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How (Not) to Shop

“Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.” ~ Socrates

Wearing a knee-length, black cloak with a silk lining, I strode gallantly down by the never-ending grand canal, sprinkled with a thousand flashing diamonds glistening in the late afternoon sun, and through the gardens of effervescent green, where each blade of grass seemed like it was freshly planted by The Dryad herself. The love of my life was on my arm as we waltzed through the trippy maze of foliage. The backdrop, made up of walls,  covered with the most beautiful, eccentric and exotic flowers cascading around us seemed little more than dust juxtaposed against her beauty, and I suddenly understood what the famous French impressionists of yesteryear like Monet and Caillebotte were on about. We took pictures, sat down by the Bosquet du Dauphin fountain, as the statues came alive around us in commemoration of our vibrant presence. The whole day had a dream-like quality to it, with everything falling into place as if God had decided to ignore the other 7 billion muppets and give all his divine love to us. We then looked up to find, out of nowhere, a 50-ft, surreal, monster-Golden Buddha emerging from the ground on the main courtyard. It happened to be that that day famed Japanese flat art artist Takeshi Murakami was exhibiting. It was one of the most incredible sights of my life and a mammoth wave of euphoria hit me…

Or that could have been the mushrooms I smuggled in and took.

Either way, I felt like a king. This was the Palace Of Versaille…

Two years later…

I got this tattoo, inspired by Murakami’s flower motifs, abundant in most of his paintings…

Three years later….

Wearing my hash-stained, vomit green H&M hoodie from the night before, I stumbled groggily along like an orc out of a cave, beside rows and rows of depressingly-branded furniture stalls, hawking the latest in lifestyle condiments to us consumerist cattle to accessorize our empty houses and emptier souls with. The greyish white-noise carpet below me was sprinkled with a thousand glistening cigarette butts and went on for an eternity. It was like floating on the river Hades, if Hell had been commissioned by Ikea. My driver, Mohammed, was by my side and the smell of corrugated cardboard, fresh cement and wood chippings that cascaded around us was no match for the kebda/Cleopatra combo escaping from his mouth. After half an hour of tramping through a maze of the same plastic chairs manufactured in the same motherfucking Chinese factory branded with different cute syllables like Cozy or Comfex or BumCuddle, I looked up and, out of nowhere, finally arrived at my destination: a well-known Egyptian furniture and accessories outlet. I snapped pictures for our social media client and posted them on Twitter whilst shop attendants ushered me away from their precious displays. It was one of the most banal sites of my life and a mammoth wave of nausea hit me…

Or that could have been the 10 Meister Maxes from last night wana kont makhbooooot neeek.

Either ways I felt like a combars. This was Le Marche Furniture Expo at Cairo International Conference Center.

Here’s where my poetic prose gets to a poetic point. Tired from my razzle-dazzle day of being trapped at a furniture expo with no exit, I searched for a bed to catch some sneaky zzzz on, and lo and behold, right next to my client’s booth, I found a perfectly comfortable pink racing car bed in a kids shop… With these pillows scattered on top of it:

Now I’m 99.9% sure the manager, the shop assistant, and the owner of the aforementioned kid’s shop have no idea who famed flat art artist Takeshi Murakami is. The scenario I imagined up goes like this….

The young go-getting shop assistant/buyer for kid’s shop goes through AliBaba.com selecting items for the store to brand as their own. He comes across tacky colorful pillows in the shape of flowers and, in this wretched economy, he thinks these flowers will sell and sell big. The manager isn’t amused, he tells the buyer to get real and stick to incorrectly colored Mickey Mouse pens and Spongey Bob bed spreads. Flower pillows! Are you crazy?! You’ll put us out of business! They get into a big argument, he threatens the shop assistant/buyer with his job, but as all heroes do, he goes ahead and does what he feels is right. He purchases 10 tacky, colourful, smiley flower pillows at wholesale price, like a hero. My hero.

He’s waiting behind the counter at the shop’s stall at Le Marche. It’s been hours and there hasn’t been one purchase of a tacky, colourful, smiley flower pillow. He’s sweating profusely; the manager watches on from a distance with a wrinkled frown on his face, staring bullets at our young go-getter. His career flashes before his eyes and in walks me. The PERFECT customer.

Illustration by Bouklao Illustrations

I walk in and spot the pseudo-Murakami flower pillows. My jaw drops.  The shop assistant looks at me, notices my arm and his jaw drops. The manager looks at shop assistant, looking at me, and his jaw drops. Queue one minute of pure synchronistic rapture: a wormhole is created, ripping through time and space, intercut by elaborate and creepy suggestive looks between me, shop assistant and manager.

The clock stops as I pick up the pillow and stride towards the counter. Everyone is still. The whole of Cairo International Conference Center freezes. I place the pillow down by the cashier and I know where my place is in the world. This is where I was meant to be!

The amazed shop assistant smiles like he’s won the lottery. The ego-trodden manager weeps in the corner.

“50 LE,” beams the shop assistant, hands out waiting to collect that magic note which symbolises the beginning of his stardom in the world of kids’ accessory buying. He will go down in history.

Shit, I don’t have any money.