It was during a walk we took just beyond the northwest reaches of the Old City—where the chaotic lanes give way to streets at right angles and middle-class trappings, but still retain the capacity for surprise: an ice factory? a cluster of stores selling test tubes, electronics kits, and other supplies for science teachers? a tree draped with movie film that, upon closer examination, reveals frame after frame of Shah Rukh Khan?—when a boy on a bicycle decided to practice his English on us.
Spotting Jenny and I from halfway down the street, he peddled furiously towards us. He slowed as he came near and whispered as he slipped by.
A few feet beyond us he stopped, put his feet down, and turned to gauge our reaction. He was eight years old, riding a new bicycle that still had its factory shine. His hair was neatly combed.
Jenny and I kept walking.
Emboldened by our lack of shouting and that we showed no signs of chasing him, he tentatively peddled by us again, making sure to pass a few feet beyond arm’s reach. “Fuck you!” he whispered again as he passed, this time with more confidence.
Laughing to ourselves, we continued onward. In front of us, he circled around for another pass.
“I want to fuck you!”
This time we gasped, a reaction that clearly pleased him. He stopped behind us with a smug look on his face.
“Me?” I asked, pointing to my own chest in mock horror.
“Yes!” he hollered, standing on his pedals and launching himself down the street behind us. When we looked back a few steps later, he had stopped again, and was clearly deliberating with himself. Finally his deliberations ended, and we could hear him approaching from behind, gravel crunching beneath his tires.
“I want to fuck you-oooo!!!”
“Me?” I asked him once more. “ME?!? Are you SURE?”
He skidded to a halt and stared at us, taking a deep breath and then screaming loud and high and sustained: “YEEESSSSSSS!!!!”
His shout trailed off into cackles. He turned and rode around a corner, and was gone.