Friday, September 16, 2016
The Insufferable Camel Walk (1998)
The sun was low, per near on top of us, a grueling inferno, the air stagnant, in the city of Cairo, in Egypt, it was my third day, no wind, other than a puff now and then. Solomon, whom was the head bellboy, about my age, 51-years old, he and his brother, Herc, whom I nicknamed after Hercules, he was so strong, I hired to take me to the Camel Market, outside of Cairo, some forty miles. It was his day off, so it worked out well. His old Chevy, whirled down this long dusty dirt road picking up light dust and sand along the way, the tires wheeling and tossing it in our faces from our open windows. It was 107 F. In the distance was the pyramids and sphinx at Giza. Two days ago I had been in the pyramid of Khafra. The Great pyramid was closed for repairs. I had entered down into an empty rock-cut chamber. Khafra is built on higher ground, looks taller than the Great Pyramid, but it is just appearance. From Solomon’s house you get a great view of dynasty pyramid temples.
But what I was about to say is here we are driving down this long road about forty miles outside of Cairo, it is 107 F., open windows, the ground seemingly giving back all the heat it absorbed from the sun, even the tires on the car are hot has hell. The front windshield, gives a glare from the rays of the sun, the window glass radiates a kind of shimmering blinding waves of diversions, bendings or refractions. On both sides of the road, as we rode down this dusty and dirt way there were many camel drivers, bringing their camels to the market, some paused in the sweltering heat to get a rest, drink water, see the car, our car, coming down the road, soon to pass them. Many of the camel owners have driven their camels to exhaustion, many dying dead on both sides of the road, about half a dozen lying dead!
The dead, and the soon to be dead, their spines looked rocky. Their humps leaning over like old women’s breasts. I stared out of the back window in a groggy wonderment at this insufferable puzzle; saying to my mind’s eye, ‘Why bring camels to the camel market to sell, only to watch them die on the way?’
At the market it was surrounded by a white adobe (or mud brick) eighteen inch wall. Per near perfectly square, and perhaps a third a mile wide, and on both sides, men, within this walled bizarre market of sorts, were selling, and trading. The ground was lined with numerous pits, and the sun hotter than a machinegun’s barrel, shooting at full blast. To peer through the flickering heat-wave, my face sore and sunburnt, I was still mindful of those dead half dozen camels on the road leading up to the market. Yet I remained unspoken of it, knowing Solomon and his brother, took it as normal. Knowing one sees strange things in different cultures that are simply a way of life for its people, no rhyme or reason for it.
I felt a bit depressed, I mean this was not the work of nature, but of indolence, on behalf of the owner, and if not, what then? Greed? He just lost a selling item because he didn’t want to rest the animal, or feed or water him. Whatever the reason it would remain an unexplained mystery.
I, along with Solomon and his brother, walked about the market, looking into stalls, and stopping to nod our heads now and then at folks selling, it all was a growing sense of strangeness and mystery to me, and it seemed everyone was blinded to a kinder care of the animal. Solomon explained they tie up one leg of the camel so he can’t run away. And there he stands, or falls to the ground, on three legs, when he gets too tired of standing. A beast of burden. I even told my second self, perchance, everyone’s brain here is affected by the sun; but that was of course a cruel observation, criticism, until you walk a distance in their shoes, who’s to say! And to be frank, myself being a poet, I’ve come to the conclusion, trying to reason something’s out, only inflicts wounds.
Note: My most recent story “The Insufferable Camel Walk,” (#1153) written September 16, 2016, at 1:00 a.m., dedicated to Domenico, who was born September, 16, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. 7.5 hours later, to my Godchild, Ximena Herrera.