I’m on a bus. Travelling from Jerusalem to Eilat, listening to Arcade Fire. There are full length blinds on the windows which have three positions: tucked up, halfway down, or fully down blocking the window. These are shared between two rows of seats, forcing bus passengers to agree on a position. So mine is fully down, obscuring any view. The guy behind me (in uniform, probably doing his military service) is sleeping with his head against the blind, so I can’t really fight his decision. If he moves I might try to make a blind-to-halfway advance move.
I wake up and its dark. The night sky wide through the window. We stopped at a gas station with about 20 minutes of sunlight left, and pulled out with 5 minutes. I got back on before my backseat passenger and flipped up the blind; he didn’t fight it. There was hardly a glare coming in, just the orange space that the sun leaves behind that I find difficult to pull my eyes away from.
A brand new moon has appeared post-nap. The night is so clear my eyes can clearly trace the invisible rest of it patiently waiting for its turn at illumination.
Some hours later here I get to my point. I love bus travel. Or trains too. The sense of containment: someone else is I’m control. I don’t have to make any decisions about directions, not now, not until the next step. There’s nothing else I should or could be doing. We’ll get there when we get there. So, in the meanwhile, I can do whatever I like. Read, or sleep, or look out the window. Looking out the window, whatever is outside, is often my choice. So being deprived of this small luxury invokes my frustration and indignance. But now the window’s all mine, and the night’s all mine.
The space of the desert following the Jerusalem is vast. The old city there felt so claustrophobic. Streets winding around streets, barely wide enough to let a car through even without the market stalls spilling out onto them. The clash of all peoples, of the holiest places for Jews, Christians and Muslims, the reverence and the fervour defined the city for me. Tension never felt far away. Both inter- and intra-religion. So much history crammed in. Then jump on a bus and within a few minutes you reach an enormous desert expanse. What about this guys? Wouldn’t this do? There would be no need for fighting over whose rock is whose, all the rocks would be new rocks. Rocks with no memories of siege or gunfire. Space for everyone to build for themselves…
The streetlights of what I guess is Eilat are spreading. Time to begin to bring myself back from a safe bus bubble into the world of decisions. The next step approaches.
Cairo, Wednesday morning
Breakfast alone in Novotel marks the end of part one. An abrupt end in mid-night and a strange transition. Oh well, in the words of another,