gave me my next set of instructions as he whisked me through the security checkpoints on the way to the parking lot.
"We are going to the country today," he said. "I have arranged for my friend Nazil to come with us. He is a college graduate. He has studied English for many years and speaks the language better than I do. He can tell you things that I cannot because there are many words in your language I do not know. We have not been for a drive to the country or to the parks for a long time. It will be a fun day for all of us. But there are dangers."
Fateh stopped walking and turned to me. "Do not speak to anyone, even if you are spoken to. If anyone comes to us, if anyone stops our car—even the gendarmes—
do not speak . Do not look in their eyes . Look down at your feet and be silent .That is the only way we will be safe," he said. "Do you understand?"
Fateh looked so intense. "Not even a quick ' Bonjour '?"I asked, trying to lighten the mood. "I'm getting better with my French . . ."
He glared at me. "Not a word," he said. "Do not speak one word."
"I understand," I said.
I sat on the passenger side of the front seat of Fateh's old Rambler. Fateh started to get in the driver's side, but before he could the car seat collapsed, falling backwards. He groaned, sighed, then dug under the seat, pulled out a screwdriver, and began tinkering with the seat back. Fixing the car would become part of this day's routine. It was part of the daily routine for many people here. Most of the automobiles were old, used cars—the kind we call junkers in America.
While Fateh worked on the seat, I turned to the young man, Nazil, sitting in the back seat of the car. He had dark wavy hair and graceful features. He was of slight build, much thinner than Fateh. I would later learn he was twentyfour years old—one year younger than Fateh.
I told Nazil my name was Melody and I was pleased to meet him. I offered him my hand.
"It is my pleasure to meet you," he said, "and my honor to spend the day with a woman from your country. I have studied the English language most of my life but have only been able to use it in the classroom. I am happy to have the opportunity to use the language I have studied so hard."
After Fateh fixed the seat, he climbed in the car, shifted the gear stick, let the car roll backwards, and fired up the engine.
We drove around the narrow city streets of downtown Algiers for a while. A small number of men were out walking, some in groups, some alone. One man hurried across the street in front of us. He was carrying a child, a young boy.
"The museums are closed. Most of the stores are closed," Fateh said. "There is not much here to see."
A few blocks later, we hit a traffic jam. About half a dozen cars had stopped ahead of us in the lane of traffic. Fateh slowed, then stopped the car. It was a roadblock.
When we reached the barricade, two young men, armed and dressed in uniforms, walked to the car window. Following Fateh's instructions, I looked down at my feet. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nazil lift up the papers and jacket that were lying around the car to allow the police to see the contents and the surface areas inside. The gendarmes smiled weakly, then waved us through.
"They seemed friendly," I said, as we picked up speed.
Nazil leaned forward over the seat back. "The gendarmes are decent, gentle people," he said. "They have been hurt by this too.
"I have a friend who is a gendarme," he continued. "The terrorists set him up. They knew that on this night Page 47
my friend would be walking alone, without his gun. They knew where he would be walking and at what time. They hid in the bushes. When my friend walked by, the terrorists jumped out. One held a gun to my friend's head. 'Now you are going to die,' the terrorist said to my friend. He pulled the trigger. But the gun stuck. My friend's life was saved.
"The terrorists have connections," Nazil said. "They know people's