There is a woman dancing by herself on a metro platform. Tiny steps forwards and backwards, her feet barely visible underneath the long skirt which looks like it belongs to somebody else. Her hands flutter up and down, pulled by the invisible strings of an inaudible tune.
A microbus cuts through the streets like a pinball to the soundtrack of happy birthday to you on its cassette player. But the familiar melody is in a minor key, oppressively slow, and sounds funereal instead of festive – like a wedding dress covered in sick, or a naked Christmas tree dumped in January. Otherwise there is silence inside the microbus, disturbed only by the scraping of the sliding door. The music is a clenched fist, ready to strike should you dare to hope.
The train pulls in and the woman gets on. She continues to dance but almost imperceptibly, her movements contained by the crowd in the carriage, and the train’s motion, which seems to overwhelm her own. She smiles and nods…smiles and nods… sparks of happiness sent out from the misfiring in her head.
A handsome young dude has the world at his feet and the only thing separating them is the bus he’s hanging off. The bus is still and silent, waiting for its cargo. A beautiful young woman approaches the dangling man. Ramsis? she asks him. La [no] he says, and she moves away as he watches her. Mata7’areesh [don't be long] he throws after her.
On a different metro platform a group of teenagers conduct a heated discussion across the rails from you. Their side is almost deserted, and the animation of their words float into the space. The swerve of the hands creating the silent mimed images is a beautiful dance, and a secret code.
Ramsis…Ramsis the handsome man shouts, arms clinging to the top of the door frame above his lacquered head. He moves over slightly to let the pretty girl on. She wasn’t long, after all. Mesh enta 2olt ennak mesh raye7 Ramsis? [didn't you say that you're not going to Ramsis?] she asks primly as she passes. La… ezzay…Ana 2oltelek Ramsis [how...I told you Ramsis] he whispers while their bodies are squeezed together in the door frame. The love letter goes unanswered.
A metro train on an outside rail is doused in the dying light of the retreating sun. In the women’s carriage there is a smiling woman with a silent staring old man baby boy sitting on her lap. The baby is a miniature of her. In the apparent absence of winter clothing both are bundled in layers of garishly-coloured summer clothes. The baby boy stares out from underneath a hat, his hands clasped together, considering his surroundings. His mother meanwhile repeatedly asks those around her to tell her when the train reaches Es3af. Mashy, 7ader, 7ader [alright, OK] they say, tired of the reminders from this woman who stinks of poverty and backwardness and who has the temerity to smile and stare and ask and ask and ask again.
The dancing woman has reached her destination. Lightly, she glides off the train and stands still, watching as the doors close. The train starts moving and she runs alongside it, skipping sideways and blowing kisses at the carriage until the train leaves her behind.
The train approaches Es3af. The passenger in front of the woman with the ancient baby tells her, elly gayya Es3af [the next stop is Es3af]. The woman stares blankly, smiling. Aih? She says after a while. El Ma7atta elly gayya Es3af [the next station is Es3af] the other woman repeats, more loudly, impatiently. The woman continues staring at the woman before the smile slowly turns into a joyous silent laugh, her shoulders shaking up and down, and she is untouchable.