Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ضريفة ومزيانة \\ NICE AND GOOD

"Cheeeeefa. Cheeeeefa." It sounded like a muffled scream under a heavy layer of track 4 from the mix CD Frank made me for my birthday.
Then an awkward poke of the arm and a mimed plea for me to remove my headphones. O Abdesalam. How is it that you so often end up randomly walking behind me?

"Asalamalaikum Abdesalam. Lebass?"
It was around 11pm near the door of the Minzah and he probably just got off work. He kept his goofy smile on and immediately dove into a lecture on the social implications of constantly wearing soundcancelling headphones.
"When I say Salaam, you don't see me!" was the gist of it.
"Well I saw you just now."
"No you didn't I had to follow you."
The subject quickly changed to how I was making everyone think I didn't want to talk to them by being so unapproachable.
"You know, Chifa," he leaned in close as we made the turn onto Rue de la Liberte. "There are people like that here. Daeeman m3asaba. Always moody. But I know you're not like that. You're a nice girl, a good girl." I could feel him framing me in his peripheral vision, waiting for me to agree. "Now, Mohammed, you know, he's kind of like those other people...moody...mean..."

It was enough of a shift in topic that I could sense this would be one of his "let's talk about Mohammed so Chifa gets embarrassed" moments.
"You know, one day, he was spending time with you, here and there, helping you with your project, having fun, good friends, and the next- all of a sudden he got married! Safi! No more Chifa."
He continued to bizarrely narrate the history of my rocky friendship with Mohammed as if we were in the beginning scenes of a sequel and he was catching up those members of the audience that were just tuning in. He even brought up the birthday cake.

"...and it was so strange because you were so nice to all the rest of us and kept coming to the cafe. You talk to everyone, even my ugly brother Ahmed ..."

"...and we all had so much fun when we went to that wedding in Bir Chifa..."

..."then you spent Ramadan with us at the cafe and Mohammed was so mean! Remember that?"

He narrated my life to me with empathy and was clearly trying to elicit some vulnerability on my part, so I performed.
"Yeah! That was mean! Why did he do that!?"
A huge part of me was curious about what had caused Mohammed's outburst years before. Even post-birthday cake, he had invited me to his wedding in Al-Hoceima, then subsequently uninvited me. The boys gave me hints every once in a while, but nothing concrete.
He followed closely beside me as we entered the old medina, facing a swarm of women with strollers and kids on bikes, wobbling back and forth.
"I'll tell you why. You know, Mohammed, he didn't just get married. He married a Rifia."

I knew this. A Rifia from Al-Hoceima. I even wrote a poem about it. The ة endings are irresistible.

"And she told him, the day you marry me, you have to stop speaking to all other women! So he did. That's it." He peered at me. "I told him it wasn't right, you were so nice, but he was scared of her. But now even he tells me how nice and good you were. You didn't do anything wrong." He paused and looked away as if to provide sufficient time for me to think about his words. It occured to me that he wanted to be the bearer of good news.

As we walked past the baisara guys calling my name, I thought about this possibility. It seemed strange that it hadn't occurred to me. Mostly because I knew I had done something wrong. About 100 things. Most of them involving inappropriate offerings of baked goods without realizing the implications of those little delictibles. The birthday cake! I never forgave myself. Was Abdesalam absolving me of years of guilt? Apparently I had just been overreacting this whole time, ignoring a friend, who I missed, for no good reason.

We were nearing my final stop in the Souk Dhakhel, and I said as much, knowing I needed to be alone to mull over these new revelations.
"Wait wait I'll come with you."
"Nooo, I prefer to be alone, inshaAllah I'll see you tomorrow."
"Nooo, I'll come with you."
"Nooo."
"Nooo."
"...nooo."
"SuperHadda Beach Club!"
"Shnoo?"
"SuperHadda Beach Club! Let's go!"

I noticed a curious glimmer in his eyes. Absalom then went into a strange fit of raving about SuperHadda Beach Club. "Wow! It's so great! Music! Dancing! Wow! I invite you! C'mon! At SuperHadda Beach Club, all you do is say Whisky! and they give you whisky. You say Red Wine! and they give you red wine. Wow!" He was speaking in English now, and it was getting out of hand. Seriously ليس مناسب.
"I'm sorry, Abdesalam, I don't go to places like that. Ana Muslima."
Disbelief. Repetition. He explained again, the garden of earthly delights that was Superhadda Beach Club. Then he dropped the bomb.

"You know, Mohamed was saying you should go. He says how you are so nice and good and he wants you to go to SuperHadda Beach Club. He told me to take you."

The level of his desperation had reared its ugly head. This was the same Mohammed that insisted my Ramadan fasts didn't count because I wasn't wearing a proper djellaba and would daily beg me to consider wearing the hijab and yelled at me for buying him a birthday cake. It was clear what was going on. Abdesalam had hit a new low.

I left him at this juncture, and re-welcomed the strong possibility/fact that the birthday كعك was a mushkil, I was past the point of no return with Mohammed, and I would probably never live in Al-Hoceima. Word on the street travels faster by street-cat.

I imagined Allah was chuckling to Himself, then got all serious: يا شفاء, you can continue to be ashamed of your سلوك
كان ومازال ليس مناسب
The joke's on you.

1 comment:

shane said...

Oh man, I read this all the way through, got to the end and. . . WHAT?! You switch languages. Right when God starts talking. Thanks.