You see, the thing about being sold for a camel in Egypt is that it never quite happens the way you think it will.
For example, I didn’t think it would happen at all.
And I certainly didn’t think that my tour guide would be the one who sold me.
Popmpous jerk, that Knox O’Dwyer. We really only called him O’Dwyer. And by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’, because I was the only person in the tour group.
He had started out gentlemanly. If a little rough. Not prone to talking when we traveled between the sights, but prone to explanation at the sights. He didn’t like personal talk, didn’t want me to know anything about his past besides what was relevant to the tour, his business, and his knowledge of Ancient Egypt.
He was a roughneck.
A rough everything.
So it should have come as no surprise when he sold me for a camel.
We had camped late that night, eating out of tin cans, when someone came riding into camp on a horse shouting O’Dwyer’s name.
“What are you doing here?” O’Dwyer didn’t look up from his can. I watched the firelight paint his lashes, darker, longer than they were. Or were they already long and dark? I tried not to look at him. He had a way of catching me right when I did; right when I was thinking about the way his cheekbones carved out his face, right when I was wondering about how I would describe the color and the shape of his lips…
“Kazminsky! He took over the camp!” The man shouted at us.
This caught O’Dwyer’s attention. He snapped his head up. “What?”
“He took all the men hostage! He’s taking all of the artifacts!”
“Artifacts?” I asked, but O’Dwyer didn’t respond.
I soon learned that O’Dwyer was only a part time tour guide. He was the main man for a dig site, years of research, years of his life searching for some lost treasure; he couldn’t find the funding, so he acted as a tour guide.
This is what I reflected on as I watched O’Dwyer ride away.
“I’ll come back!” He shouted, trotting off on his stupid camel.
I kicked at the sand, my arm still cuffed in the hand of the camel-seller.
“Just housework?” O’Dwyer asked. I was hoisted over his shoulders, and I pounded at his back. “You don’t want her for anything else?’
The man responded in a different language.
“It’s just a loan. I’m coming right back, and I expect to trade back for her.”
The camel herder made some sort of conciliatory nose, and O’Dwyer threw me at him.
He locked eyes with the man. “I’m coming back for her.” He pointed at me.
The man nodded.
“You come back here and I’ll kick your sorry ass!” I shouted after him, but he couldn’t hear me.
I stared at the camel herder.
He grinned back.
“Your friend come back?” He said brokenly.
I didn’t answer.
“You not be here.” He grinned.
“What?”I wrenched my arms, but he didn’t let go.
“You not be here. American girl, very high price.”
“What do you mean, ‘i not be here’? You heard O’Dwyer! He’s coming back!”
“What do you think O’Dwyer’s going to do to you when I’m not here?!”
He laughed again. “O’Dwyer never find you…sell to the Nomads…travel too far!” He cackled and repeated, travel too far, travel too far, travel too far
He whipped me around and I stood face to face with a man in a long, black dress. He had his face covered by a navy scarf.
I watched them exchange money, and then he passed me off to the strange new man.
The camel herder grinned.
I stared hopelessly at the horizon, imagining that I could see O’Dwyer.
But I couldn’t.
“Come.” The scarf-man said. “We have long way to travel.”
I shouted. “O’Dwyer!”
But there was no one.
to be continued…