The Way We Play

We are not famous. You would probably not know who we are. My name is Kaled Mohammed. I have a jazz trio. The three of us live in Cairo. I play saxophone, Ayman Ezzat drums, and Tito Abdelatif piano.

For the past ten years, we have been fortunate enough to make a decent living playing music. We are a little bit well known in the Egypt jazz scene.

It was the last night of a ten-day gig at the Oasis Club in Cairo. The following night we would begin a two-week job at the Club Novo in Aswan.

If you drive from Cairo to Aswan, even though the road is good and the traffic nothing like the madhouse of Cairo, it is a nine-hour ride. We wrap up at 2:00 a.m., and by the time we get home and settle in, it’s usually around 4:00 a.m.

We knew we would not want to take on a drive that long the following day, even with each of us taking turns, so we agreed we would ride the train to Aswan. We said we would meet at the central train station at 9:00 a.m., which would give us plenty of time to check into our hotel in Aswan and then head to Club Novo to play at 9:00 p.m.

Ayman was there first, and I joined him. We waited for Tito, but a half hour passed, and still no sign of him. I rang him on his mobile, but it went automatically to message.

Another twenty minutes or so went by and we began to worry. It was not like Tito to be late. He was usually the one calling us, saying that we were a couple of lazy-assed musicians.

I rang him again. No answer.

Fifteen minutes passed, and suddenly Tito came running over to us. He did not have an overnight bag.

“I’m sorry, my friends,” Tito said, “but I cannot go with you.”

“Why’s that?” I asked. “What is wrong?”

Tito explained, very excitedly, that when he’d come home that morning, he found a note from his girlfriend, Tasha, telling him that she was moving out and going back to her parents’ home.

We knew this was not good. Tasha was pregnant. Why would she leave Tito?

“What is it, brother?” I asked. “What happened? Did you have a big argument with her or something?”

“No, no, nothing like that. I have no idea what might be wrong. We never fight.”

This was true. They were a very happy couple. I could not understand why the situation might be what it was.

Tito said again, “I’m very sorry, I can’t go with you. I need to go see Tasha. She will not answer my calls.”

Certainly Ayman and I could have winged it with just sax and bass. Still, the three of us were like family, closer than if we had actually been born brothers.

“Tito,” I said. “We will wait for you here. Better yet, would you like for us to come with you?”

“No, no. You two go. Please, I don’t know what might happen.”

I put my foot down. “Tito, we will wait for you. If, in fact, something absolutely must keep you here, then please call us and we will go ahead to Aswan.”

Tito agreed, reluctantly, then took off. Ayman and I decided to go for something to eat.

Perhaps an hour later, Tito called. He had seen Tasha, talked to her, and the news was not good. At least from her side.

She had gone to see her doctor, and the latest sonogram suggested that the baby might be developing in a way that could produce a kind of deformation. Perhaps, the doctor had said, the child might be so affected by this, that he – they knew it would be a boy – might have some serious problems with his limbs on the right side of his body. His right arm and leg might be so underdeveloped that he would not be able to walk, or even use his right arm and leg at all. They would monitor the situation closely from here on in.

Tito was on speaker. When he had finished, Ayman said, “Tito, why did she run away?”

“She said that she did not want to burden me with a child who had a disability. She did not think it right.”

“Right?” Tito had said. “Tasha, what is not right is that you should bear this responsibility all by yourself. I told her,” Tito said, “that no matter what, I would take care of my boy.”

“This is the way it should be,” I said. “I know, Tito, that you are too good a man not to shoulder this responsibility, and I pledge to you that I will help you in any way I can.”

“I as well,” Ayman said.

“We are all the family we have,” I said. “We are thicker than blood brothers.”

Tito thanked us profusely for our pledge to help. Having talked to Tasha, and being very much relieved at this point, he agreed that he would come to the station, and we would go to Aswan together as planned.

We returned to the station and waited. Time passed, enough so that Tito should have been there.

Traffic in Cairo is horrible. It is bumper to bumper all day and night, and pedestrians take many chances crossing against the river of motor vehicles. Although there is the occasional crosswalk or underground tunnel, we do not use them. Why? Because it seems faster to go straight across the street, walking with great faith that you will make it to the other side in one piece.

My phone rang. It was Tasha. There are 12,000 pedestrians killed each year in Cairo. The unlucky ones. The ones for whom time has simply run out.

That night Ayman and I played together like we had never played before.

* * * * *

Today’s writing prompt is


Use it to inspire a piece of writing, and then post that piece as a comment below. I would love to read it : )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s