The air conditioned office was shaking at a two seconds interval every time the old brown York air conditioner burped some cool air.
Mubarak's picture was on the wall behind the desk. He looked like a teenager compared to the figure sitting in the dark chocolate brown leather armchair.
The whole room was dressed in this shade which grotesquely matched the old York dripping water through an orange hose into a lime green bucket.
Ghali lit a cigarette – Gauloises – and leaned forward while staring into the face hovering in midair between cap and collar. He opened his thin lips to say something but then changed his mind.
No, he thought, asking for whisky is not a very smart move. He'd already said he didn’t want anything to drink.
"Well, Mr. Ghali…"
"Please General Fangary, there's no need for these formalities. You can call me Mr. Waguih."
"I'm all ears General."
"You do know why you're here"
"Actually Mohsen, I can call you Mohsen, can't I? I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing here."
"BUT you are the one who requested this INTERVIEW MR. Ghali."
"Please, there's no need for Ghali, this is as you say only a friendly interview. I did request this meeting but I only did so to hear what you have to say to me in person General."
The abrupt pause was broken with a moist burp from old York.
"I AM really confused Mr. Waguih. I DON'T HAVE anything to say to you."
"Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue Mohsen."
Fangary's eyes – enlarging – stared at Ghali through the thick smoke. The minute became two as Ghali enjoyed the last of his smoke and Fangary tried to understand what he had just said to him which made him so pleased with himself.
Ghali smiled as he put out his cigarette.
"General, your ridiculous – pardon my language but I can't find a more suitable word – interference in my life clearly shows you have something you want to ask me. So just go ahead, I'll be direct with you, I promise. I won't lead you on like those silly teenagers you send my way to know things about me."
The York cleared its throat.
"Mr. Ghali…the Supreme Council for ARMED Forces' position is not to be ridiculed. The Council is concerned with Egypt's safety ONLY"
"So am I Gen."
"Yes, yes however the Council will not STOP at ANYthing to protect EGYPT FROm anything."
"You've made that clear Gen."
"The COUNCIL will ALWAYS and FORever protect Egypt even if from Egyptians themselves."
"Oh for goodness' sake just spit it out Fangary"
"You are a THREAT, a potential one MR. GHALI!"
"Damn it, I thought I'd be a confirmed and dangerous threat General after all you're doing"
"This is national security Mr. GHALI. Do NOT Belittle it."
"What's itching you Fangary?"
"What is up SCAF's arse??"
"YOUR wife is AN Israeli. Mr. Ghali. You've abandoned your Egyptian nationality; you've come to EGYPT after decades of being abroad after January 31st. THESE are ALL reasons for breaching national security and secrets. They are REASONS TO SUSPECT treachery AND spying MR. Ghali. DO you UNDERstand me?"
"I think you are highly mistaken General for more than one reason of course. However, the most pressing is the fact that I am absolutely not a spy because I have no Facebook or Twitter account, nor do I carry a camera and I most certainly do not sit in any of those posh air conditioned coffee shops."
"This IS NOT A joke MR. GHALI. Egypt is GOING THROUGH A critical…"
"I'm not done yet Mohsen. My wife is an Egyptian. Her religion is her business, but if SCAF would be so impertinent so as to meddle into the citizens' private matters, she became a Copt when we were married. If you're also wondering about me, I don’t really give a rat's bottom about God, religion or even marriage, but its not so easy to get out of marrying a woman who's been your lover for over half of your life."
"MR. GHALI, this IS GONE …"
"You haven't done your homework Fangary. I have not given up my Egyptian nationality. It was stripped away from me because I am a communist."
"WE do not SAY this word in these offices MR. GHALI"
"Which word is that General? God, lover, communist or Egyptian??"
"This IS GOING TOO…"
"Far Fangary?? I guess what's his name, the pullover guy really did work up the airport and flight records, eh? He is such a great loss. Isn't he? I arrived in Egypt January 31st 2010 General. 2010."
"This is NOT TRUE. You ARE A spy, you CARRY an English PASSPORT. You…"
"Actually it’s a French passport and Swedish one as well. I've already told you Fanagary, I am not a spy and I go to Tahrir to protest because I am an ordinary Egyptian fellow who wants to overthrow the regime for a breath of democracy."
The York erupted violently. Fangary rose out of his chair and knocked over the small Egyptian flag on the desk.
He was breathing heavily; his face turned red, purple and yellow in a few seconds. He raised his right arm as he leaned with his left hand on the desk. His forefinger rose – an erection despite the rage – pink and swollen.
His laugh preceded his quick slim hand as he held Fangary's finger and put his arm down.
"Oh come one Fangary. It'll stick to you like a prostitute's reputation for faking orgasms. Do stop the fingery pointing"
He chuckled, proud of his borrowed joke, before he continued.
"Sit down man, take a few deep breaths, we won't argue over whether I've got an English or French passport."
Ghali pushed Fangary gently back into his Chair. He moved around to the side of the desk and picked up the flag and put it back where it was.
"THANK you MR. GHALI"
"Don't thank me General, no thanks between us. Do you mind, though if I take the flag? I'm quiet fond of its size."
"IT'S an Army possession Mr. Ghali…BUT…"
"Thanks mate Come on, let's have something to drink, you need a sip of something."
The General stared at Ghali as he rolled the small red, black and white flag around its pole and stuffed it in his shirt.
He swallowed twice, clenched a Parker pen in front of him before ringing the bell for the office boy. Half a minute later a young man dressed in kaki with cap and all was at the door.
"Yes, Sir. What do you need Sir?"
"I will have a Turkish COFFEE, no sugar. What will you have Mr. Ghali?"
"Double scotch, please, no ice. Thank you. It's not too early in the day to have whisky, is it?"