An American in Essaouira — Part 1

The Atlantic winds do their best to cool the Moroccan hub of art, music, and surfing, but the sun in Essaouira is not the one that keeps Californians at home, so a young American without a home takes shelter under a cannon atop the high walls of the Medina. Years ago, it would have protected this city from sea-faring attackers, but today, it protects a weary traveler from the reality he has spent the last 3 months evading. With the pack that contains his whole life as a pillow, and the cannon’s shade as a blanket, he drifts down through the wall and into the medina.

It’s the first time he’s seen it this empty. The street market where he now stands is occupied by only himself, and a few old men tending to their shops. Walking past their polished wood carvings, and jewelry of silver and onyx, he begins to feel the nervousness that often plagues him during bouts of loneliness, as if no one will ever show up again. So heavy is the feeling that he lowers himself onto the dusty step of a boarded up doorway. With his eyes closed, he repeats the comforting mantras he’s gathered on his travels. When he opens his eyes he sees a waving cloth of such brilliant blues that all of the brightly colored carpets, blankets, and scarves hanging from the market stalls have turned to grey. As the cloth moves past him, it begins to take shape, and connect itself to the ground. Following the flowing lines upward, his eyes meet the only part of her revealed to him; massive, cat-like green eyes framed in shimmering turquoise. In them, he feels the comfort that his mantras and breathing exercises always fail him, and an intense need to capture this feeling takes control of him. He knows that he will never survive the reality he must eventually return to without that feeling. He tries to move, but he is to stricken by the beauty of her eyes and the shape of flowing cloth beneath them. His strength is nowhere to be found, and he must watch as a prisoner of his own body as she looks back towards her own path, then turns down one of the many alleys of the medina.

It is only as the last of her blue train whips around the corner, that he feels all his might return in an explosion that sends him flying off of the step, and running full speed to catch up to her. He nearly falls as he slides around the corner of the alley, unable to gracefully control the strength behind his desire, but catches the ground with a hand at the last second, and bursts ahead once again in pursuit. As he nears the end of the alley he once again glimpses only the azure tip of cloth that was not enough to disable him, but paints a smile on his face unlike anyone has ever been able to provide. He must catch it, but every time he is sure that he’s gained on her, he sees only the flick of blue snapping around the next corner, like a finger beckoning him to follow.

All through the medina he chases. Through wide markets and alleys only big enough to shuffle down sideways, sun drenched streets lighting up the many blue doors of Morocco that tease him with his goal, and tunnels dark as night, where the wisp of her robe looks more of an indigo, but calming just same.

Eventually, he lost even the occasional sight of her cotton tail, but his pace doesn’t slow, for he could feel her nearness. He knew without knowing where to run, and where to shift momentum down a new alley, or were they alleys already traveled? Then, suddenly, his pace slows until his legs can run no further. Though his mind strained to will his feet forward, he fell to his knees. His body hung upon itself, and he wept. He wept harder as the comforting feeling disappeared down another alley beyond his reach. He wept in disappointment at himself because he hadn’t the strength to follow it. He wept in deepest sorrow because he could not feel it anymore.

Then, when he could weep no more, he grew angry. And as his anger filled the space where his tears had pulled sadness, he found the strength to rise, and then to walk, and then to march. His anger clouded his mind and he forgot about how good it had felt just to look at the robes that had hid her from him. He cursed her for filling him with sorrow, and then with anger. He cursed the seamstress who had made her robes, and he cursed the person who had dyed them such hypnotizing shades of blue. He cursed the merchant who had sold this pigment, and then he cursed the Earth for producing it. He cursed everyone and everything as he marched aimlessly through the medina. He felt cursed himself, to feel this way forever.

His anger made him dizzy, so when he felt the medina’s subtle breeze, he decided to seek the cool air of the waves, and he imagined that when he got there he would curse them too, for looking so much like the blue robes that now brought him only torment. He liked this idea very much, but as he left the walls of the medina, and stone gave way to sand, he would fall to his knees for the second time today…