Fight or Flight

Rooted to the spot, ginger spice latte suspended mid air between sips, I stared on uncertainly. Plain clothed men, balthigiya, ran towards me, but not at me. In their hands, utilitarian objects – metal bars, wooden sticks, bricks — all converted into weapons. It could have been the Flinstones, but without Dino and the yaba daba doo.

“This is not my revolution,” cowardly raced through my head. “Should I run? Should I not run? Why are people running? Am I falling for crowd mentality?”

Turning my back on Tahrir, I scurried behind a couple clutching hands and pulling each other along. Safety is in women and couples.

Two intersections down, residents and shopkeepers watched as people hurried by – sons and younger brothers guarded entrances with their own makeshift weapons.

I slowed down, caught my breath, and took a long walk away from Tahrir, clueless where to go, but desperate to move away. I was waiting for a friend teaching at the downtown AUC campus but decided I would find my way back later.

By dusk, soldiers and tanks barricaded the street back to Tahrir, shouting orders of the approaching curfew at hunched shoulder pedestrians passing by. Trailing two girls on their way to Tahrir, I slipped by after a red eyed, feverishly red cheeked soldier barked at me in an unfamiliar dialect – a thin line between friend and foe.

Tanks had rolled into the square. The less revolutionary stared on silently from across the street as soldiers collected crushed tents and scattered banners into garbage bins. Young men in leather jackets, blue jeans, and shiny black shoes controlled the resumed traffic flowing through the Square. Revolutionaries turned traffic police gestured drivers to stay to the right, stopped traffic, and allowed lanes to merge.

A journalist turned activist explained in a dazed reprieve that with time you learn to read the crowd. You know when to run, when to stay. You never really figure out who’s who though. Eight months later as another young man in a leather jacket checks my ID to get into Tahrir and four women block my entry until one of them pats me down, who’s who still evades me, but somewhere, Fred Flinestone’s managing to figure out who to beat up.


As I brace to run, celebratory golden fireworks light up the night sky, and a glowing effigy gracefully swings from a traffic light in the early winter breeze.


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