Sunday, January 27, 2008

Who do you think you're Fooolin' ?


The sirens in Tangier are a mix between a NYC ambulance and an ice cream truck. Like penguins waddling. The way Abdulnabi used to dodder his way into the classroom with a boyish smile on his face, inappropriate for the morning and for the season, geared up to teach us about the drug trade in the north or the ignorance of women in general. Accompanying his belly and constant “meeeeezyaaan” was the comfort of knowing he would always be wearing the same sweater, the next day and the next day.

Depending on where you are standing the sounds of the city are always changing and being carried. The communal cheering for evening football is pretty standard and can be heard from anywhere. Quranic recitation is maintained from DVD vendors on some streets, while Jojo plays out on others. Cars don’t honk as much as in the summer months, but more boys think it’s funny to almost run me over as a way of getting my attention. The weather is changing in funny ways, as though it’s not sure which would make it more well-liked. It goes both ways at once, weaving into ribbons of strokes of warm air moving through a cold front. Like the murals of ships and sky lining the walls on the walk up the boulevard.

The consistency of appearance of the daily passers-by feels like a cartoon or a very realistic video game. It presents this way of living (weaving in and out of lives with mysterious status, like a warm front or a cold spell) like a narrative and sometimes a bad joke (very rarely, a good joke)- alongside the motorbikes and baby strollers in the streets is this phenomenon of “men that always wear the same sweater.” More comforting than a coat because everyone always wears the same coat. The sweaters often involve lightning bolts, neon stripes, and patched elbows. I know that I can take my leave, come back a week or a month later and there it is- old brown and green sitting on the bench outside the petit socco chicken shack with the man in the turquoise djellaba. He preaches in the medina. I think he would remind me of my mother if I could understand what he was saying in all that mumbling and shouting, but for now he only reminds me of himself.

An integral detail of the public space is the uphill and downhill. Uphill tends to monopolize the warmth, so I have taken to sitting in high places and watching the slope of the road. Watching people in general- I don’t usually do it but lately I can’t help it. A good accompaniment to the soy lattes at Café Paris (victory!) And downhill serves its purpose when I’m caught taxi-less, up the old mountain, or leaving the Qasbah house (not home yet)- I am thankful for it but I need to learn to be more delicate with my steps before I lose all use of my legs. These hills were not made for Buffalo snowboot stomping. (It’s partly the fault of Mary J Blige, I also have to keep the beat) And since I am always finding myself beside young girls (beautiful and heavily made up ones) wearing three-inch stick heels and doing just fine, I might give in to my inner librarian and unpack the gems I hid away for the rainy season to decrease chances of public embarrassment.

So I am adopting new habits to keep the company of the old ones- compliments to match what I have already appropriated. Tracking down the orange spots of the blue city like a gumshoe- so far: the mandarins and the calendula, in full bloom now beside the narcissus and tongues and ears of the Iris Tingitana. We found them growing on the side of the road on the route to Tetouan and again back in the city, in armfuls and handfuls of farmers trying to sell them for much less than they are worth. In my case, the floppy purple ears peek out of my purse where the zipper is open because it’s too full, bordered by wool because the sun is just a cheap trick- it is still winter.
You can’t fool me like you used to.

1 comment:

honowablepamera said...

ohmigoodness, the sweater! the sweater!

i laughed for about a year.