Nobody bothered me as I stood there. All the touts knew me and knew I had my people. They were nothing but friends and strangers now. I was no longer a source of revenue. I was just a man. I was just Ben standing beside the Nile. I really don’t know how long I was there, but as I did, my life began to pass by in my memories. I was back at Egyptian Treasures with my dad and Donald, talking about Cairo and dreaming of treasure. I was on an ancient computer in elementary school furiously printing pages from the Theban Mapping Project. I was in Barnes and Noble buying discounted books. I was in the Louvre staring at hieroglyphs. I was screaming at textbooks. I was dreaming of the future. I was back on a rooftop in Giza with Lady M. I was wandering through temples with Abdul. I was breaking the Ramadan fast at the Khan el-Khalili. I was dreaming of digging. I was in raptures at the thought of the basements of the Egyptian Museum. I was drinking Stella again with Hassan. I was back by the Nile. And I was an Egyptian through and through.
I was lost in reverie when the temple first came into sight. And once my eyes had latched onto the yellow-brown stone, I felt the most inordinate connection. It wasn’t like I had been here before, or anything like what Lady M would have discussed at midnight on a rooftop in Cairo, this was something absolutely new. It was relief. I know that doesn’t make tremendous sense, and I can’t claim to understand the sensations I felt there myself, but I took great comfort in the Temple of Esna.
Coming to the end, a well-uniformed security guard approached me and told me that I was sure to get a wife now. I smiled and chuckled to myself and replied, “Inshallah.” This pleased him inordinately, and so I was led on a long walk with him into more to those off-limit sites for a bit of baksheesh. Everybody’s charmingly corrupt in Egypt. He led me into a chamber with something to do with Alexander and went to find a man who was going to give me great good luck. I shrugged again, any luck was better than no luck, after all.
Every summer I have a purpose, a goal, an intent. This summer, I don’t have that. And it’s making me absurdly stressed out. I have places I could go and things I could see, but there is nothing pulling me to a new continent. Romania did for a spell, and it still does, but I’m trying to be fiscally responsible. That’s why I’m not going, and that’s why I’m not going to UCLA. Will somebody please give me buckets of money? It’s for a good cause. I’ll buy a cute archaeological wardrobe and take intense courses and be a better Ben. But until then, I’ll just be the same me in very nice shoes.
“It will eat you, Bin-ya-meen,” Hassan hissed, pronouncing my name in the most beautiful way.
I didn’t care a bit. What a story! I eagerly accepted the beast from the woman and couldn’t believe how strong it was. Tiny though he was, that little crocodile was nothing but muscle and teeth and scales. It was insane. He writhed in my grip, and I wondered how strong his bite was. Hassan was having none of this as Abdul photographed me and my new best friend.
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