Cat and Mouse in Cairo
St. Simon the Tanner Coptic Orthodox Church
Mokattam Garbage Village
In the parking lot, surrounded by cliffs and sand,
Egyptian nursing students play cat and mouse.
One cat, one mouse, chasing each other
in the center of a circle. We watch,
fourteen Americans, pockets heavy with passports,
change, and cameras. Here, across the ocean,
they play the same game we've played at home,
after school, in gym class. Different country, different
language, same rules. Then someone asks
if we can join. An excited murmur of trilled r's
and throaty Arabic h's breezes through
them as they make room, widening their circle
for the pairs of American college students.
We smile. They smile back. They point at us,
heads leaned together. The girl next to me,
short bob and bright blue makeup, asks me
a question in a string of Arabic. A pause -
I laugh, pointing to my ears, I don't understand.
Her face is blank - it must mirror my own.
You happy? she asks. I nod. Her question is understood,
and her friends elbow her. You do this often? I ask.
Another blank stare and a beat-we shrug and smile,
surrounded by new and old friends, cats and mice.