Why I Left You That Day in a Pawnshop
by Riham Adly
I pawned you for cheap, for real cheap on the bitter-cold, July night of 1952, amidst the changing face of our city. I went to the pawn-shop on Fouad Street in Downtown Alexandria next to the Baudrout Café where I was allowed to drink whiskey first thing in the morning in tea-cups simply because I could afford to. When the shopkeeper asked what I had for him this time, I pulled you out of the frayed cobwebs of your once favorite summer dress, from your once-upon-a-time-perfume-scented-pillows, from the disintegrating yellow lavender in the blue vase still sitting next to your bed, from those grass stains on your skirt from your running about in our acre and a half in rural Behera, from those amber prayer beads you fingered incessantly whenever you were mad at me, and that two-piece swimsuit I hoped to see you in one day, and then I pulled you from the tram lines in Ramleh Station we took to and fro, to clinics, hospitals, and even to the local cemetery to check on our allotted burial spots, from that lollipop-pink rocking chair you slept in most of your rough nights, nights when you retched and wept on the worn-floorboards, when you chafed through bits of snow-white-black tufts on your scalp after all those useless radiation sessions while talking to the hooded Azrael as he waited patiently for you to leave with him. You see, you let me down big time when you weren’t there to curse me for missing the Friday Congressional Prayer in Nebi Daniel Mosque where the Great Alexander might’ve been sleeping in the depth underneath, when that sleep shirt of yours was no longer trying to escape the fraying wash lines in our Mediterranean-view balcony rivaling that of the Cecil Hotel , when I was left to my failed attempts at molokhiya soup, when I started drinking again without having to listen to your gun-fire swearing and prayers, when the wind sneaking between the cracks of our French windows lost its tune, when sorrow turned out to be a heartless man pawning his wife. I left you there in the pawn-shop on Fouad Street in Downtown Alexandria next to the Baudrout Café because I didn’t want your many hues of inexistence, I didn’t want all those unavoidable sea-spiked Alexandrian sunshines anymore, I didn’t want the lonely heirloom tea-less-tea-cups you loved so much, or those tinted Coca Cola bottles I filled with whiskey without you ever having noticed, and by god, I didn’t want those endless run-around shadows I laughed at as I stood around all the empty corridors. But today, in the humid warmth of this July night, a decade later, I finally decide you just can’t remain an old man’s unread poem stashed in a back pocket somewhere, however, too-lates were like dust and memories, demolished streets and tea-rooms replaced by banks, and no-longer standing pawn-shops.
Riham Adly is an Egyptian blogger/short story writer/translator. Her fiction has appeared in Afreada Magazine, Flash Frontier, Bending Genres, Connotation Press, Spelk, The Cabinet of Heed, Arablit Quarterly and Vestal Review among others. In 2018 she was short-listed in the Arab-Lit Translation Prize.
Photograph of a vintage postcard of the Baudrot Café from a postcard, sourced with help from the author and from Zahraa Adel Awad.