Dreamer of the Day
Note: This isn't even proper fanfiction. I don't know what it is. House is technically the main character, but as a boy in Egypt in early September of 1969, sequel to Egyptian Wood.. A sort of Kipling type story with some of my own experiences plagiarized for good measure (title's not even mine). More of a ruminating travelogue than anything. I do not own House or affiliated with anything to do with House.
Cairo was his playground: the nearly abandoned Jewish quarter where entire families migrated east near monthly: each waiting for their eldest or infirm to die before moving on to the promises of Israel or India; the Coptic sector- outcast, indigenous Christians with their cobalt blue tattoos of oriental crosses to ward off evil and mark them as iconically different from the Muslim majority with their own long-standing taboos against tattoos.
The Europeans- emigres, diplomats, and businessmen, all huddled together over the denial of dead imperialism; their homes and industries illustrated with decadent security while the corresponding wealthy Muslims lived in their shadow- hoping to move upward the social system by physical proximity. The street upon dirty street of residential areas for the cab drivers and tour guides and hotel cleaners of the city, all living off the scraps doled out by the rich, hoping their own children would one day join that next level of betterment.
House ran, sprinted, marathoned through each section, noting differences and similarities between each group, smelling the lazy flowerblooms languishing over the great walled bastions of the powerful; the darkened slums full of thin children and dirty water rivuleting through the doorways as daughters and wives scrubbed their hovels clean, the overtowering mosques quiet in the interlude between prayer calls when the streets outside fill full of abandoned shoes. His mind observed the distinctions but unable to link the secondary social ramifications.
The old souk was his favorite place, partly because his parents strictly forbidden its entry, but mostly from dangerous curiosity. It was full of slavers, charmers, stalls of Muslim sermons set to wire tape and vinyl, stores and alleys full of artifacts- some forged, some real from Egypt's nonending past and present; music records, foods, clothes, shoes, clothes with haute couture labeling, all ready to fall apart five minutes after purchase.
Apothecaries full of ground-up mummies (mostly rodent), henna, and dusty cures for every type of disease and ailment. Book sellers that sold Qurans in the front and communist manifestos in the back (the blackmarket fad of the day), while smoky meat and questionable vegetable smells wafted through the air despite Ramadan. Arab boys his own age- some begging idly, some begging for real beside old men and women with their rotten teeth and persistent exhorting of it being the month for donations. As he carried no money, he raced past them, the fear at being robbed despite current destitution was unknown. He had nothing- except his American clothes and his expensive (and overlooked) sneakers, so he feared nothing.
Arabic was quickly coming to him as most languages did. His British friends only learned the vulgarities- the streetgang slang, the slanders, the drugs, and market words- how to buy and sell for profit as taught by their British pedigree and economics classes. He, however, learned the guttural gracefulness of the beautiful calls to prayer- something his mother crossed at and his father sneered, calling it unChristian blasphemy. The music and gossip and dark murmurings in every electricless place throughout the world. The words were quickly coming on a tide. Sentences and soon paragraphs were overflowing him with pure comprehension.
The Arabic script covering everything with a straight line- exhortations to Allah and Muhammed and Che, dirty limericks punishable with a jail sentence, the differences between Classical Arabic with its Shakespearian undertones, the Egyptian horking accent with its emphasis on heavy Ks and Qs, and the snobby Gulf speakers with their claims of linguistic purity.
His military brat classmates refused to learn any of this, all congregating with the other American children, blase about being above the Communist heathens and sticking to their American discussions about American television, music, and movies like a badge of honor.
The sweat poured out of him like a sieve; he knew he needed water, knew not to drink it in public or from the water sellers. He went another block, and smiled as it opened into a busy street where the wind could push through the smoggy air, airlifting flecks of sweat from his body, cooling him on his final course through the old souk- to his friends' clubhouse built for the exclusive right of being a teenager. Up the rickety stairs he ran, past the nearly empty hookah tables, the floor squeaking and squawking despite his low weight until he emerged through an arched doorway into a playground designed for the young and rich and disaffected.
He immediately hit the food supply, devouring imported, half melted chocolates, drank from hard-to-find coke bottles, ignoring the hot syrupy warmness or how it didn't make him feel rehydrated. His ten-year-old belly sagged happily at the buffet until he plopped down in the bean bag chair, dirt and hair and skin and sugar sticking to the grimy surface as he watched clouds float through the dirty-blue sky from the window.
House smiled, seeing Whit hovering over him like a benign big brother. "I ran the city again today- in western clothes this time. I'll bet you $5 that I could do it in the school uniform and not be caught either."
"What do I need with $5?" Whit replied, gently insulting the boy's money. "But I'll bet you 5 pounds to do the same, if you want." He smiled, straddling a chair.
House thought for a moment- pretending to be afraid of pretending to be a British boy in a school uniform that would mark him as the son of a rich ambassador- out in Cairo alone, running in short pants, jacket, and tie- until he agreed with an air of nonchalance. He knew that he stood out no matter what he wore- his electric blue eyes and sun bleached hair always causing him to be "different" on most continents, always with the same result. He was different and was treated different and thus left alone. Everyone stared at him, called him random English words, but everyone sensed that he was "different" in another way. That he was untouchable because he ignored the dangers of being foreign. American.
"Sure," he replied, pretending to be 15, instead of 10. "Tomorrow, if you want."
The terms and conditions of the bet agreed to, the boys moved onto other matters. "So, where's Dour and Beenie?"
"Headmaster's office. They can't run as fast as me. No matter. We all get it in the end." Whit replied, laughing at the epitome of British teenage humor.