It was my second, no wait, maybe my third year of university when I fully understood the implications of my parents financially supporting me. Their money, like it very much should, had conditions.
You know, like go to class, stick to a strict sober week, and of course, don’t get pregnant.
In retrospect – they were all extremely reasonable requests.
If only I could see then what I see now.
Anyways, after a multitude of animated phone calls and a lot of comparisons to most, if not all deposed dictators, I declared my financial independence. I got a job working at a magazine and found it surprisingly easy to make ends meet. My money came with no conditions – then again it didn’t really stay with me long enough to have any influence over my decision making. My days were a routine, mostly spent in what can only be best described as a shit hole bar across the street from my university.
The place was called “Freedom” or in Arabic “Horreya,”and was situated in the heart of Cairo. It was a drunk’s hell. Flooded with bright white neon lights and generously used wooden chairs. The tables were speckled with cigarette burns, and without fail at 3 p.m. – the time I would frequent “Freedom”, the tables would be mostly filled with very old men playing backgammon.
Omar, Gaafar, and I would walk in – we were an inseparable group of friends who shared avant guard views on the world. Or so we thought. We would stride in with senses acute, and Hamada, one of two waiters, would animatedly greet us with close to frozen Stella beers. He would drunkenly walk us to our table, kicking anyone else that was already seated there. And then of course, he would have a drink with us.
How this man still has a functioning liver is truly beyond me.
Knowing my weakness for chickpeas, he would always send over a bowl toppling over with them. He is/was the definition of Egyptian hospitality.
Omar, Gaafar, and I would sit for hours laughing hysterically over anything and everything and the mirth never stopped – even for bathroom breaks. They always escorted me to the female restroom, which comprised of one stall and a locked door. Only the person with a key could access the bathroom, for fear that woman would go in and someone would try to rape them.
It’s a harsh world
By seven, our very good Kenyan friends Jay and Beelo would make their entrance. Beelo didn’t drink, he was just there to watch us make asses of ourselves. And Jay, oh Jay, he was the life of the party. He was one of those rambunctious drunks who loved nothing more then to laugh while listening to Bob Marley. Yes, he would pull out his mp3 player and a small set of speakers. Gaafar was the true victim, we adored teasing him to no end. We made fun of his virginity, his naive mind set and most of all, the fact he was underage by 7 months. Hamada would join in every so often, taking shots at the poor guy whenever he could. We thought this was brilliant.
More hours would be spent gobbling chick peas and soon the table would be covered in empty bottles of beer, and that’s how I would know it was my cue to go home. Omar would help me stumble out of the bar and find a cab, once he was sure that I was in safe and sound, and the driver knew where to go, he too would find his own way back home. I would lean my head back on the seat and listen to music.
At that time of my life, there was nothing more heavenly then the angry sound of Eminem’s voice, which would be disrupted when I saw a KFC.
A girl’s gotta eat. I would drunkenly strut into the fast food chain, trying my best to maintain my balance in my heels while I confidently asked the employee for a lot of crunchy, crispy drumsticks. The key was to not let anyone know I had been drinking.
A few short minutes later, I would walk out like a super model into my cab, clutching desperately onto my drumsticks. To me there was nothing more beautiful than being in the back of a cab, holding on my KFC, listening to Eminem, with the Egyptian breeze on my face. It was always that moment in time when I would be proud of my decision, of my independence, of my “freedom.”
But then I would wake up the next morning.
To good times.
Sweet Dreams World.
P.S. It turns out the waiter’s name was actually Meemo. Wow. That’s awkward. I guess that’s why he always looked at me funny when I called him Hamada. Thanks Gaafar for the correction. :p