Saturday, March 22, 2008



Like those games your mother buys for you on the way into the grocery store for half a dollar, with the little silver balls.

Those of us that crave the empty spaces feel it violently, a stealthy penetration of space, filling up with objects mostly foreign and whites whiter than the rest of the street. But when I ask the locals about it they use the same vocabulary of progress and hope as those who put those things there in the first place. Something like: maybe this will be of use to me some day, or someone like me will use it. Something so fancy can’t possibly be useless.

Those of us that don’t belong here help fill up the holes. Sometimes they make holes for us to fit in, like the road through the old cemetery past the iron welders and animal hospital. It is already full of tourists, 'encouraging a circus-like atmosphere,' and we are getting back to the headlining balancing-act –foreign and familiar, the constant bumping heads of insiders and outsiders.
We agree to disagree and form one smooth flat surface:

Fatima insisted I do my laundry in their washing machine, after I explained my misadventure with some buckets and the bathtub. While I was there chatting with her daughter a handful of the extended family arrived for Sunday Leisure time and I sat awkwardly watching Rachel Ray and laughing at the jokes that couldn’t translate. Rachel gave some actress the gift of a framed burger king uniform with her name on it, because she had worked there when she was fifteen. A man from Burger King came out on stage to apologize to Kate for firing her, years before. I tried to explain to Hamid what was going on and how eerie it was, and everyone nodded and smiled and the little kids ran around and grabbed my skirt and I pretended not to notice. They also changed all the knobs on the washing machine, forcing Hamid to announce the purpose for my visit and bring me in to the kitchen to fix the damage done. I adjusted the knobs to a shorter cycle and soon fled.

Along with the warm seasons come more library patrons. The ordinarily stale, deathlike atmosphere was more like a circus today. The ex-librarian was visiting from Rabat and confessed that she had once been accused of “encouraging a circus-like atmosphere.” Each new patron to enter the crowded room was overwhelmed by the chaos and seemingly on the verge of a heart attack. But the Brits are often like that. I’m still trying to figure out how they survived in Tangier this long.

After my shift I was invited to lunch with an American woman married to a Moroccan man, and we talked about Oprah and cats and then Oprah again. Her husband speaks fluent English, having lived in the US for a few years when he was younger. It is strange to think that is was actually easier for people of his generation to go abroad than for people my age. Even those that remained in Tangier had the opportunity to hear and learn English, whereas now they are hard to come by. And among my waiter-friends, only the oldest ones speak any French- the Al Hoceima crowd probably taught me a quarter of my Arabic repertoire, and through song, added some very key nouns and phrases to my Hindi vocabulary, filling in the holes that faulty-subtitles make.

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