It was the first day of summer, the sun was high in the sky when he decided to walk to the near by bakery to get some bread and pastries. The street was empty, quietness dominated the the neighbourhood where he lived since his birth four decades ago. A stray cat was rummaging through the bin bags, thrown at the corner of the alley, it was devouring a piece of bone when it looked up at him then returned back to its meal. He can still remember when there was no pavement or tarmac in this part of the city, when they used to play in dusty roads, spraying water in the summer to bring some coolness in a warm evening and to settle the dust down. He can still remember those small holes they used to dig in the middle of the alley to play with glass marbles, all of this seemed to happen so long ago, the dusty alley has been tarmacked, and no one plays with marbles anymore.
Before reaching the top of the street, and just few metres from the intersection, he stopped to allow a speeding hatchback car to drive down the road, the driver blasted Techno music at full volume in an attempt to impress his rival music enthusiasts in the neighbourhood. On reaching the main road he noticed that few cars passed by, summer Friday afternoons were always quite, and although this part of the city sprawled in the last few years, it still maintained an idyllic character that it has been losing with time. He passed the pastry shop and noticed that it was open, the smell of fresh croissants reminded him of an old love that used to live in him. The near by butcher was cleaning his displaying fridges preparing them for another week of fresh meat, he almost laughed when he read the shop’s name, freedom butcher, with an illustration of what looked like a cleaver chopping a piece of red meat. On the other side of the road stood a building that used to be police station, now it was abandoned, stripped of its rank and status, while rotten vegetables from the nearby market was piling up on its doorsteps.
At the bakery a crowd of people gathered waiting for a new batch of freshly baked baguettes to come out from the innards of the shop, the smell of warm fresh bread dazed the crowd, keeping them quiet an sedated, and possibly triggering a tranquil childhood memory, of eating a sandwich of tuna and harissa during afternoon recess at school. A little boy stood beside a teenager and were talking about how they can’t wait to go back home to continue their game on their Play Station console, and how it was unfair that their mother sent them in this blazing afternoon to get some bread and insisting that they wait for the freshly baked batch although there was a basket full of good baguettes on display. He didn’t wait too long before the new hot bread came from inside the bakery in big baskets. He stood with the crowd waiting for his turn to pick one loaf and pay for it. The bread was very warm. He couldn’t resist the temptation to break a crusty piece at the end of the loaf. Warm steam rose from the broken end. He smelled the fresh bread before eating it in two bites. The crowd began to pick up the warm loaves, some got two or three while most were getting a bag load of baguettes, some even had two bags, in this frenzy of bread rage he seemed to be the odd one with his one loaf, that was in the process of being consumed as he went out of the bakery.
While heading back home he passed by a neighbouring house, he used to stand in his bedroom window facing an odd single window on the third floor in this house just across the street. He remembered how he witnessed for several years the relationship between a girl in that house and a boy living on the other side of the street, she used to throw a towel on the window’s ledge as a sign for her boyfriend that she is available for a chat, he on the other side stood for many hours under the blazing sun, leaning on a wooden utility pole smoking. She usually peaked from the window every few minutes to check if he was standing in his usual spot at the corner of the neighbourhood’s street. Rabia and Rashid developed a unique sign language to communicate in a time when mobile phones were a novelty. He used to watch those encounters especially in the long hot summer afternoons, although he only managed to follow Rabia’s gestures to Rashid which was standing on the further side of the crossroad. Rashid was killed by a stray bullet one afternoon, and was deemed a martyr by his family, and Rabia moved with her husband to a small town in the east, while the house was demolished to make way for two residential buildings which the events, as the uprising came to be known, delayed their completion.
A speeding car coming from the further end of the street was approaching from a distance. He could recognise that it was the same car that passed by him several minutes ago, the driver was still playing the same loud Techno music. He saw a cat jump from the pile of rotting rubbish few metres from where he stood holding his stale and crumbling baguette, it took him another moment to realise that he was standing in the rain, soaking, cold with a deep sense of loss and despair. The car passed slowly, then stopped momentarily while the driver lowered his window. He stared at him then pointed to the piece of bread, and without saying a word he gave it him, and saw the car speed away. He looked at the empty dark road and could barely recognise the crushed remains of a cat.