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COLUMN ONE

Another unsung death on the Nile

Struggling to make ends meet, Samir Asar took his life, torn between his new wife and his parents. For them his loss is catastrophic. But it is just one of many in Egypt's desperately poor delta area.

January 30, 2010|By Jeffrey Fleishman

Samir will be counted among them. He and his father built the family's brick house years ago. It has a second floor with wooden shutters that open to a narrow alley, where schoolgirls pass and a white-haired woman peeks from a splintered door. The land the house is on was once a field, but the village has pushed the field back and you have to walk farther now to farm, beyond houses with thatched roofs and the sounds of TVs. It was here amid plantings and harvests that he courted Amal.

She has moved back with her family in a neighboring village, where the canal is so slim a man can jump across. The baby will come soon. There'll be no joy in it; her father has just died and her brothers sometimes keep her behind closed doors, where she drifts between rooms.

It is nearly dusk. Amer stands at his threshold. Fawzeya sifts her rice. Her hands are thick white palms, cracked lines run up and across her fingers. The chaff is separated. There is only a little of it, yet she has spent a long time looking down, her fingers combing the rice as if she's sieving for gold. There is no gold in the delta, only sons and daughters. Fawzeya has her bitterness, and that, for now, keeps her tears stored and her rice dry.

Amer walks the alley to the village square. He meets friends in a cafe, chairs and tables in the dirt near the mosque. The men know the burden he carries. They don't linger on what was. Out on the main road, blowtorches in metal shops glow in the twilight, and an empty white cloth hangs from a carving hook as the butcher closes up and heads home.

jeffrey.fleishman@latimes.com

Amro Hassan of The Times' Cairo Bureau contributed to this report.

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