I went out for a 2 hour walk alone today along the Cornish. Because it’s clear that the locals don’t know what to do about me, I am making an effort to look certain people in the eye, smile, and offer an Al-Salaamu Alaikum. Other pedestrians rarely, but rather, and more importantly, those running these streets – the doormen, the street cleaners, the ta3meeyah makers, the parking men, and the owners of the 2haawi. As soon as I do this, there is an immediate shift from “Why is she?” to “WELCOME!”, with a clear sense that I might need help and they are available to help. I feel safe. I am reminded of Gaza; more on this in a moment.
For example, there is a pedestrian bridge being built from our side of Cornish St to the Nile River side. It’s not yet complete. And though I have learned how to cross a Cairo street (1. Don’t do the thing; and, 2. Should you do the thing, tell baba you didn’t), I would rather not. So I cross the unfinished bridge. The workers were confused the first time I did this, but have since stopped working, and all say Salamu Alaikum until I pass, which is when they start working again. I told them I was too scared to cross the actual street and they were very gracious about all of it. Pray the bridge does not collapse with me on it.
Back to Gaza. When water mixes with dust, I smell it around me. While walking today, I had to fight back tears because of the nostalgia of it all; scent, by the way, is the strongest memory trigger. My heart is deflated by the reality that I am kilometers away from my family, whom I have not seen in 15 years, and Israel will not permit me to enter. What a fucking world.
Today, I am grateful for:
1. WhatsApp technology which allowed me to video my aunt in Gaza while I had lunch along the Cornish. Since we can’t be with one another physically, we are indeed both very grateful for this.
2. A, whom I only met one afternoon late in the summer of 2016, and whose liking of one another on that very afternoon sustained a long-distance conversation which saw us come together this evening for dinner in her home.
3. That the recipe for Kit Kat is sweeter in the Middle East than it is in Canada.