Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hiya Fowda Fiya Dokha

A few things relevant to today:
1. When I was young my mother taught me in all sincerity that hope is presumptuous and with negative connotations attached and they can’t be detached. I was nervous about what it would mean to agree with her.
2. Shifa is not an Arabic name it is an Arabic nothing (that is not something my mother taught me it is just something people in Morocco say)
3. To clarify #1, this may partially be because of a subtle language barrier, but is mostly based on her conviction that devotion involves believing in things that don’t make sense, because they are better than worse.
4. There is nothing worse than the presumptuous rajl-f’-zanqa.
5. Is this perverse presumptuousness just a perversion of hope?

I have a friend who works on the corner. His DVD selection is not any better than the next guy but he is young and open late and corrects my Arabic and lets me watch his TV when I’m bored. I visited him to see if he had found the old Egyptian film I requested by means of acting out the first scene, which I had watched at another man’s stall. The boy never actually finds the films I request, but his assurances allow me to continue hoping and I do.
I thought about asking him to accompany me to the Egyptian film at the Cinema Paris later that day. I didn’t ask him in the end, and later found that I had dodged a vaguely bullet shaped almost-bullet when he started telling me what he thought about the Jewish population of Casablanca, or the Jewish population anywhere. I am prone to taking things personally, and despite being Muslim inside and out, (in a cartoonish coloring book sort of way) I did take it personally. How did I manage? It mostly has to do with the presumption he made- the look on his face, waiting for me to agree with him. Like the men on the street that try to hit me with their car, and then ask me to get in the car. I’m sure I have my days when I look as though I can’t do any better, but certainly not often enough to warrant my friendly acquaintances pursuing me with such zeal.

Relatedly, the mentally unstable DVD vendor is at it again. He handed me a letter on Valentines Day and I was too nervous to have it translated until yesterday, but it turned out to be a non-love letter. On the contrary, it was a stay-away-from-me letter. I gladly accepted and felt comfortable passing him by sans-Salam until last night, when he stopped me in the street and caused a scene in front of the egg-shop.
Doesn’t my phone number work? Are you sure you have the right number?
He had written his number at the bottom of a Quranic wood carving and dropped it off at the cinema.
I didn’t call you.
You didn’t call me?

He sort of looked like he was about to punch me and I actually braced myself for an attack. But the bracing only made me more angry. Because why would I call him.
Why would I call you? I see you every day. You are horrible with me. I am not ever going to call you. Understand?

I left as quick as I came, and made my way uphill to the Cinema Paris, thrilled at the prospect of English subtitles and snacks allowed (snacks-allowed is a state of being that can erase any bad memory). As I watched the story unfold, I asked myself (because I had no one to ask in Arabic) if the film was perhaps a sign from God.
The protagonist was a mildly crazed old man, working hard for a living on the streets of Cairo. His only distraction was a beautiful young soda-pop vendor. She ran through and between the trains at the station with a bucket and a dress that was always falling off. She was nice to the poor guy long enough, until he asked her to marry him and she indignantly explained that she was much too good for him, and was already engaged to someone else. Then she laughed at him for a few consecutive minutes while her dress continued to fall off.
I never directly laughed at my crazed admirer but I couldn’t help reexamining my frank reply to his presumptuous inquiry.
In the film, the man ends up trying to kill the girl and accidentally kills her best friend. Then he tries to kill her again but gets caught and arrested, driven completely insane, whereas he started out a 3, on a scale from 1 to 5. A wise old member of the community explains, as though it was the moral of the story, that for the crazy old guy, even very small things were very meaningful, and he simply couldn’t control himself.

I know my life is not an old Egyptian film although sometimes I wish that it was, with all that beautifully contrasting black and white. In this case I pass, and have faith that life is not all that dramatic, really, and there aren’t ever that many occasions on which to say
“Abadan!” Not really.

I finished off my Sunday with a chwarma, not with murder, and found myself at the egg shop once again. There was a man there delivering bread, singing a Spanish song with full vibrato. I was told he is the best singer on the streets of the Socco. He stacked the bread into a pyramid one by one until his cardboard box was empty, and kept singing until the song was over. I told the mool’l hanout that I wish I could record him. He told me the man will come the same time tomorrow and if I come back I can do as I please. I told him I was doing a project. He asked if I would send it to America. I told him no, I would bring it with me, in a few months, when I go home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shifa: I wanted you to know that I have truly enjoyed your musing and insight about the daily Moroccan world you are a part of! The blog reads like a piece of literature. I also enjoy the Arabic peppered throughout your writing - it gives me hope that one day I, too, will be able to learn some of this gorgeous language. I mean, I know hope could be perceived as negative ;), but nonetheless. I have vague aspirations (which are growing clearer all the time) of living in Morocco, and your blog lets me know it's possible. Looking forward to your next installment . . .