Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Remnants of an Egyptian Vacation, 1984

I wrote this little half-true essay in 2000. I thought I would share it here.

The creepy thing about her veins was that they were green, not greenish-blue or pinkish-green but just plain green and creepy green at that, like the color had been transported from the slimiest tree in the slimiest forest in the greenest world. Creepy, that green. But her veins were not part of her soul and her soul was decidedly not creepy. She wasn’t so much an angel as merely a sport. But sports are a valuable part of our society and should not be taken with grains of salt. Rather, they should be appreciated with entire salt mines. Or salt flats. Or oceans.

She played table tennis like a little misfit, flailing her arms when she didn’t quite return the Australian’s serve, flinching whenever the Sheila* sent one her way at an advanced speed, with or without trajectory, fidgeting during the interruptions in play that were a part of life at the coastal Egyptian hotel. There were only so many balls in such a small rec room, with dark dusty corners that absorbed and ate up the light rather than reflecting it, forcing one to simply stab at indefinable space when searching for errant balls, hoping beyond reason that the stabs would cause the balls to pop back out, into the light. Sometimes, hoping beyond reason would pay off and the Egyptian hotel would seem like paradise of a greater, freer sort.

When the sandstorms came, everyone stayed indoors, making the rec room crowded and it was easy not to notice her green veins in the din. Eventually, the Australian, a Moroccan, myself, my brother, and the green-veined misfit convened to the Australian’s cabana for poker, grapes, and the new Spandau Ballet album, which the Aussie had on cassette and CD in case one format would be preferable to the other in this strange new country she was visiting. Because no one had packed proper poker chips for their great old world vacation and coins were not an option, given the dearth of them on people’s persons and the varying countries represented by that dearth, we anted and bet and raised with...

Grapes of course. Delicious red grapes, furnished for free by the guilt-ridden hotel (“we did not think a sandstorm was in the offing”). Grapes so succulent and seedless that one had a hard time actually betting them and not eating them. And by the time we got to the seventh or eighth hand, we were all too enamored of the grapes to make bets, let alone raise them, and all of us folded, ceremoniously, at once, lunging first for our own meager banks of grapes and then for each other’s. It was a jungle. This much is true.

*Sheila = australian slang for "girl" or "woman"

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