AUC American University
His hand trembled.
He hated that, to be seen weak, is a one-way street to end your career. Dr Steve Wayne was known by his peers as one of the top Middle Eastern Archaeologist in the world, worked in dangerously challenging circumstances. His discoveries are altered our understanding of the Middle Eastern history.
To fear is a new experience for him.
Hard to comprehend.
He lowered his hand, put it behind his back, hesitated, went to his desk, put the small blue file aside, and took his reading glass off, throw it beside the file, many scenarios of what can or will happen run around him in a never-ending cycle.
Stopping it was hard.
It took him while before he stood again. Rubbed his face. He couldn’t think anymore. Hesitated for a minute, then walked to the window. Looking from his office window in The American University’s Khairy Pasha Palace which overlooked Cairo’s Tahrir; Liberation; Square for more than 150 years.
His thought drifted to the history of the building he’s in.
He loved it.
The Khairy Pasha Palace for its impressive Islamic architectural and its rich history.
He memorised word by word what’s written on the plaque near the front door of the Palace.
‘ Egypt’s Educational Landmark’
‘ Khairy Pasha Palace was constructed in the 1870s by Khedive Ismail to house his confidant and Minster of Education Ahmed Khiary Pasha, for home the building in named. Sold to Greek businessman Naester Gianaclis after Khiary’s death. The Palace was used as a cigarette factory. In 1908, the Egyptian University rented it. In 1919, Khiary Pasha Palace was bought by Charles Watson, the founding president of the American University in Egypt’.
Watching the continues chaotic traffic jam at ‘ Tahrir Square’ from his office window on the second floor of the Noe-Islamic Building of The American University in Cairo did not ease his apprehension of what he read in the small blue file.
He never asked or wanted to be in the situation he is in now!.
In spite of the cold streamed air from the air-conditioning system above his head, he was sweating; he looked again at the door and wished, he wasn’t in Egypt.
Tried to shake off his feeling. Looked again through the glassed sealed window of his office.
Nothing is changed.
The Old battered Taxis were running amok between the overcrowded, speeding Mini-Buses. Tilting big Buses full with passengers hanging from the broken doors were pushing through the traffic mayhem. While the expensive, new modern European cars driven by the newly wealthy Egyptians were forcing its way into the crowded square to cross the Nile Bridge towards the exclusive ‘Garden City’ suburb. Noises, tooting, beeping, penetrated the soundproofed glass window of the office. The streaming clouds of exhaust fumes rose over the square melting, swelling to smog, sneaked through the sealed window.
He smelt it. The scene mesmerised him for few minutes.
He had to do something with that file.
He shook his head again and turned back to his desk.
The big picture, on the wall behind his desk, of Charles A Watson, the founding father of The American University in Cairo, reminded him of the task at hand.
Back setting. He picked up the small blue file from his desk, gazed at it, overwhelmed by a sense of guilt, looked again at the big picture on the wall. Wondered. How would Charles A Watson handle this!. For 27 years, from 1919, when Charles Watson founded the American University in Cairo to create an English-language university based on high standards of conduct and scholarship, to contribute to intellectual growth, discipline, and character of the future leaders of Egypt and the region. Charles A Watson believed that such education establishment would improve America’s understanding of the area.
Remembering that, hurt Steve Wayne more, and made him more anxious.
For a minute. He hesitated. He never wanted to get involve in the first place. But he had no choice. He had to do what he had to do. The question now is where to hide that damned file. He turned his chair around. Stared at Charles Watson’s picture asking him for help.
Froze for a minute.
The watching eyes of Charles Watson seemed to follow him. He moved and it moved following him. He lowered his eyes to the blue file on his desk again, stared at it, looked back to Charles Watson’s picture … and smiled. Stood up and moved toward it. Carefully removed it from the wall and put it on his desk.
The dust sneezed him.
God knows how long it had been there on the wall untouched. With his rigorousness to details, he dusted the back of the picture first. Went to the other side of the room to the small table in the corner. Opened the drawer, search for sticky tape, found it, picked it up, froze for a minute, and hesitated, looking at the sticky tape in his hand, then went back to his desk. Picked up the blue file, gazed at the red words on the top corner of the file ‘Top Secret‘, struggled for few minutes to stop himself from opening it again.
With trembling hand, put the file on the back of the picture, secured it with the sticky tape, shake it to be sure it strapped securely and put the picture back on the wall.
For a minute, he stood looking at the picture of Charles Watson, moved slowly backwards, mesmerised by the steady, wide, dark eyes of Charles Watson looking back at him.
A faint smile of satisfaction passed over his face.
He wondered what the founder of the university would think of what he has done now.