Sahara

This here town in North Africa where secrets is impossible. Ain’t much, a few lanes, a few shops, cafe with a squintin’ light, goes on, off, on, off. You might see a couple beasts, cat, donkey, dog, a few stray tourists. Then there’s the sea, and a couple bums windin’ along the shoreline.

This here German couple runnin’ a cafe at the shoreline. Sit aroun’ smokin’ dope most the day, or drinkin’ tea from them glass teapots. He goes off to surfin’ the waves, and she teases them felines that come mewlin’ aroun’. Them felines is always prepared, sharp teeth and claws, road felines, fightin’ felines.

Down here is beyond the shackles of time. It’s a no-place, no-one spot. You ain’t gonna fine on Expedia website, you ain’t gonna discover on Trip Advisor, no, not one nor the other. See it’s a refuge, sorta place you come to ‘scape and not never be foun’. My sorta place.

First week, them mooches was everwhere. They came aroun’ them lil flies, wavin’ their unwanted attentions; shown you the road to your hotel, worsen ’em howlin’ dogs on the roadside, layin’ there pantin’. Them mooches soon lef’ me alone by myself, and if not, well Mohammad chased them away.

I like lain on a shoreline, daylight warmin’ my bones. Mohammad and me, as a rule swim together or jus’ lay listenin’ to the waves, the daylight lappen over us, warmin’ our bodies and softenin’ our brains; me and him discussin’ about goin’ home; me to America; him to Italy.

Said he had connections, said he’d land him a job for sure. Me, I tuned on out, we ain’t never gonna leave this place, we just imagine generally.

Ten whole years float by, if you believe in time, that is.

The old inn was fallin’ apart, tiles comin’ down off the rooftop, and the concrete wearin’ slim, nuthin but sand on the patio. It seemed like mother nature wanted us gone, she bein’ determined to drive us clean out of our home. We didn’t stress none. I kept the old spot goin’ as best I could, and Mohammad did likewise, sweepin’ the patio, shoein’ the flies away.

The German couple set in on fightin’ each other most days. The young lady was grown tired of her surroundin’ that much I could tell. All them years of smokin’ dope, makin’ tea for outsiders, kinda worn her out. I viewed her sittin’ on the doorstep, listenin’ to the ocean and hearin’ the everlastin’ sound of nuthin’ happenin.

So, one day an outsider came, lordin’ it over us travelers. He descended the mountain, comin’ down like Moses out of the ‘Compound Militaire’ with his French Faw-Faw-Faw and his newly pressed shirts. He was a lovely sight, shakin’ his tush down at the shoreline, lookin’ for our consideration. That man had cash; he drove a shiny four-by-four made our beat-up ole van resemble a heap o’ crap.

One night he stopped by our hotel. Mohammad cooked the beef stew, ‘companied by a flatbread. For a special treat, we opened a bottle of wine, rare in that place. Stranger’s name was R somethin’. He had a carton of French cigarettes, so we smoked under the yellow light of the moon watchin’ the waves beatin’ the shoreline to death.

R tole a story about a man named Dog; rich dude, owned a couple hotels, plus the biggest restaurant in town. {Once upon a time}. He kep’ women, one name of which was ‘Sahara’, like the desert. We heard next day at the market, (souk bein’ awash with rumours), ole Dog was back in town. So things was gonna change. Dog was a legend in that place, and folks said Sahara was a beauty, she bein’ a dancer and all. Some said she was a lost soul.

When we got home from the souk, Mohammad went to lay down, officially wore out from the mornin’s efforts. The sea gleamed in the warmth, and the air was too plain depleted to try movin’ an inch. The blazin’ sun slaughtered every livin’ thing.

Later, we went next door to drink mint tea under a rickety umbrella on the cafe porch. Mohammad said about Sahara, “the thing I enjoyed was her temperament. She was delicate and loyal, not proud or haughty like other European or American ladies.”

Mohammad claimed all non-Muslims were evil and aggressive, yet I couldn’t help correctin’ him on that score. “What about me”, I said, “Do I push you around?”

He said that in light of my reduced mental capacity that I myself was uncommon. “Yet at the same time you are my manager, and therefore you are imperialist.”

I surrendered to his greater wisdom, but at nighttime I went to bed irritated to damnation with Mohammad. He had declined to inform me what else he knew of Sahara, and he could see I was bustin’ for more. So next morning, when the sun come up, I thought I’d set him straight on a couple of scores.

He was in the little postage stamp kitchen brewin’ espresso when I went downstairs. I said, “listen here Mohammad, you’re right about me bein’ your supervisor, and bein’ as that is indicated, I order you to let me have everything you know about the young lady.”

“What young lady?” He replied, as if he didn’t know what I meant.

“Sahara,” I said, “what all else?”

At that, Mohammad proceeded with where he had left off, sayin’ how heartbroke the whole town was when she departed. It was as like as though he’d been thinking about her all night, much the same as me. I was shocked. I ‘spected him to talk on the way she looked, the garments she wore, that she was so decent to take a gander at, and such. Rather, he motioned towards the shoreline, “Over yonder is a spot where she stayed; come later I will show you.”

“Alright, now pour me a cup of coffee.” I said.

“Yes boss,” Mohammad said.

That night the stars shone, immersing the sky. The sea sparkled, and the soft sussuration of the waves made like a lullaby.

Mohammad took me to a hollow covered up in the stones where a white-haired old man sat smokin’ hashish from a funnel. “Salam Alaikum.” The old man said.

His name was Ali, he offered the funnel. Mohammad declined, but I assepted the offer. Ali was jabbing at a flame inside a chimney made of rocks. The flame was for makin’ tea. He poured from a stern teapot. I was respectin’ the beautifyin’ designs on the metal and was situated to ask him where I could fine one of them pots for my home, when he hacked and spat on the groun’.

“My body is no good.” He said.

“I know Uncle, I know.”

Him and Mohammad, they yabbered on in Arabic. I heard the name Sahara; then my own name, which I had almost forgotten.

“You ain’t talkin’ English?” I said.

Sly Mohammad, I saw him changin’ a look with Ali. “I am disclosing to uncle that you wish to find out more about Sahara,” he said, bit too damn crafty for my taste.

“A sharmin’ lady,” the old man said, “hidden, like the desert; so, you desire to meet her?”

“Sure do.” I said.

To be continued

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