People walk past me on the sidewalk as they leave. I don’t have any energy left, and I can barely stand any longer. I drop to the cold concrete sidewalk floor, rumpled picture in hand. I’ve spent another day stopping people and asking whether they’d seen her. No one has. It’s been two days. People pass by me now, smiling, with their signs and flags and bullhorns. The square still lives well into the night, but people are starting to leave.
The first day, after I’d lost her, I circled the square in a panic, clawing frantically at the jeering crowd and wailing her name. “The people want the regime down!” they shout, higher and louder than I’d thought possible. The square roars in chant. The voices, ever-growing, pierce sky and cloud. Between chants, a silence falls, only to be sliced by deafening sound. In their time of short-lived silence, they tiredly pull in breaths, and the square empties of sound and air. Then, as quickly as they’d stopped, they chant. Again and again. They know no surrender. They will accept no defeat. I chanted along, and so did she. Until I hadn’t, I had held Amy’s hand in a vice of my own palm. We pushed our way through the crowd. It was nine o’clock, the time the protests are at their biggest. There was no stepping-space, and I wondered at how we fit inside.
Sometimes, because I stop them, or because they’re concerned at my worried face, or the square’s too packed for them to stand anywhere else and they have to, people stop to ask me why I’m shaking and holding a crumpled photo in my hand, who the person in it is. I tell them. I describe her: her long locks of brown hair, how she’d held a white sign with red lettering, the azure blue shirt and jeans I’d last seen her in, the purple sports shoes (I bought these myself), her wide thick rimmed glasses that she’d always thought made her look like our favourite librarian, her seas of blue eyes, her undying smile. Some frown at me, some say words of encouragement, some don’t find the words and walk away. All say they haven’t seen her. Some stay awhile, thinking their keeping me company will help. It doesn’t. They ask how I lost her, and I tell them.
I tell them how when the protests were at their loudest, we chanted along. How I carried her on my shoulders, and dropped her the first time I tried to. How my grip on her hand never loosened, until it had. How, pushing through the crowd, I was pushed and lost grip. How we were separated. How I lost her. How I haven’t left the square since. How I know that, with the gunfire and flying bullets, often, to lose someone for hours in Tahrir square, now, is to lose them forever. It was easy to lose someone there, then. How I have to leave them to ask more people. I only tell them what happened expecting them to tell more people about Amy. That and I need someone to talk to.
I stop an exhausted couple that walked in front of me. I ask them if they’d seen Amy, I show them the picture of her. They haven’t. Disappointment again.
When they’re not chanting or running away from tear gas canisters, I walk to everyone in sight and ask. The square and the streets surrounding it have turned a light gray, and children carrying plastic bags pick up bits of plastic and paper and metal and, if they smile and tuck them into their pockets, bullet shells. I can see the remains of fires they built for heat. I circle the square; I’ve lost count of how many times I have. I know every inch of it. I know that, here, I’ll walk by where the sidewalk breaks off and the concrete is chipped. Here is where the black of traces of fires are. Here is where the man in blue is, he’s been here as long as I have, always in the same spot. Here is where the flag sellers are. Here is where the camera crews are, it affords them a good vantage point of the square and the protesters. Here is where people come in with carloads of supplies for the protesters. Here is where, two days ago, I lost Amy.
Live bullets were shot the day I lost her. Where is she? Could she have died? Could a bullet squealing through the air have pierced through her heart or brain or lungs? Could she have died with fright in her eyes? Could what she last felt be fear and despair and pain? Could I have lost her?
Two men walk past me, see despair in the black of my face and eyes, and notice the picture in my hand. They ask me about Amy. And I tell them.