"Where are you from? What do you do here? Do you like it here?"
I tried to ignore her as her man was glued to her hip and I was with my two roommates at the time.
A month later, I met her again at a local jazz club. She was alone, so I asked about her boyfriend, thinking that if he were present, I did not want to take a chance talking to her. “Oh him? He is no longer my boyfriend as of 3 days ago.”
“I’m so sorry to hear,” I tried to console her. Secretly, I was quite pleased.
“However, since I’m drunk now, I want to call him. I really miss him,” She confided in me.
“Wait one day at least,” I advised her.
“Why?” she inquired.
“So you can give him the gift of missing you!” I explained.
She then turned around. She was wearing an outfit that was open in the back. On her lower back was tattooed the word A M I R A, Arabic for Princess.
“And if a man can’t see this clearly, can he come closer for a better look?” I joked.
She punched me lightly on my arm.
Thereafter, we traded emails by Facebook. More than a few months passed.
We finally met up last week in Midan Tahrir in front of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), a big landmark in downtown. In her four-door, Honda-like car, were two other girlfriends. Rasha, 21, the first girlfriend, was driving the car, and in her senior year of college. Long, black hair flows from her head.
The second girlfriend, 22, also wore a nose stud. She just graduated. “My dad, an investment banker, has been in prison for 20 years, since I was two.”
Understandably, she hates President Mubarak and the Egyptian government.
“Does it seem like we are ‘high’ now? Don’t you smell something?” She asked me, with a mischievous smile.
“Sorry, my sense of smell is very weak. I generally can’t smell anything,” I explained myself, but understood her question quite well. I did grow up in Berkeley after all (!)
“everyone here smokes hasheesh or uses it in some form, but the government doesn’t care.”Rania was wearing gold jewelry on her left hand that includes a gold watch and bracelet. With a strong sense of nostalgia, she declared, “I’d give anything to return to Minnesota, because I love the people there. I’d give anything to see my last boyfriend, who was from Ethiopia.” Despite her studies abroad, she does not believe in America as an extraordinary place. “I see America and Egypt at about the same level. Neither one is better than the other.”
We drove around and around for nearly half an hour. I tried to give them directions to find parking, to no avail. Their sense of direction was like that of a blind man’s.
We stopped at a juice stand. Thereafter, we had a long, drawn-out discussion about religion and Islam. When they asked my religion and discovered I have none, they were surprised. Shocked.
Rania’s two girlfriends apparently have never met anyone secular, or who has no religion.
When they asked about Buddhism, they were disgusted that anyone can worship the Buddha—a man.
Dad-in-prison-girlfriend declares, “The Quran is perfect, with no mistakes.”
In my most diplomatic way possible, I tried to tell her that the Quran is full of mistakes, factual and scientific. However, the Quran is not alone in this. So is the Bible and the Torah.
Dad-in-prison-girlfriend: “As you know, men cannot wear gold because it is forbidden in Islam. Science has now proven that there’s something in gold that harms the skin and the health. Also, many women pluck their eyebrows, but Islam forbids this. And now science has shown that by plucking the eyebrows, it is harmful to the health. So, Islam makes a lot of sense.”
I listen attentively and do not respond.
After a while, Rania gets a call from her brother, who says he wants his car back. So, we return to Tahrir, where I am dropped off. Somehow, I don’t think I will see those girls again anytime soon.