My buoyant ambiance is dampened with the culture shock of this unknown territory of Egypt. I am sitting in the back of this archaic taxi, catching snippets of anxious eyes in the rear view mirror. For the first time I can see the resemblance of my mom and me in that mirror, the fact that has been pushed away for so long.
I turn and look out the window to find people lined on the streets, thinking maybe something special was happening, but found that it was common. I smile at them, hoping to give them some certainty that there is still love thriving in this world. I give them a small act of compassion, but I hope to change the person’s mind that graphitized “No Love in This Life” on the wall behind them. It is irresistible to give them this smile, everything I can possibly give from inside of this taxi. I give them this smile, knowing that they will go home to those houses that we look at with a tear in our eye; making the poorest of us Americans seem rich. I hide my face in embarrassment. Our suitcases on top of this taxi are more than these people own. I feel guilty standing shoulder to shoulder with the same people going home to an uncertain mean and a room to share with four others while we have spare bedrooms in America; to cold showers and no bed. They flash me a pained smile in return, but I can tell from their eyes that it is out of politeness. Those dark, sad eyes have seen more than I can fathom. I want to tell them that everything will be okay, but they know this better than I do.
I take a breath in, feeling the pollution churning in my lungs. My nose starts to burn, but there is nothing I can do. There is smog over the whole city of Cairo, telling you the story of the million people in their cars with the expected cigarette hanging from their mouths. Each day I spend here, I remind myself that I have a mansion comparatively awaiting me at home.
Returning to the airport in our archaic taxi, I catch snippets of sad and experienced eyes in the rear view mirror. I see the alike faces of my mom and me, and feel a sense of maturity. I am eager to leave this mess behind. But sadness overcomes me, knowing that I will leave these people here to live in chaos and poverty, and all I can give them is my smile.
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