07:20 is the time he leaves the house, pulls on his coat, blows a kiss, says goodbye, gets embraced, steps onto the concrete, breathes the air, checks his pockets, flicks his hair, buttons his coat, checks his phone, walks down the street for the last time.
07:20 is the time she closes the door, waits until he finally disappears, and holds her gaze, never wanting to turn her back, however long it takes for him to return, knowing that he won’t, but that if she only believed harder, she could change the fates that the judges decreed. How she cries.
The icon on the map says airport, but there are no airports in Zamalek. There are lights in the sky though, from over the river at Salah Salem to the Marriott where westerners eat ful. Helicopters, flares and buckshot bring fireworks. The reports say the streets are filled with protestors and their cars – taxi horns blare incessantly through the night. The code remains the same: one blast of the horn, possible danger; two blasts, imminent tragedy; three, almost too late. We are almost too late. The horns never stop. The bronze lions of the Qasr Al-Nil Bridge avert their gaze.
The bird’s wings scythed through the morning air imperiously as it locked its position over some ground prey, unseen, scuttling in the wildnerness below. The long arc of those wings; I had seen something like them before. An owl, perhaps, or a bird of prey, a falcon or harrier, a raptor. Was an owl a raptor? Experts would know the difference. They would say they would. An owl, wise. A raptor, terrifying, bloodthirsty. But this was just semantics. The prey, doomed, did not care. I continued on my way. Geese rose up from the water. A distant siren. Church bells.
We are waiting for something to happen. It has been weeks. What will be the endpoint of this struggle? There is no point in asking. Not now.
Everywhere becomes a museum, eventually. We should know, we live in one. Grown out of the craters of the past.
There is a natural cycle. The museums are unhoused too, in turn, by new ideologies, new ideas. We watch and wait.
How long is the cycle?
Our theory is that the cycle is as long as it takes for everyone to forget, for everyone to imagine they’re starting afresh.
Fourteen days? Thirty years?
Times change so slowly.
They would shiver if they thought about it. In February, when the squares are full and the bridges heave with sighs, they want freedom, no less.
Have you visited there on holiday? asks a colleague.
They know they deserve a break. Is this just their week in the sun? How long before we know?
Autumn is too long. It is immediate change they want. Crowds touching the city of the dead, North Africa. A distant call to prayer. Soldiers in tanks shake hands with locals waiting, waiting. They call it ‘unrest’. The unrest of years.