The Sex Diaries was inspired by New York Magazine’s long-standing Sex Diary column.
8.00 am I wake up with a raging headache. I’ve been getting these migraines a lot recently, probably because I can’t sleep. It’s not that I’m super busy or anything, I just sit in bed, restlessly unable to keep my eyes shut for longer than a few minutes at a time.
8.15 am I get dressed, and wrap a pink scarf around my head. I have been veiled for almost 10 years, since I was in middle school, but lately I have been considering taking it off. I don’t pray as often as I used to, and now I usually find the speeches of Islamic khutba alienating and overly sensational. I feel the latter was the turning point, when for Friday or Eid prayers I began to think, no, this isn’t what I want to be praying to, especially if the subject matter was more 'Us vs Them' as opposed to preaching for universal good. I’m just worried it would break my mom’s heart to see me take it off. She taught me everything I know about religion at a young age, and I’m sure if I take my headscarf off, she would take it as an abandoning of her ideals. Sometimes I leave my scarf a bit loose to flaunt my fringe, which I often dye in varied hues, but my dad beats me up when he notices. The last time that happened, he kept hitting me until I fell to the floor, my body numb and bloodied.
I get dressed, and wrap a pink scarf around my head. I have been veiled for almost 10 years, since I was in middle school, but lately I have been considering taking it off.
8.45 am - 9:00 am I walk to the nearby metro station, watching countless helpless beggars, mercilessly asking for pocket change, recounting the same, well-rehearsed monologues of terminally ill children and incessant misfortune. Yet onlookers walk past, barely noticing the desperation neighboring them, hurriedly trying to make it on time for their office cubicle, retail, or service jobs. Women in headscarves over skin-tight tops walk side-by-side with unveiled Christian peers, men with beards, nodding a brief 'Salaam Allaikum' to recognise neighboirs and local vendors.
The pungent smell of unshowered females pronounced by layers of excess fat under their dark galabiyas, jam-packed shoulder-to-shoulder as I scramble into the overcrowded women’s carriage is dizzying, but I find an empty corner and seat myself on the floor, indulging in the brief breeze from the window above me.
9.30 am I’m a social media executive and photographer for a small 'boutique' firm I joined recently after a long year of unemployment. I don’t like the work, and I know I’m underpaid in comparison to my colleagues who have attended expensive private schools, but it’s better than staying home and remaining unemployed for an even longer period of time.
12:45 pm - 2:00 pm A colleague and I commute from the office to work on a photoshoot of an aging jewelry designer and her daughter at their fancy Zamalek apartment, emphasising the theme of 'family' for their brand’s new collection. After we arrive, the pair relentlessly argue, only to strike a pose in each other’s arms as we snap. Family my ass; it’s clear neither of them can tolerate the other.
I don’t like the work, and I know I’m underpaid in comparison to my colleagues who have attended expensive private schools
4.30 pm I leave the office early, an hour after returning from the interview, because dealing with Hadayek El Maadi, Downtown Cairo, and Zamalek in one day makes me so drained I can’t work any longer.
9.00 pm - 9.20 pm Cooking lentil soup with my mom while texting Abanoub, my best friend. Abanoub and I have been close since our first year in university, and we always had the same friend group although he was studying medicine and many of us were in other departments like languages or media. He’s very handsome and intelligent, with his dark skin, longish hair, and his brooding sighs as he tells us about the tragic patients he comes across at the hospital. Abanoub is also a seemingly devout Coptic Christian. His parents work in the Gulf, which makes his place the most logistically feasible for holding small gatherings or movie nights. My friends and I all still have ridiculously early curfews, but for the past few months, I have usually been the last to leave these get-togethers, even if it meant fighting with my parents after. Abanoub was just too irresistible, and once we started hooking up, it became difficult to say no to him. I would roll out of his bed within an hour or two after our friends had left, pleasing him but not really myself, because previously I never quite knew what pleasure was.
10.00 am My boss is bitching very loudly in her exaggerated American English accent about how "dumb" Azhar graduates are, because a freelance content writer submitted a piece littered with lingual mistakes. The writer is a friend of mine, who I recommended, because I know she is hard working, never misses a deadline, and always takes feedback well. She’s also one of the few people in the market with a decent portfolio who would accept the petty rates the agency pays. K**s Omm my boss, seriously. All she does is whine then overworks us while favouring more like-minded employees who join her for sangrias in the afternoon. And let me tell you, most of these suck-ups she’s friends with haven’t come up with a creative idea in months.
2:30 - 3:55 pm Afternoon slump. Can’t get any work done. Go through my personal Instagram and Facebook feeds. Watch pointless videos of high-ranking restaurants and 'social interest' stories. Curse my boss on the Twitter account I run under a pseudonym, which happens to have a strong follower base. It's in Arabic anyway, she would probably never follow it. Read maybe 10 Buzzfeed articles, it's a good way to practice my English. Go through job postings for Arabic content writing, which I’m far better at than writing in English.
Honestly, it feels good to touch him, and to be touched by him. I used to feel guilty about it at first, but then I thought, well, what we do is not really fornication.
4:15 pm Text from Abanoub. Wahashteeni, accompanied with a couple of the kissing emojis. Habibi, I text back, lazem ashoofak. It’s always like that with us, he’s avoidant or only makes small talk for a few days, then suddenly he’s warm and approaching, likely because he’s horny. Honestly, it feels good to touch him, and to be touched by him. I used to feel guilty about it at first, but then I thought, well, what we do is not really fornication. I don’t even let him return the favor after I give him head, because I worry that I’d end up developing feelings for him if he does. As his closest friend, I also get to deal with the emotional labor of listening to him talk about his problems, fights he’s had with family, the difficulties he’s facing at the challenging (not to mention emotionally and physically draining) residency program he’s enrolled in at Kasr el-Ainy, and his Game of Thrones obsession.
6.30 pm Sipping green tea with honey on Abanoub’s balcony after indulging in his homemade koshary dish. I have to say his cooking skills are a huge turn-on. He’s from a more privileged background than the rest of our friends, so he has this really fancy kitchen that must be twice the size of my room. Watching him navigate it is the sexiest thing ever.
8.00 pm - 8.30 pm I give Abanoub head on the edge of his bed. After he finishes, he asks if I want to cuddle but I decline, before he grabs me by the waist and seats me on his lap. “You’re so beautiful with your hair like that,” he says, running his fingers through the fringe falling down my face. He’s seen my hair countless times before, even when I was still religious. I used to tell him he’s like a brother to me, but of course I stopped saying that once we started hooking up.
7.00 am - 7.45 am Argue with my dad about coming home at 10:30 pm last night. He doesn’t buy the argument that I was working late then had to “help a girlfriend with some trouble she’s going through.” He begins yelling, “what would people think? What about your reputation? I am not allowing you to come home after 10:00pm under any circumstances.” I’m aggravated, and I ignore him. I can’t believe that the only sense of freedom I have in my life derives from choosing who to to hook up with.
My eyes begin to tear up, and I give my back to him so he wouldn’t see. “Can you fucking answer me?” He raises his voice, then grabs me by the arm to turn around towards him. He tightens his grip once more and yells, spitting on my face, “tell me the truth! Where were you? Don’t you care what people say?” I force myself out of his firm wrists as they loosen, then mumble that I have to get ready for work between muffled tears. He doesn’t follow me while I walk to my room and begin packing my things.
2.00 pm - 2.30 pm Tear up a bit while munching on a sandwich at work, but no one notices because I’m the only person in the kitchen, and I try not to be audible. For a long while, I have felt unloved. Sure, my friends are warm and kind, so is my mom, but I can’t think of anyone who would truly love and accept me unconditionally despite my flaws, sins, and secrets. No one knows all that is me. In fact, I always keep my guard up and maintain appearances, a particular persona, with different people I meet. At work, I remain calm and collected, engaging in meaningless conversations about fashion and the latest trends as a pretense to fit in with my snobby, upper-class colleagues. I even try hard to improve my English, which is already fairly good, to get up to par with their native-level accent. My friends don’t know that I hook up with Abanoub (or at least, they pretend not to know, because they would never like the idea of me doing something like that) and I doubt they would treat me respectfully if they knew for certain. And my family is just, nothing but stress and fights and demands. I need out.
My friends don’t know that I hook up with Abanoub (or at least, they pretend not to know, because they would never like the idea of me doing something like that) and I doubt they would treat me respectfully if they knew for certain.
4.30 pm - 4.45 pm Small talk with Sherif, a gay fashion design student usually based in New York who is interning with us for the summer. I think he might have noticed me crying earlier, because he’s overly nice although we usually don’t talk much. He runs a palm softly on my arm and smiles, inviting a more genuine response to his inquires than my curt, “I’m fine…yeah, that project is okay…” I end up tearing up a bit more, overwhelmed by his kindness, and I tell him I don’t want to talk for long.
6.30 pm - 9.00 pm At home, in my bed, doing absolutely nothing.
10.00 am - 12.00 am Work meetings with new clients. Ignore two intermittent texts from Abanoub. Drown myself into work to avoid thinking about anything else.
3.00 pm - 3.10 pm Four intermittent missed calls from Abanoub. I pick up on the fifth, a few minutes after the fourth. “Aiywa?”
“Feinek? And why are you so cold?”
He just baffles me. It’s always the same, he disappears for at least a day before suddenly starting to call persistently.
“Work’s busy…and I had a fight with dad. Really tired…”
“Why don’t you come over today, and we talk about it?”
He has the warmest voice. I almost fall for it, as I did a hundred times before.
“Dude, I’m really in trouble and I have to be home right after work! Enta kwayis?”
“All is good, work is just driving me mad. Yesterday I fell asleep in a room barely the size of a closet at work! And it fucking stinks of crappy hospital soap! Imagine?”
“Uh-uhuh,” I mutter briefly. He always talks about the same things, and I’m not in the mood for it at a low point. I just want a real hug in silence. A few awkwardly silent moments later, I find myself asking, “If something really bad happened to me, would you be there to take care of me right away?” If my dad beat me up to death. If I show up at your house next week and I just want to cry. If our friend group abruptly disintegrates.
“Yeah baby, what’s up? Tell me everything!”
His seeming genuine, comforting tone makes me melt.
“You know what, I’ll just come by tonight to see you. I might be working late, so see you at maybe 8:30? Will you be there?”
9.00 pm A hot make-out session with Abanoub on his couch. I usually don’t allow him to stick his tongue in, so he just kisses my face and neck before his hands make their way down to my breasts and tickle my tummy. I always wanted my first real, long kiss to be with someone I saw myself with in the long-term. Certainly not someone from a different religious background, who keeps the nature of our relationship from our friends. He holds me in a close embrace after, whispering, “I know you’re not feeling well, but I’m here for you, habibti.”