Sunday, November 21, 2004

writing on summertime in cairo

Days spent hiding inside, shunning the sun’s intense rays and sitting on my bed stripped down to my underwear—even that clings to my damp body, oblivious to the weak breeze drifting from my old, rattling fan. I write and read and let my mind wander while listening to heartthrob Amr Diab. I slip off to sleep and wait for sundown.

As the sun declines, the city awakens. I emerge from my apartment building and take deep swallows of the night air with relief. The breeze is slight yet brings much comfort. The city stretches out before me—lights and people and music and walking along the Nile, sharing words and tea and laughter in the darkness—swallowing it in big gulps spaced by little sips, savoring each taste and lingering until the black sky begins to recede.

“Yeah, um, great. I guess,” Trace managed, after scanning Elsie's first two paragraphs. “But, well, can underwear really be oblivious?”

“I guess not, if you put it that way,” Elsie conceded, “so close together and all.”

“And I mean, really, El, you could lose at least one or two of those been-written-a-gazillion-times phrases. I mean, come on—the sun’s intense rays, the city awakening and stretching and all that. I mean, I’m not saying it’s bad exactly. I’m just saying you could probably do better.”

Elsie was getting a strange feeling in her stomach—the result of fuul sandwiches and Stella local chased too closely by a nervous, defensive tightening. She knew Trace was right. Actually, she had become painfully aware of the very same flaws, though not until the instant when the draft was passing from her hands to his, when grabbing it back for a quick rewrite seemed somewhat uncalled for. But the truth of it was, she wouldn’t have known how to rewrite it anyway.

“I mean, it’s not supposed to be a fucking seminal work, Trace. It’s for a two-bit travel mag for fuck’s sake. The editor will most likely chop it to bits anyway.”

“Yeah, well, I’m just saying. I think you could do better. I mean, El, ‘big gulps spaced by little sips’? What the hell does that mean? It sounds like you’re describing a wine tasting at a 7-11 for chrissake.”

Elsie laughed at the image, sighed, and took a red pen from her knapsack. Grabbing the draft and crossing through the last line, she willed her stomach to unclench and asked for a second Stella.


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