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Some days we had classes that started early in the morning, with nothing for the rest of the day, till a class very late in the afternoon. So in between we had several hours in which we could either go to the library, sit in the coffee house, or, our favorite, go back to my home and rummage through the fridge and relax till it was time to go back. There were three of us: a school friend who graduated from school with me and we both enrolled into the same college, and the third was a neighbor of my friend, both living in what was then a lovely suburb south of Cairo. As my house was the nearest, the decision was inevitable that we just go there for our hours of freedom. My Mom used to call those visits the descent of the locusts. We swarmed in, attacked the fridge, polished off whatever foodstuff we found there, then finally left again for our final class. It was years later that I found out that my Mom used to plan our meals in preparation for those swooping visits. She knew my schedule and knew when to expect the locusts, so there was always a nicely prepared meal – by chance – waiting for us in the fridge.
Other days when we had a couple of hours between classes, we used to go either to the coffee shop which had a few tables out in the open, sit in the sun in winter and enjoy a snack, or nearer exam times or when we had a paper to write, go spend that time in the library.
I remember a lovely white pullover I had that I used to love wearing. It was slightly baggy, very white and went well with any colored blouse and trousers. One day I was wearing my favorite white pullover when we took our break and went to the coffee house to sit in the sun. I had not noticed before, because it was a rather baggy fit, but after sitting in the sun for a while I looked at the sleeves and they were half way down my hands. I got up to look at the rest of it and the whole thing seemed to have melted with the heat. It turned out that it was knit by purely synthetic fibre, hence the stark color, and that this loosens up in the heat. By sitting in the sun for a couple of hours my baggy pullover nearly turned into a coat! The sleeves totally covered my hands, the hem instead of hugging my hips, touched above the knees, and the neck scoop became a d√©colletage of indecent proportions. Its a good thing I was wearing a blouse underneath. Couldn’t be helped. When it was time for our next class, I got up and casually walked in class as though what I was wearing was the height of fashion! Half an hour into the class my elegantly baggy pullover was back, exactly the right shape and size. From that day I learned not to wear it except on days where I had classes right through the day.
The library was a gloomy tomb and in winter painfully cold, but it was very rich with references and materials galore. It was not completely up to date in equipment, and of course in that day and age, no computers, but it did have some of the rarest books and manuscripts in any of the Universities in Egypt. Whenever I had to go to the library, I always remembered an episode on TV I had seen by Alfred Hitchcock where there are evil spirits in the library and when a young librarian is accidentally locked in for the night, how her mutilated body is discovered the next day. It used to scare me silly, and I enjoyed myself tremendously. Didn’t get much work done, but did drink in the atmosphere to the last drop of horror.
One day I was joking with a friend on campus about how fast I was running after the bus, when the next thing I knew, my name had been put up for the running team for my college! Some people just have no sense of humor whatsoever. I had never run a race in my life, but what the heck, it couldn’t be that difficult. The day of the test run arrived and there I was in my running shorts (very new, very elegant white with blue piping) my running shoes (also new and matching the outfit) and a plain white T-shirt, taking my place at the start line. The signal was given and off we went. In the blink of an eye the whole team was over the horizon, but I soldiered on. Where were the camels when you needed them?! By the time I got round to the finish line practically everyone had gone except for the guys there to sweep the bleachers and repaint the demarcation lines. I was given quite an ovation. I swept them a bow of acknowledgement and left gathering the tatters of my dignity. That friend who had put up my name for the running team might have had a sense of humor after all!