Sahib drove us along in the off-road vehicle, with air-conditioning and a smooth suspension. Mohamed talked and we listened. Past the Pyramids of Giza in the distance, palm trees waved their light yellow-green fanned arms into a pale blue sky. The air filled with a golden mist. It smelled of dates and fresh baked bread. Mohamed asked Sahib to stop. Getting out the car, he walked over to a house, where the people greeted him. He emerged with Egyptian flat bread, wrapped in paper, a bunch of children dancing around him. The smell of anise seed and fresh dough filled the car, as he distributed the bread among us. This is where I spent some of my childhood, he commented. I always stop here to buy some bread, but they never let me pay, so I give coins to the children. I had my camera ready and snapped pictures.
Mohamed started to talk, as soon as we had finished our bread:
“The land of Egypt has been compared to the lotus flower.” He paused. “The delta in a way depicts the outlines of the flower, while the long stalk of it is compared to the Nile valley and Fayum declared to be its bud.” He smiled, turning from his seat, observing us.
“Poetic,” I commented.
“The colours are descriptive of the changing atmosphere,” Sola said.
Mohamed nodded, “well observed, you two budding Egyptologists.” He smiled, the gap between his front teeth showing. Sola had remarked to me that it made him look like Omar Sharif, as she encountered his smile for the first time.
I had a spouse and she, although ill, had agreed to my straying in sexual love: As long as you are discreet, she once said.
I am discreet, only Trudy knows, but does Sola know? She suspects my straying through her fine antennae of a woman writer. She can read my body language. Trudy is as expressive as I am and she may be more of an open book to Sola, than I am.
“Cheers,” I said and emptied my tea with rum, but it had cooled off.
“I will get you a hot one,” Sola said, took my cup and disappeared.
“Thank you,” I called after her and politeness replaced affection for the time being, as I wondered about her. Babette always accused me in the past of lacking affection towards her and I agreed. Life together had left us childless and parentless, most of our lovers had disappeared but friendship prevailed. Yet I still felt betrayed from her previous affairs, as much as she felt betrayed by mine. We had betrayed each other at different times during our married life and subsequent domestic fights welded us rather together than driving a wedge between us. We did not fall apart ever. Something similar must have happened with Sola and George and certainly I did experience her period of transition, I thought. She brought me a mug of tea. Her black crop of hair appeared first and then her sparkling dusky eyes and her smiling magenta lips. As she focused her dark eyes on me, I felt a pang of desire and my heart filled with love. I melted in Sola’s presence, whenever I looked deep into her eyes. She smiled as she saw my gaze and hooked onto it. Her soul and mine connected at an instant!