Alexandria duet

Mohammed el Adl, c.1917

“A certain amount of lies is necessary to life.”

“His loneliness was now so big that it had become his life. With it there had grown a sort of finicky distaste, so that if the experience for which he longed had actually been offered to him, he feared he might refuse it.”

“But as they walked in the last sunshine, between the remnants of old Arab walls, a genuine lightness took hold of Morgan. Why couldn’t life always be this easy and this free? If you wanted to meet your friend, you simply met him, and what did it matter if he was from another race and class, and the social gulf was huge?
But of course it did matter […]”

“That they cared for one another, that they enjoyed each other’s company and spoke openly to one another, without awkwardness or barrier: that was the great sin. No emotion was supposed to cross the great divide of class. Affection could erase all hierarchy; in this was the danger, and the delight.”

“Just before he’d left Alexandria, Morgan had arranged for Mohammed to be photographed. Now he kept the picture close to him and frequently took it out to study it. Wearing Western dress – a dinner jacket, white shirt and bow-tie – with his red tarboosh, his Egyptian friend sat looking serious, one leg crossed over the other, an ivory-handled fly-whisk in his hand. He stared out of the image, out of the past, into a restless place in Morgan that wouldn’t lie still.”

“But the story didn’t make Morgan jealous, any more than the prospect of Mohammed’s marriage did. Bodies could collide, in their confusion of appetites; what mattered was something different, which he struggled to put a name to.”

“Sex could be forgotten, or made into something that it wasn’t, but feelings were much harder to erase.”

“Invisible but powerful. Affection was like a colour, or a scent on the air; you couldn’t seize it in your hand, but it lingered, it lasted. When he and Mohammed were gone, he thought, some trace of their joining together would still be here: a ghost haunting an empty room.”

“To be honest and to be fair were not always the same thing.”
Damon Galgut - Arctic summer (Atlantic books-2014)