The time is 10:00 AM, EET. Class is over. I have 45 minutes before “education” begins again. I am hungry.
BOOM! This is me brushing past the security guards and striding down the street. My mind is one purpose. This is me and my stomach is growling, my sense of smell heightened at the expense of both sight and hearing. I am the closest I will ever be to being part of nature: I am the predator. I seek my prey.
The sun is merciless. Men in shirts with fake vests, middle school girls in fluffy white hijabs, middle school boys up to no good— I pass by them all, my mind interpreting their forms as big sandwiches. I come across all the usual obstacles— scalding patch of sand: crossed. Steaming pile of street trash: avoided. Slimy puddle: circumvented. Overheated puppies at the pet store: cooed at.
At last I arrive. I slide into the back of the small mob pressing against a shop no bigger than an Easy Bake Oven. I know this crowd: we sandwich mobbers all want the same thing and will do anything to get it. I edge in, my hackles and elbows raised. My ordering position seems quite poor. I languish in the back; I am in a forest of surrounding men; Arabic is not my first language; I prefer asking for things politely. All indicators point to failure.
However, these are only minor setbacks. I am still foreign, clueless, and girlish. My abject appearance incites pity amongst the lunching crowd. Other patrons ask me what I want or let me get in front of them, showing me where to stand in order to put my order in. Their pity is seasoning for my sandwich. It will salt my lunch.
Today, however, I catch Mr. Man’s eye from the back of the crowd, one lone Oklahoman in a haystack of Cairenes, and he knows exactly what I want. “One?” he says. And I nod. Seconds later his hand reaches across the sea of bobbing heads and I receive my prize: a hot Egyptian falafel sandwich. With my other hand, I submit payment. We nod politely at each other through the human undergrowth. He knows he’ll see me tomorrow.
BAM! I gobble the sandwich down, enter the university gates, and swerve to throw the trash away before heading back to class without ever easing my pace.
Eat fast. Play hard. Love bats. This is my life.