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A Direct Hit

by Zeyad Salem

It is not very often that one sees the issuing of the ultimate tropical cyclone warning signal of No.10. When this signal is issued, it means that winds of hurricane force (118 km/h or more) are expected to affect the territory. Since hurricane forces winds are largely confined to a relatively narrow strip around the eyewall of a tropical cyclone, it would normally require a storm of a typhoon or greater status to pass fairly close (say, within 100 km) of Cairo. This is commonly referred to as a “direct hit.”

They were having a long walk — an activity not very often practiced with potential hook-ups. They talked of men and women and how time is a cheater, of smoke and liquor, and of how Satan is a believer. Their steps were the only sound intruding on the fireworks in the sky. They decided to take a photo where parts of them got obscured by the width limitations of the lens, others by the over-exposure of the flash.

This would be how this moment of this day was kept. Flawed.

He had lost count of the beds he had slept in, of the people who were called lovers, of personalities adopted, of narratives lived, and the number of forms his existence was resurrected into.

To live in Cairo is to witness people marching for people to die, where people died for people to march —a thought she couldn’t dismiss on the July, 26, 2013, as she laid back on yet another bed, and opened her legs for him to do his thing.

Sex had always been fascinating for her in the sense that no matter what her expectations were, it was always something else. She learnt when she was fourteen that men were different in bed; they didn’t listen but to their insecurities and mothers. She always wanted her orgasms to be louder than her thoughts. They only needed to prove their manhood. This time her thoughts were louder.

The survival of this hit would depend on how prepared the National Security was. The authorities would put its emergency plan into action and urge the people to cooperate and comply for their lives. But what if this direct hit took place during a revolution where the wind was overlooked?

It had always been uncommon for him to bring prospective lovers into his apartment; he once read that every person leaves millions of epithelial cells behind on the sheets, on the couch, and in the air. He enjoyed going to new places, seeing new colours and books. He entered the room, skimmed it with his eyes, got lost in the stories that filled it, imagining how his story would be saved in this space, how his breath would change the chemistry of this air forever. It is probably at this moment that his acquaintance would make the first move, the second, and the third, until both their sighs got lost in their sweat.

She never really cared to remember how she ended up in strangers’ beds, sometimes more than one in a single day. Whether it was meeting on the Internet or the street, she always managed to have them. She always failed to remember the small talk that preceded the action; at first she hated them as meaningless and unnecessary. For her, it didn’t matter the level of pseudo-intellectualism shown by the prospect with whom she would get naked. With time, she enjoyed taking over different personalities for those warm-ups; she is a communist, she was an artist. One day she was the only daughter of a billionaire who decided to ditch her family after her uncle had made a move on her. Mostly, she was the woman who had slept with a forty-year-old who turned out to be her dad’s ex-lover.

He took out his pack of cigarettes, lit himself one as they were lying in bed with his phone in hand; watching as people were being shot, tortured and detained, watching as the masses cheered for an army tank to run over other human beings: 11. 23. 79. 200.168 humans had died during the past two hours, written about in different tweets and news SMS. He thought of how hard it would be to count dead bodies and announce one official number, how when his colleague had been shot by Islamists last December a beep announced his death as a digit adding up to a collective figure; he had been in another bed and they had mistaken the shooting for fireworks. He hated fireworks. “Thou shalt not kill is a moral imperative included as one of the Ten Commandments,” she said to her — current — lover who replied, “It also allows for justified killing in the context of warfare and self-defense.” While on the screen women in veils were weeping, their husbands and men in beards were crying to their gods.

She remembered the morning she was driving and noticed an ex-lover’s image turned into graffiti on a wall; under it, “Killed by SCAF on November 22nd, 2011” was written in red. A tear escaped her eye as the car behind honked for her to speed up.

Taking a quick shower after sex has been one of the very few traditions he kept over the years, except in minor incidents when he didn’t want to lose the scent of it or rub the moment totally off his body. But this time he was helpless; it felt like no matter how many times he showered, he would never be able to rub the day off. In the vapor saturating the shower, he could see the green laser beam coming from the street turning into images of freedom fighters killed by the same army now celebrated by their friends and families. Shit happens — he thought.

She had never been an Islamist, a pacifist, or anything that ends with an -ist; she actually despised tags to the point that every time there was an application to fill out and she needed to tick the female choice, she would suffocate from the idea of limiting her existence into a box. Other than her liquor, cigarettes, and random lovers…she relates not.

On the June, 28, 2013, the first warning of a cyclone was issued; a failed state in all aspects had turned one year old and the people were determined on not letting it go on for another week, let alone three more years. Five days later the army “complied” with the demands of the people and toppled the president.

A coup or not a coup remained a question; people were happily dancing in the streets for defying yet another State, while others were holding onto the last thread of their freedom to protect an oppressive state of God. He despised nationalism as much as he hated Islamism, but for him the latter could be manipulated by getting quotes from different angles whereas for the former, blood was always justified.

She is used to out-sexing the number of possibilities for a situation turning bad. He is used to out-showering his dreams getting shattered over externalities. But to face a direct hit they both needed another drink.

Click. Cling. Snick.

All artwork is courtesy of Reda Khalil.

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