Faith in the known

A man of unidentifiable age gathers together all his hope and crosses Tala’at Harb Street. In his left hand is a thick stick, held slightly aloft, a sign rather than a support. His right hand is extended in front of him, his palm pointed backwards at him, his fingers bunched together like open-mouthed starving baby birds in a nest. Patience the hand says to the world, patience. His eyes closed, the man crosses the unknown, slowly, steadily, led by the semaphore of his hand, and his blind faith.

In another part of the city life is led inside wheeled and un-wheeled frozen universes where faith is worn on heads and around necks, and where hope is distilled into formulaic mantras for a future already assured. Passwords. Life is solid, tangible, purchasable; separated and arranged in levels of glass and copper. Blind men and their searching hands are kept out: no vulgar reminders of fallibility here in this place with its guardians and gates and fountains.

Up at the top and crowds have gathered for a film premiere of a film in which real-life singers play themselves – who needs fantasy when the facts are this good? Some of the stars will be here tonight, walking talking embodiments of perfection in this perfect place. Cameramen and photographers, that strange separate species, are poised for attack. Clusters of young men smoke furiously, factories emitting fumes of hormones from their chimneys.

Suddenly a kafuffle at the door and a huge terrifying tide of a mess of humans and cameras rolls forward. Big men in suits surround the very special guest, cameras borne aloft on arms stretched upwards are blinking antennae transmitting the news: she’s coming…she’s coming.

It is Haifa Wahby coming. The cat-eyed middle-aged teenager who peddles sexless sex. She is swept in – rather than sweeping in – to the cinema where she will watch herself on screen. Her head is briefly visible through the throng. She has raised her chin up imperiously as she is buffeted about.

Inside the cinema she occupies a whole back row to herself, guarded by huge men who form a semi-circle around her. Incongruously, she sits and pretends to do things with her mobile phone while the determined photographers look for different angles, chinks in the smiling blandness. Beautiful and empty, she doesn’t speak (what’s the need) and is instead simultaneously present and absent, visible and unreachable, yet another priceless and worthless commodity.

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