get the pronunciation right. I’m flustered and I sound stupid, but the point in learning Arabic is that the more practice you do, the better you get at it. And that’s exactly what it feels like learning about you. And I want to learn more about you everyday. There might be times when I will fail miserably in getting the accent right. Maybe there will be days when I will accidentally push the wrong button, but make no mistake, I want to be fluent in you. You are my favorite language, you are my favorite subject and I just want to get all As!

Just like Camembert, being with you feels like craving for strong, rustic flavors. It takes a good palette to know that you have to keep eating this cheese to fully appreciate all the flavors, and that’s exactly what I want us to do. No stopping. Just moving forward to more exciting flavors.

I will confess. Talking to you makes me want to punch myself on the face sometimes for saying the cheesiest pick up lines. I never thought I could be cheesy, but it’s all too late now. You just managed to turn me into the biggest mouse!

On a serious note though, being with you feels like being excited to start writing the last chapter of a novel. You told me about how that mosquito bite annoyed you, and how you felt frustrated about the project you’re currently working on, and how you were caught in bad traffic. I know you don’t like too much traffic. But no matter what awful things happen to you out in the real world, I want you to know that in my book, you have an epic ending, and that when you come home to me, everything will be OK.