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Monday, April 02, 2012

PASSAGE TO AFRICA Chapter 9:Death in Tangier

Chapter 9... Mykel Doesn't Make It!

Suffering and understanding are deeply connected; death and self-awareness are in league – Denis de Rougemont

We've barely started, and by the time you read this, I'll be gone. I wonder if it'll be on the news, CNN? Fox, using it to stir an invasion or two? I don't know. But you should know what happened. Maybe somehow this will make it out... and a few people will learn THE TRUTH.

Let's go back to yesterday. I'm in Tangier, in a park near where I'm staying with my friend and couch-surfing host Zayd. I sit on a bench, soaking up the clouds, alternately writing in my journal and reading Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. It's for book club... mainly takes place in Paris... where I started reading it. Romantic, huh?

I had to put stickers all over the cover of the book. It shows a breast and most of my travel was supposed to be in Muslim countries. They're not too fond of breasts on book covers.

On another bench in the park is a young man (early 20s, I'd guess), with two women about the same age. One of them has her hair covered in traditional Moroccan style. The other, has a freer, more bouncy look. I can see them looking at me... giggling... looking away... then looking at me again. I look back and smile. That's all it takes.

The two girls come over and start speaking with me... in French. The one in the headscarf asks, “Est-ce que tu es un philosof?”

Philosof?” I ask, “Pourquoi?”

Tu escris.” she says.

Je suis ecrivain,” I say. “Mai je ne suis pas philosof.”

We talk a bit more. As soon as it comes out that I'm from New York, they call in the boy. He's a big guy, bad skin in an adolescent way, with a very friendly face and big smile. He introduces himself as Soufiane. I only remember his name because I see it on Facebook later. I don't remember the girls' names... too bad because that might help Interpol. The guy speaks English pretty well.

I explain to the crew that I need to go to the train station to buy Sunday's ticket to Agadir. Only I have no idea where the train station is, let alone how to get there. They speak to each other in Arabic. The guy speaks to me.

The girls will take you to the train station,” he says. “You can go by bus. They will show you the way.”

Wow, that's great!” I say. “So kind... and I just met you.”

We walk together to the bus stop. They tell me they're students, I didn't realize this was a university town. They show me a text book. One book, science, math, French, English... two pages of irregular verbs. Wow!

Before we go,” I say. “Can I take a picture of all of us together? Just ask someone on the street to take it.”

They do.

The people I met in the park

Then, the guy asks me, “Can you give me your face?”

Huh?” I don't say. “I've only known you for half an hour. Isn't that a bit fast?”

What I do say, in French, is pardon?

Your name on Facebook,” he says. “We should be friends.”

Not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed I write Mykel Board on a scrap of paper and give it to him.

Let's meet again tomorrow,” says the guy.

Sure,” I say, really liking this crew. I give them my phone number. “I'm right over there,” I tell them, pointing to the Zayd's building. “I'll see you tomorrow.”

I now use words that often occur in writing, but rarely in real life, just then...

Just then the bus shows up. The girls and I get on, we wave good bye to Soufiane and we're off to the train station. At the station, they let me off in front, wave good-bye and go on their way.

It's a nice building, obviously new, but not ugly, preserving a Moroccan feeling without sacrificing the escalators.

I buy my ticket... a day-long journey... two trains and a bus. I arrive after the long distance taxis stop... so I'll have to stay in a hotel... but all that's meaningless now. Hassles that'll never happen.

Back at Zayd's house, I turn on the computer, upload the picture to facebook, add my new friend and wait for Zayd to come home.

In the meantime, I start writing this blog (with much different content), and checking out my next couch surfing host. You know how those little numbers pop up over the Facebook tab? By the time I'm finished with couch-surfing... 15 minutes at the most... the number is up to 37.

I go back to Facebook. It's the picture I posted from Tangier.
  • The girls are hot.
  • Mykel, you should give them all your face.
  • Wow, Mykel you move fast.”
and plenty more.

One of the comments under the picture is from a Mehdi something, a friend of Soufiane's. (I posted the pic publicly, like I do most things.) Hey man. They make fun of us. You see man?

Then, there's an email from Soufiane himself. All in capital letters.

I immediately take down the picture and write a fawning letter of apology... explain how sorry I am... how I didn't realize... I didn't mean to.

I've got it down... it's not the first fawning letter of apology I've written in my facebook life.

I don't get an answer. I guess they're still pissed.

Fayd is back about 6. He's happy because it's his last full day as an intern Tomorrow he has half a day's work, then he's a REAL WORKING MAN.

Flash to Saturday Morning: I was supposed to meet those guys today... hang out awhile... but that won't happen now. I'll never see them again.

Ah well, Zayd will be back by noon, ready to celebrate his new freedom. I'll have something to do. Maybe find a couscous place.

I walk downstairs to get some coffee for 70 dirham (about 70¢) at the local cafe.

On the front porch, with two friends, is Soufiane. He's all smiles... introduces me to his friends... they half-heartedly shake hands.

Hey Mykel,” he says, “we'll still meet you at 4:30... after school.”

Sure,” I say, still a bit shaken, but happy I ran into him and saw that everything is okay. “I'll meet you right here in front of this building.”

I think about Zayd. “Can I bring my friend?” I ask. “He'd like to join us.”

Soufiane seems startled by the request, but agrees.

We part company. I go to buy a toothbrush and some water. He goes off to school. Then I sit in a cafe enjoying my 70 dirhams cup of coffee, this time with an omelet. I rip apart a nice piece of baguette, and use it to scoop up the eggs. Somehow the yellow stain, slowly seeping through the bread, inspires the deadly insight.

Of course! It was no coincidence that Soufiane just happened to be there on the porch... exactly at the time I walked out. What are the odds on that? No, he and his friends were there all morning... from eight... just waiting...talking... planning their day. They needed to be sure they wouldn't miss me. Be sure to trap me. Catch me off guard. Guarantee I'd meet them... no way to give 'em the slip now, right?

Are they working with Al Qaieda? Is there a bounty on my head? Sure meet me at 4, get me in the car, and pow! Off with my head. The only thing that doesn't make sense is Zayd. Maybe they had no choice. He'll have to be sacrificed for the cause, but he'll go quick. Not like my rusty scissors castration.

Jeezus! I'm gonna be murdered here... first stop in Africa... head shipped to Barack... maybe they'll name a war after me.

I finish my coffee and go back to Zayd's apartment. It's time to get my affairs in order.

The phone vibrates. It's a text... from Zayd... Sorry Mykel. I won't be home until later today. Something has come up.

Fuck! He's in on it. Part of the conspiracy. Probably told them about my Is a Muslim a kind of Jew joke. That should up the reward on my head.

It's noon now. Soufiane will be waiting for me downstairs at 4:30. At 3:35 he texts me: Don't forget about meeting me today! Yeah, like I could forget.

Zayd is back by 3:30. In time to meet the carful of young men downstairs. And it is downstairs, waiting for us when we leave. He gets in the car. I get in the car. There are already three others in it. Maybe they've planned to do us both in. I donno.

Soufiane introduces me to the other guys in the car. The ones who will do the actual beheading, castrating, or whatever they're going to do.

This is Mehdi,” he says pointing to the driver. “He speaks English very well. He commented on the your facebook page.”

Fuck! That's the guy who said, They make fun of us. I shake hands with him.

Then he gestures to the guy sitting next to me... dark-skinned... extremely handsome... and a giant... six-six at least, with hands bigger than my face.

This is Rachman El Batoum,” says Soufiane. The guy takes my hand in his. He can touch his thumbs to his knuckles on the other side. He does.

Rachman is a boxer,” says Soufiane, “one of the best in Africa.”

So, he's trying to scare me. Well, it's working.

The car starts and we're on our way... to Al Quaeida headquarters? to the tree stump chopping block?... To the rusty castration scissors? 

Maybe the cops will find out sometime. I wonder if I make the history books... a footnote?

The end.

This is the 9th entry of my travel blog. Here are the past entries:

Episode 1 here

Episode 2 here

Episode 3 here

Episode 4 here.

Episode 5 here

Episode 6 here

Episode 7 here

Episode 8 here

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