Haytham al-Bakhoum: Margaret’s Idiot

Haytham al-Bakhoum. Born in Cairo, Egypt to a Muslim father and an Irish Catholic mother. He lived there until he was five, when his mother moved both herself and him to Ireland to escape the beginning of the Egyptian nationalism movement. Haytham was very shy and took remedial classes to teach him English, though he never got rid of a very slight accent. He was always the oldest in his class. He is self-conscious of his accent, his age, that he “isn’t really Irish.” When he was older he fought with his mother to change his name, but she refused. He isn’t grateful for that, but he has made his peace with whom he is. He managed to get work in a bookbinder’s shop out of secondary school; he never went to university. It disappointed his mother, but they didn’t have the money for schooling anyway. He met Anne at the shop and dated her briefly until he met Margaret at a Christmas party. Margaret began to pursue him with a passion until he finally relented and their relationship progressed swiftly from dates to engagement to marriage. She used to harass him about her age, “I’m not getting any younger, Haytham! If you want children, we need them now.” She would make him laugh. They fought terribly over what it eant to be Irish. When their son was born, Haytham panicked and almost named him Winston after the cigarettes the doctor was smoking. Margaret was aware enough to call him an idiot and named the child Michael. When Michael was five, Haytham took them both for a day on the town. They died there.

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