“What have we done?” 

The white patio table, with its spots of rust along the edges and its light dusting of the  same ochre powder that seemed to cover everything to varying degrees, connected  their hands. Teacups, two. They called it Moroccan whiskey – mint tea with lemon  verbena – and the sun was just low enough in the afternoon sky to call for it. She kept  one hand touching her cup. He rested a palm flat on the table, looking out from the  veranda onto the sleepy Casablanca afternoon.  

It was hard to imagine where they were only a year ago. And they often asked  themselves that very question, by turns.  

 “We came. Just like we imagined it,” he said. “It is almost exactly as we talked  about, when we were pretending that we should not.”  

 “I’m going to change the music.” 

The music was important, and it shaped these conversations with its surreptitious  influence. She wanted something new. The steady beat of classic rock, of Robert  Palmer, the Rolling Stones, or Boston did not fit any more. She browsed until she  

landed on a collection by Hatim Belhouari. Kamenjah and rabab intricately woven  around the syncopation of the darbuka drums. It sets a scene. Within the sounds, a  city breathed, and they slipped into it easily.  

He of course brought all his classical music, a terabyte of opera, symphony, chamber,  and orchestral pieces that he had always loved. But so far he still had not listened.  This place was something different. European classics did not overlay. He just about  mentioned it now, but the thought remained stuck in his throat. It was another place  and another life ago.  

 “Are you sorry?” he asked, still looking away but turning slowly to face her.  

She was wearing a billowy silk shirt, in soft pastels, that she had found last week in  the souk. It reflected her eyes and lit her smile from beneath. She met his eyes and  wondered aloud.  


 “I don’t know. I am happy here. But I have been used to rewriting my life, starting  over from scratch. When we talked about this before, I wasn’t thrilled. Remember?  Tahiti was on my mind. That fantasy place – I always said I wanted to end up there, 

but I also knew that if I went, I would destroy the fantasy. It would become too real,  too banal.  

 “Sometimes though, I get the feeling you regret it all. You gave up a lot – everything  really. What did I give up? A dead-end existence in Eastern Europe. No real ‘career’  in the traditional sense. My kids are all old and grown up and scattered around the  world. It was time for me to do this I think. And I could not imagine doing this  without you. And I can also imagine us packing up and sailing to St. Marten too.  Tomorrow.” 

 “Nice words.” 

 “It’s not like you thought it would be though, is it?” 

 “Not exactly. Maybe. I don’t know.” 

The world they had imagined was wide and unfettered. It left behind the judgments  and precepts of what they had both lived, separately, for their whole lives. Freedom to  love and to express and to just be is what they both craved. He had been seeking it all  his life, living unconventionally by most standards but tied to a confining mindset, his  own, that always chaffed. He had been married four times, in a dwindling succession  of years, and four times had left because whatever it was that he needed so  desperately was not there. Was it here? 

She had been married for more than 25 years, with four grown children living their  lives in the Western United States. She had been happy, really, most of the time. But  she had also lived with strictures imposed upon her. Her Catholic upbringing, her idea  of the married life, her vocation as a teacher. She had lived in a lot places around the  world, but there was part of her that felt held back. An invisible hand on her shoulder.  One that said things like you should not.  

 “I wanted this as much as you,” she ventured. “More, maybe. We talked about living  an open book, having no secrets, no lies, no cover stories. We could be together and  not. We could chase dreams and fantasies and come back home and laugh about  them.”  

They sipped the mint tea.  

The first year in Casablanca had been about getting their bearings. It was all new to  both of them. The language, the people, the colors and smells. All exotic and new.  They found a flat near the main square, with the veranda where they were now sitting  facing the Place des Nations Unies without being directly on it. They could see a  sliver of it from behind the facing building. Large and open planned, it had three  bedrooms, designated as theirs and theirs. To each a room of repair. Almost three flats  in one to celebrate their open-mindedness.  

On a few nights, she closed the door to her chamber on herself and any of a few of her  admirers. On those nights, he often went for long walks, or ended up in a nargila bar  in the old district. He could do the same (it was their understanding), but only once 

had he brought his Vietnamese “student” home with him. Tuyet. She was only 22.  She made him feel old and young.  

Integrating into the life of Casa had been a challenge. They circulated a little with the  expats who were there. A lot of them rather frumpy American types who were  uprooted and placed here for work. Of the ones who came by choice, they were rarer  and harder to find. The locals were not ready for them just yet. They needed more  Arabic.  

She had taken a job in the international school teaching ninth grade. He carried on  with his lectures, travelling to Paris and Istanbul and Shanghai for several weeks. In  the meantime, he was writing. Well, he had time to write. 

 “Sometimes it feels like we are just the same as we used to be. We transferred our  habits here. We do the same stuff. We think the same thoughts. The only difference is  that we can do it without feeling like any of it is wrong,” she said. 

 “Worth it,” he agreed. 

 “For sure. Yes. But I thought my life would be completely new and different.  Something about cutting the past and moving out into this unknown place, with you.  You and I have such a strange and long history from when we were together in high  school, to the years of silence, to the letters, to now. A lifetime really. It’s like we  were never apart. Like being here together was just the next natural thing. But of  course it wasn’t.”  

 “My first love.” 

 “I can relax with you. Not worry. But I am looking for things to worry about… You  know?” 

 “I know,” he took her hand in his. “It is a huge step we have taken. It isn’t something  that you can just do and be done with, like painting the living room. This is a long  journey. We have only just taken the first steps, even now, after a year. It is still new  and unknown. Don’t you think that I sometimes wonder what we’ve done? That I  don’t stay up nights and let the past come back to me? We cannot know what  tomorrow will hold for us, but that is what I love about it. The place is irrelevant. The  fact that we have leapt off this cliff together is everything.” 

 “The place could have more beer,” she sighed.  

 “And less tea,” he smiled.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!