Billie Mae splurged her last dollar on a trip of a lifetime.
Forty-five years of marriage had ended badly. Jack had been an ass.
Mustafa pointed to the imposing blocks of rock melting like a mirage in the sweltering distance. Well, they weren’t actually melting; it was an optical illusion, an illusion much like her happy life had been. “That, that is the Great Sphinx of Giza,” he announced with pride as if he himself had had a hand in constructing it. With a flourish, he waved his cigarette out the car window, slowed to a stop, and tapped ashes into the stagnant air.
She’d barely said a single word to the young man after she had gotten into the taxi at Cairo International Airport. From her vantage point in the backseat, it occurred to her that what should have been a half-hour ride had turned into over two hours. There was no meter; the old black taxi reminded her of a hearse. She briefly recalled seeing newer white taxis. Perhaps, a newer taxi would have had air conditioning. She rolled down the window and swiped at the sweat coursing down her forehead. She hadn’t even considered how she must have appeared. At sixty-eight years old, she’d learned to completely ignore her feelings. She’d learned not to cry; she’d learned to shove down each and every feeling she felt. Jack and their five children ignored her. She had strived to be the perfect wife and mother.
“Madam, are you okay?” Mustafa lit another cigarette and adjusted his rearview mirror so as to get a clearer view of her. “Your bottom lip is twitching. I think you are very sad.”
Sweat soaked her white linen blouse. She adjusted the mint green scarf she had tied around her shoulders. In the distance, the Great Sphinx of Giza consumed the horizon with its grandeur and mystery. Tears and sweat coursed down her cheeks and splashed into the palms of her trembling hands. “I’d always wanted to see the pyramids of Egypt every since I was a small child. My daddy would stand in front of the congregation and give his sermons and talk about Egypt. Those Bible stories.” Her voice caught in her throat. The words drenched in bitterness spilled forth like a dam breaking.
Mustafa tapped his cigarette butt into the ashtray, and then he turned to look directly at her. “So, you are here now. So, why are you crying, Madam? I think you should be happy.”
At sixty-eight years old, she felt the soreness of her bones. Arthritis had settled into her knees. She adjusted her glasses, and stepped out of the taxi. The hot sand seeped through the thin rubber of her white sandals. Mustafa exited the taxi and stood beside her.
“I gave up a full academic scholarship in archeology. He’d said I didn’t need to go to graduate school after Natalie our first baby was born. Then, after he left me for Corinne he told me I needed to get a job, that since the kids were grown I needed to get a job. He left me just last month. I am sixty-eight years old. What am I going to do? I gave up everything for Jack and our kids. And now.” Her voice trailed off.
Jenny W. Andrews copyright 2022
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