You can read the previous installment here
Dedication for this essay goes to SOFREP brother Shooten
And then it happened …
It got a little chilly just as the sun made the day’s final bow and exited stage east. I mean, sure it gets chilly with the leave of the sun, but this night was not as usual.
I stood at the edge of a wide expanse of a courtyard where the city’s visceral flex of flea marketing was in full swing. I watched a young girl shake hands with several men. Each time she brought her left hand simultaneously up and tapped her breast over her heart.
“Oh, camel shit,” I thought, “Is that something I should have been doing this whole time?” Leave it to me to pick likely the most insignificant drone of a detail to worry about. Nevermind that I had tried and failed to make 18 scheduled contacts in six days thus far.
Had I been too early?
Had I been too late?
Was I perpetually living in the wrong day the whole time?
Had I deplaned and inadvertently entered the meta-Morocco, the one composed largely of antimatter that exists in a parallel universe? Ah, yes… That must be it and nothing more.
“I’m going to die here,” I affirmed, “cuz nobody knows where the mwa phaqing hell I am,” I jonesed. I stood with my thumbs hooked in the length of rope I procured to serve as a belt to my Jilaba. None of the other men in-country had a rope belt like me, but a man’s just got to have a belt!
I stood with thumbs in belt, camel crap cigarette that bounced in my beard when I talked, Oakley sunglass up on my head over my Islamic skull cap, Teevas on my filthy feet, and … Chilly. I spied a vendor some distance away who appeared to be selling garments out of a large cardboard box and became eerily drawn towards the box and sub-crowd around it.
Once at the box I temporarily resisted the urge to be polite and wait my turn, since nobody else there was showing any consideration at all. “Ok,” I resolved finally, “If it’s a big dick contest you want, then such a struggle ye shall have,” and I fought to pull garments out of the box. I wanted a jacket, or a coat, or some kind of wrap to stave off the pangs of cold.
Then I pulled out a fine navy blue sport coat which I slipped on at once and, since it fit, left it on and paid the vendor his due Dirham for the apparel I took. Buttoning one of the buttons in the front I searched briefly for a reflective surface to inspect the cut of the new addition to my wardrobe.
I found a full-length mirror owned by a woman selling women’s robes and struck a pose in it to her snarls at my using the mirror intended for customers who purchased goods only from her. “Get over it, Youseffia … How much do you think you can charge me for looking at myself?” I rationalized.
I have to say I did like the slice of the man’s jib in the mirror. If I hadn’t been the quintessential ridiculous spectacle in all of the Mideast prior, I certainly had achieved that distinction presently. I stood first this way, then that; hand in pocket, hand out, hand on hip, both hands on hips. “I can sell this piece of shit when it warms back up or certainly trade it for a bus or taxi ride,” I consoled as I frowned at my reflection.
“I need a drink,” I resolved and found a cantina with no struggle at all. I hoisted my mismatched ass up on a bar stool and slapped my hand clumsily on the tacky bar top: “Doctor, a mint tea, please … Make it piping hot, and might I suggest that you do not delay n’ery a nanosecond, Sir!”
I scanned the smattering of men and no women who invested in the bar. Nobody gave me so much as a second glance and I wanted it that way. I sucked deeply on the camel caca cigarette hanging from my mouth and extended my pinky to its fullest as I drew from the fildzan of tea. I was suddenly aware of the creaking noise from the ceiling fan above my head.
I cocked my head back to observe the wobbling blades of the groaning fan. The blades were turning so slowly that one could lock eyes onto a single blade and follow it as it turned. This I did for a number of seconds until I became overcome by vertigo and low blood sugar. I came crashing down from my bar stool and hit the wood floor, quite unconscious.
When I came to, I was just outside the entrance of the bar lying on a pallet of collapsed cardboard boxes. I was sweating profusely as I conducted an inventory of all of my possessions. I could have been robbed blind or much worse, yet miraculously some gentlemen of the bar had carefully carried me out and laid me on the pallet. “They must have taken me for one overly imbibed,” I conjectured from my cardboard couch.
I realized that I had been subdued by lack of food and set out on a grub-grab. Squeaky horns from several out-of-synch snake charmers blasted in my ears and I plowed through the crowd; I was crowd plowing as I aggressively nudged people with my shoulders and in some cases deliberately shoved larger men aside with a palm-in-chest sort of thump. “They’re going to kill me pretty soon,” I decided as I tried to stop myself but couldn’t.
Finally, I stood in a diner with seemingly no other patrons at all there, just the way I wanted it. A gentleman with a linen towel draped over his shoulder stepped up and I ordered a meal. Standing at my table rather than sitting I strained and craned my neck to see where outside the Gottverdamt snake charmer music was coming from that was so loud and vexed me so.
My food came right away, as I was the only customer there. I sat and pounced on it. It was boneless chicken and couscous; couscous, of course-course. As I ate I became keenly aware of the shriek of snake charmer horns fading, fading until they could be heard no more. Horns were replaced by the white noise shuffle of the crowd engaged in their evening devotions.
I suddenly stopped chewing and snapped my head up … Staring into space: I’ve got to make it back to that airport and somehow find that same stargate that put in into this parallel universe and jump back through it to get home … Naw, that’s just retarded,” and I kept eating.
Back out in the courtyard and, feeling like a new man, I slapped my full belly and winked at a young cat that was sitting nearby looking up at me, its tail wrapped around its feet like a fuzzy scarf: “Oh, mais you put the fuzz in Fez, yeah … Eh cher ‘tit minou, qui t’a fait toi pour ca te mettre icitt?”
I felt every bit alone.
I would much later find out that in fact a Unit man, Sean “El Barco” was in that same courtyard the entire time unseen by me as I fished through the cardboard box of clothes. That fact amazes me still, as El Barco was such an imposing person, hardly one to blend in with the rest of us mere mortals.
When morning came I blinked emptily at the 25-Watt bulb over my head. I rose and packed my few things and headed to a Share Ride terminal. There as usual one milled about and figured out where everybody needed to go and formed groups for rides to the neighboring cities. I, being of foul mind and body, quickly formed a group of six passengers headed for Rabat, several of which I may have Shang Hai-ed into going against their will.
I just didn’t have time for their complaints.
I presented the driver with my day-old navy blue sport coat and my most prized possession: the stolen folding alarm clock from my isolations room. The driver snubbed the coat, but his eyes lit as he saw the clock. He popped it open and there was a positive emission of glee from his eyes.
“Thaaaat’s right, Muhammed … she’s a folder — ain’t that a peach?” and my ride was secure.
We six jammed the four-seater and commenced the usual jousting for the armrests and tried in vain to avoid each other’s smells. A couple of those people were just downright nasty to me the whole trip. Probably the ones who had no intention of traveling to Rabat that day, until I strong-armed them into going. “If you’ve seen one Moroccan city you’ve seen them all,” I kept telling them.
Standing in Rabat I oriented myself to my current position with regard to the location of my last scheduled contact. This was it, but I had scant faith in the efficacy of the next few minutes to produce my way out of this country. I started to walk as I ejected the butt of my camel crap cigarette from my mouth and pinched out another from the pack immediately with my teeth, sparking a match at the same time with my thumbnail.
I was headed to a stone fountain in Muhammad the Fifth Square. Everything was Muhammad the Fifth, or “moo-ham sank” as the pronunciation sounded from the locals.
“Moo-ham sank can kiss my moo-ham sank ass,” I challenged as I stomped the Rabatan dusk with my filthy Teevas. I was Clint Eastwood again, this time walking with Big Joe and Oddball toward the German Sergeant holed up in the leaking Tiger tank.
Crapshoot: “We make a deal”
Big Joe: “What kind of a deal”
Crapshoot: “A deal-deal; maybe the guys a Republican. Business is business, right?”
To my front was the stone fountain just as described in my instruction. My Casio G-shock watch read 1300hrs local hours Rabat … but what to my incredulous eyes should appear, none other than Samuel Booth Foster in all is impatience and disdain for the world of domestic plight. I approached him like the Prodigal Son:
“Father, I …”
I flashed back to my instructions: HE was supposed to approach ME to initiate the bonafide. I veered off of my direct course to Sam and came to light just abeam of him. As I attempted to hoist a leg up on the stone fountain my high water too-tight Jilaba caught my leg short of the fountain and caused me to fall forward. I twisted about gracefully and came to a seated position on the edge of the fountain.
Though very close by, Sam appeared to not take notice of my presence. Did he not see me? “He’ll ignore me though, just to phuq with me because, well, because it’s Sam Foster who the Lord placed on this Earth just to phuq with the one they called ‘Ice-G’ every waking minute of every day.”
If he ignores me,” I vowed, “I’ll crush his pelvis and he’ll bleed out through his ass!” I was terse in mere moderation, yet solemn of intent. Yea, though we were in a public place at high noon plus one, he would indeed bleed dry through his ass as surely as rage did coax my resolve.
“Do something to bring attention to yourself,” I thought at once, “Do something that only a westerner would do!” With that, I drew a great breath, hawked up a tremendous luge which I spat with great enthusiasm onto the ground at his feet with a splash.
“My God, george … is that you?? What the hell happened to you, man???”
By God and with honor,