Tales from the Cairo Metro

Mundane Imaginings
I sat in the women's car on the metro, opposite a lady wearing niqab, she tensed a little as I sat down, maybe not from my presence, but she tensed all the same. I don't know why but I've started looking at shoes, maybe because I look down more in Egypt, so I looked at her shoes. They were blue trainers or something, navy, synthetic. I worried about her arm because she had it out of the car. Rationally I knew that nothing would happen, or I believed nothing 'bad' was likely to happen, but I had concerns for her well being. Then I felt someone sit next to me, an elbow into my arm. It became all about arms for a moment. The niqab lady got off and the girl next to me then sat opposite. She was tall, skinny and black. Unveiled. She had glossy lips, fashion house lips, I wondered how she got her lips to be like that and what it felt like to have all that shiny stuff on them. I liked her lips. Her lips made me think about my lips so I got my red lipstick out and put some on; she watched me. It became a lip moment. I noticed she had acid burns on her face and a scar on her forehead. I made stories up about it. I imagined fights; vicious fights and her lovely face scarred for life and her tears. How her tears must have wept hot as the chemical ate in. I imagined her life and decided she was going to meet her boyfriend. It made me feel happy for her that she had a relationship but then an acute pain that I no longer do. I have words and fuul sandwiches. Suddenly someone got on with some fuul. It became a bean thing. Then we arrived at Sadat. I got off. She didn't.

Bird Lady
People were plain crazy on the metro. The new moon night was stirring gun powder plots in their brains. Their wandering eyes laid peril to where they fell. The woman opposite was a hybrid of Hildegard of Bingen and my friend Ivan, who is a schizophrenic painter; she had white froth at the side of her mouth, reciting prayers in a pharmaceutical religious ecstasy. A small girl nearby on her sleeping mother's lap gave me an intense death stare all the way to my stop. A boy got on, his trousers tied up around his middle, an urchin elf with a ferral bare toothed grin; he held his hand out for money, twisting his face, his tiny head taken up by teeth and eyes. A man in a bright yellow coat with electric shocked white hair and beard, carrying a walking stick high in the air gangled his way into the ladies' car and began shouting; as the sound of the metro got louder he accelerated his fervour. The women looked worried and cast their eyes to the floor, I was laughing quietly, wishing I knew what he was saying, then I realised he was shaming them as they started to hand him coins and he decibelled into their turned away faces. I got off. My ticket didnt work in the machine and with some supernatural sprite I jumped over the metal bar in one movement. Up the stairs an old woman resembling a tiny bird was dancing to music in her head. Pretty music. I could hear it. She was grinning without teeth and her vitiligoed face was swaying slowly up and down, side to side. She held her green dress to her knee and danced little steps forward and back. In my heart I thanked her and took the side street home.

Fishing Night
People were rolling their eyes in the metro car. It seemed diabolical. I was faced with mutants, jinns,the malcontent. The Ones That Were Not At Iftar. The passageways and escalators seemed forbidden, everyone seemed unsure. 'I don't know where I'm going', I thought, 'but I'm going there.' I had some abstract map inside, I was remembering images and moving ahead. The scarab from the gutter, running towards my Achilles Heel and removing the curse of the lifetime. What is she saying? Don't ask. Downtown the men are hungry, their needs become greater with each thought they push away. The streets are fishing lanes now but the net is everywhere, quietly weaving itself, compliant, no resistance. I love the night when she talks like this. Now I'm home and dreaming. Listening to her revealings. I am uncovered. I am alone. 

Man Bag
What did he believe would happen
standing on the metro platform with that bag
as large as half his portly frame
'Tell me, you whom I love' it declared
and he stared at random women
hoping, on a Cairo afternoon

Ennui Baby
I had never seen a baby look so bored, an impossibly fat baby. Its limbs and extremities marshmallowed into one continuous wave. Meanwhile as Baby looked ennui to its right, Pop Sock Leg Warmer Lady was showing us all her black nylon treats with an in-car demonstration; but no-one bought. I came to realise that it's all about elbow room. Maybe the metaphor can extend to all areas. Maybe one day I will open a bar called Elbow Room. The girl opposite was wearing one of these 'relative pendants' I've seen around recently. Get a photograph of your ugliest relative, make sure they look like they are sitting on a morality rules panel and then encase their un-gameel self into a cheap locket and hang round neck. I noticed the woman next to her was holding a bag that said 'Peace of Mind'. She looked troubled. 

Fire Birthing
I saw it upon the metro train door, being birthed into consciousness, this gekko like amphibious creature with eyes of fire garnet. Coming up into the future it emerged from a pearl coloured shell of jewelled tiger stripes. It spoke of hope and creation, with the ability to move unrestricted, to swim, to dance, to be. I sat in the car with a new song pushing up from my heart; so glad for these moments, so glad for this Life.


  1. i take the metro everyday to saida zainab, and i keep telling myself i can write tons of stories about people i see everyday.
    nice work , thumbs up

  2. Thanks! And yes, go for it! Stories are being lived all over Cairo!