Monday, January 19, 2009


When you spontaneously travel to Morocco for winter break, your bank may judgmentally put a stop on your credit card because they find it extravagant that a poor student would make such an unwise financial decision, or because that little list of charges from the Tangier Airport conjures up images of some curly topped olive skinned Simo who finally got a break after all his years of scamming, although they shouldn’t think such things because you warned them about your trip weeks in advance. Perhaps some curly haired olive skinned Patel forgot to make the note in your account record.
He didn’t tell me he was curly haired or olive skinned but he did tell me his name was Patel. I trusted him immediately because he let his accent roam free and didn’t say his name was Jim.

Patel’s infatuation with the distractingly hot new intern working in the cubicle beside him left me with no choice but to spend the night rooming with two Germans in the dormitory of Room 417.There is only one key so although we were strangers we were forced to coordinate our actions and become friends for the day and night I was in Madrid. I gave them tips about where to go in Morocco if they ever decided to venture back after the horrible experience they had, and wanted to point out that they would have trouble no matter what because one of the girls was ridiculously beautiful, but somehow felt shy about pointing this out- it must be the Maha in me. I've been suspecting for years that she is slowly taking over my identity. I must be 7 parts shifa to every 2 parts Maha. She's gaining on me.

I remained quiet and uncomfortable even after they both teamed up to try and help me remove my boot, which was clinging to me the way I used to grapple my mother’s leg like a frantic koala when she dropped me off to nursery school as I screamed "noooooogggghhhh!!!!" (Was it me or was it Maha?) I thought about my childhood screams and felt bad for the boot, so I left it and was that much closer to being ready for my flight. The boy asked if I wanted to leave on the television so that we couldn’t hear each other breathing and I said I guess I don’t care and it was as decidedly creepy way of saying goodnight.

I had two hours to visit the Museo Nacional del Prado on Friday. I will preface this by saying it was amazing and among my favorites. My mother would have loved it, all those walls saturated with images of hell. I was on a Goya mission and in some sections had to oscillate between a trot and a gallop because a simple jog was attracting too much attention. I kept wishing for those fat white sneakers with wheels that make me want to attack small children in the grocery store.

I attracted attention in any case unless it was one of those places where everyone stares at everyone which would be strange because you’ve got all these breathtaking triptychs to guide you through the vices of man and life of Jesus and up into heaven then back down into the fiery pits of hell. I decided upon reflection that the stares were because I was alone, and I didn’t notice anyone else alone, and maybe this is not common practice in European museums. It could also have been that I strongly resembled an animal that had recently been attacked by a larger animal.

I’m not sure why the Queen Mariana was one of my favorites, something about how she is making the same face I made when I was twelve and got into a fight with my mother and immediately after had to get my passport photo taken and I have been looking at that dumb face since 2001 and can’t make a new one until 2011 and I can’t even begin to think what she must be feeling. I also really like her dress and intend to sew one just like it, minus about 98% of the frills. I’m not a no-frills woman. Always good to have some frills.

Otherwise, Las Meninas, The Garden of Earthly Delights, and Descent from the Cross all scared the crap out of me. And to wrap it up Patenier brought me back to Tangier because everything was so blue, with little fiery hellish clouds in the distance. You can almost see the devil narrowing his eyes and setting his sights from behind them.

A visit to the Prado is a great cultural replacement for those poorly bound books we used to buy from Islamic Convention Bazaars, with the starchy white pages describing the imminent, fiery fate of the disbelievers. Bring rollerskates and you can skim through hell and land comfortably in the lap of a plump Virgin Mary, or better yet, the bed of Goya's "Nude Maja." And you even have the option of "The Clothed Maja," if you're gonna be shy about it.

No comments: