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Story: Tahrir

By Sebastian Blade

The Mediterranean Ocean caresses the Northern edge of Africa. The Adriatic Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Ocean pull and push at each other just like ideas have rattled through and around Egypt for millennia.  It was as if hand of the last Pharaoh barely held Egyptian pride through the pangs of history. Maybe there had never been forgiveness for a strangled Caesarion.  

"Tig! Are you coming to play or not?" 

Tig's fingers paused on the keyboard.  A slender man, short, with wild brown hair, and wire rimmed glasses, he looked up, smiled absently. "Football? Yeah, I'll come. I just have a little bit more to write."
Aptera flopped an arm around Tig's shoulders. "Such old dry stuff. The day is beautiful. You should come and play with us. There's no rain. It's not hot. We should play a little because tomorrow is going to be a great day!"

"He's not going to be here," Sati taunted. "American. He's going to be on a plane back to New York, aren't you?"

Tig leaned back with a smirk, hand posed with his middle finger extended. "I'm not going anywhere. Someone's got to take care of the mummies."

Sati had been educated at Oxford. That was the last his father had had to do with him. Certain things had happened in England that were never going to be talked about in Cairo, not if Sati wanted to stay out of prison. He cocked his hips to the side, hands on his waist, kohl around his eyes as if he were the last of the pharaohs. 

Isis Foundation dealt with anthropology and the study of religion. The foundation cared about skills and reliability. They cared about history far older than who their members daydreamed about making a life with.

"They're not really your history, so I think we can take care of those for you, American boy," Sati sneered, slender and well-manicured fingers ruffled over Tig's light brown hair. "Get out of Egypt today."

"Don't be stupid," Aptera snapped. "Tig isn't going to leave now. You should come play football with us. Tomorrow's going to be glorious, but it's going to be a lot of work."

"We've got a lot of work to do today," Hotep said. She was a tall woman with dark brown eyes and a sky blue hijab pooling around her shoulders. "We have signs to make. Egypt's future depends on its past. We are its past!"

"Speak for yourself," Sati complained. "I'm not past yet. We're not going out there."

"It's a protest! It's going to be peaceful," Hotep instructed, her voice very much that of the school matron. "Get a pen, will you? Even if you're going to hide on campus, you can help with signs. You can stay here and keep Tig company, if you're that frightened."

"I'm not frightened," Sati said, arms across his chest, wrinkling the designer shirt he wore.
"I'm not staying here," Tig said, rolling his chair to the table so he could start working on a sign.
"No football," Aptera asked with a sigh.

"We'll play football after the protest." Tig started a sign in swirling Arabic. 

There were just the four of them, living in a small compound near the Kornish Al Nile. The foundation that employed them wanted them to manage translations, make translations of ancient manuscripts available in an online database. They had a courtyard, a garden, private rooms, and more work than they could likely do in a decade. 

Sati hopped up on the table, polished shoes resting on the edge of Tig's chair. "It doesn't matter if there's democracy. They'll still hate people like me, but you don't hate me, do you Tig?" 

Tig looked up as a polished shoe rubbed his leg. He arched an eyebrow. "People shouldn't judge by appearances." 

"Appearances," Sati said. He pulled a case with an electronic cigarette from his pocket. "Do you think if I go around looking like a manly man they'll be less likely to send me to prison? Democracy is just another way to say they'll kill me faster."

"You could go around in a burka," Aptera teased. He wrote his first sign in English. For his slogan he chose, "Yes! We can Too!" Imperfect English, it still carried a lot of feeling.

"Oh that's a lovely idea," Sati said. He lifted is feet up and gave himself a spin, so that his back was to Tig. Then he lay back, propped on his elbows, head leaning farther so that he could look up at Tig. 

Gray mist curled around him, up towards the man he was making flirting eyes at. "Tig and I should stay here. I'll take care of the server and he'll take care of me."

"Will you sit up and quit being such a faggot? Democracy is important to you too."

"Really," Sati said, drawing the word out insultingly. He drew a deeply on his electronic cigarette. Only the sound of marker on poster board squeaked through the main room for couple of minutes. "Like the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be good for me? Maybe I should run away with Tig. Go back to London, where people are sane. We could get married there."
"We're not even dating," Tig pointed out. "When I was younger, I thought that if I learned to be a doctor, then people would respect me. Then I'd be free and I could hold my head up."
"Is that why you became an anthropologist?" Hotep asked as she picked a bright yellow marker. 

"I became an anthropologist because I realized that I was already respectable. That I deserved respect and I should do what I like with my life. If people are ready to ask for democracy here, then maybe Egypt is ready respect herself too. As for you, you pretty boy," Tig said, looking into Sati's eyes. "The only hope you have is for democracy and education. Education will make people more tolerant. Science has shown that being homosexual is normal. Gender identity mismatch is within normal range as well."

They looked at each other for another moment before Sati  rolled up and fairly bounced off the table. "I'm not homosexual."

Hotep had started on a second sign. "You were just talking about moving to London and marrying Tig. At least he's open about being bi-sexual." She looked back over her shoulder. "Democracy is not for cowards."

"I'm not a coward!"

"Which is it? You're not homosexual or you're not a coward?" Hotep's eyes narrowed. "Maybe you're just not Egyptian."

Tig sharply clapped his hands together, drawing all their attention. "If this is what the protests are going to be like, maybe we should all stay home. We're friends and none of us are exactly the poster child for moral Egyptians."

"Well, you're an American," Aptera pointed out.

"Depending on who you're talking to, I'm not a fine example of a moral American either. We are who we are. So is everyone else out there. The myth of perfect morality is a myth."

"Are you saying people can't lead a good life," Hotep challenged.

"What's a good life?"  Tig stood reached across the table and grabbed the cigarette from  Sati's hand.  He drew a slow drag on it, making the little light at the end glow like a real coal. "Democracy leads to pride and pride leads to education, education leads to tolerance." Tig offered Sati back his cigarette. 

"What about morals then?" Hotep asked. "Shouldn't we try to live moral lives?"
"Says the girl who ran away from her husband," Aptera jabbed. "Tig, Americans get free education and you think their tolerant?"
"Said it lead there, not that it happened over night. They only believe in magic in Africa, you know."
"That's so racist!" Hotep complained as he walked away. 

"So you think only black people live in Africa," he shouted, a hand gesturing over his head as he walked down the hall to his room.

The tension was more than he could take. He blamed Facebook for this. Once in his room, he shut the door, took a moment to lock it, to finger the lock assuring himself that the lock was set. He'd been in Egypt in five years. He loved Egypt, her sands, her people, her history, as if he were walking through time every time he got way and into the field. He loved her secrets, as if those secrets could forgive him his secrets. 

He stepped into his bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. Gray eyes. Brown hair.   He ran his fingers along the soft edge of his still neatly shaved jaw. Dark lips, curved, full, and he ran his fingers over them, wondering if they would keep his secret.  He would go. He would try to help.
His intentions to spend the evening working from his room, contemplating the meaning of dignity last until darkness and the quieter rumble of Cairo settled into night. 

A knock on his door brought him out of slogging slow work and miring in meandering self analyzation. 

Sati held up a bottle of wine and two cups. "In water you see your own face, but in wine the heart of its garden," he said, smiling guiltily. "She was right. I am homosexual and a coward."

Tig stepped back, holding the door open. "I'll accept that you're homosexual."

"You also like men," Sati said, avoiding Tig's eyes.

"Yes," Tig said. He closed the door. "It's not the end of the world tomorrow, you know?" 

Tig accepted a glass, letting Sati mull over his words as he poured half a glass of wine. "It might be. I just... I have a bad feeling."

"So you thought you'd come get me drunk, take advantage of me, and we can go to the protest with painkillers in our pockets?" Tig laughed.

"I think we should try for two and three," Sati said. "I'm the one that left the flower by your door."
Tig smiled, pointed to his desk where a dried rose sat by his monitor. 

"You kept it!"

"Of course," Tig said, taking another sip of his wine. "Tonight is probably not a good time to do this. You have have noticed that I'm kinda short."

"Stupid Americans," Sati said, suddenly very close.

His fingers slipped into Tig's hair with greater strength than Tig had been expecting.  Their kiss melted them together hungry for love, for touch, acceptance, fear and tight attraction. 

Sati leaned against Tig, hard vulnerability between them. "How do you have dignity, Tig? How do you just stand up and go about your business when everyone hates us?"

"Fear is not hate," Tig said, a hand on Sati's chest, pushing it back towards the only chair in the room. 


"I want to have sex," Sati said, shame, desire, even fear braiding around his words. "I haven't had sex since I was in London."

"It's alright," Tig promised, dropping to his knees between Sati's. "You're safe here with me." 

Sati leaned forward, curling around Tig, hands burying in his hair. "We're not safe anywhere! The world is going to burn up tomorrow.  The police are never going to just let people walk around and demand Mubarak step down. Are you crazy?"

Tig leaned forward, letting Sati shield him, cover him with his body, as if they could fold into each other.  Sati gasped as Tig kissed his zipper, the hard attraction underneath. Sati smelled like sandalwood, soap, and the cinnamon cigarettes he smoked. His pants came open easily, but there was little room to spread the trousers open properly. Both of them still curled over each other, as if this embrace was no more than a hug. There are touches that are like poetry that always works, always harmonizes with the soul, offering the most vulnerable part of one's self to a desired lover. Tender, sensitive, and rooted deep into the soul, there are parts of a person that reach deeper into us with every touch. 

Sati's breath moaned very quietly between gritted teeth. Tig kissed, his tongue drawing long, reassuring, intimate, demanding in its own way, until Sati's soul rained an explosion between them. Without hardly a sound, his breath held, arms tight around his  American translator, he wondered exactly how many languages Tig could speak.

Still curled around each other, Tig closed the computer programmer's pants, pulled his shirt over the soul rain, and knelt there, head on Sati's lap.

"What do you want," Sati asked. 

"Hold me, just lay with me and hold me?"


They lay on Tig's bed, Tig tucked up against Sati, Sati's arm around him.  Tig slept. Sati slept eventually. Dawn came. The world hadn't ended, but it was still early. 

"We need to get up."


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