nights, when I go to bed, I would think about her for a long time,
smiling to the ceiling, feeling very happy.
I once lived in a small house, in a dusty neighborhood, in Rabat, Morocco.
There were only three trees on our block and one of them was dead. It
died a long time ago. One stood right next to our house and its tall branches
overhung our roof. I climbed on that tree many times. It was a sort of
social club, although it had no name. Sometimes my friends and I would
climb up to the top and spend a night on its branches telling each other
ghost stories. But when the time to split came, kids would climb back
down to go home and I would just monkey up to the roof of our house.
Five houses down that tree lived a beautiful girl. Her name was Nezha.
She was not a typical Moroccan. Her mother was a French and her father
was a Berber from the Rif Mountains. Rumors claimed that they had met
in Europe during World War II when she was a nurse in the French army
and he was a G.I. fighting for France. Nezhas father owned a grocery
store in a market located not far from the Casablanca Highway. Even though
he spoke Arabic fluently, I could tell he was of a Berber descent, because
he had a small, green tattoo on the tip of his nose. Arab men of Morocco
didnt tattoo their facesstill dont. Although there were
a few Berbers living among us, Arabs, there was hardly any racism, I believed.
And if there was some, Islam probably suppressed it, or I wasnt
aware of it at the time since I was only a kid back then. Unfortunately,
we were less tolerant to the new Berbers that would come down from the
mountains and live among us, and speak Arabic with a funny accent.
Nezha was also a kid. She was blond and had a long smooth hair that cascaded
down her shoulders. She dressed nice and looked nice all the time. She
was also clean. She had two sisters and two brothers. She was the youngest
sister, but the second youngest in all. We rarely called her by her name,
although her name was uncommon back then. We usually called her, the daughter
of the Christian. And the reason we called white people Christiansstill
dowas because there are many Moroccans who are white, or look white,
depending on what your definition of white is. I once was in a Moroccan
party in Belgium, and when I started talking to a young woman in French,
trying to pick her up, thinking she was a Belgian, she interrupted me
in Arabic and told me that she was a Moroccan herself. I felt so embarrassed.
Anyway, Nezha was pretty and nice. She was not that easy to find in our
neighborhood. Her mother always kept her at home or at school. Many kids
liked her. I liked her also; but the difference between me and the other
kids was that she liked me back. I didnt know why she liked me,
though. I wasnt good looking. Sometimes she would sit by her window
and look at us kids, playing. And she would look at me more, and I knew
that because her face would always follow me around. Some nights, when
I go to bed, I would think about her for a long time, smiling to the ceiling,
feeling very happy.
Nezhas oldest brother, Allal, was a loony. He was tall and skinny
and had this very black hair that contrasted his white, thin face. He
was my friend alright, but not that close of a friend. He was most of
the times kept at home, at school, or at his dads grocery store.
Strangely, he was so fascinated by poop. Whenever you mentioned the word,
poop, to him, he would laugh, and laugh very hard, compared to other kids.
One day I went to his dads grocery store to buy some spices and
saw him there, alone behind the counter. By the way, the market looked
like a garrison. It was all made of concrete and there were hardly any
windows, or an opening on the roof. No matter what time of day you looked
inside, it looked like late afternoon. The only good thing about that
market was that there was this beautiful Moorish fountain erected right
in the middle. We would sometimes stop by at the market and drink water
from that fountain on our way back home from a soccer game or an excursion.
Anyway, after I got to the store, Allal said, "I am going to show
you something, Sidihmed."
I said, "What?" and he pulled a cylinder of poop from underneath
the counter and took it to a scale. He weighed it and said, laughing to
himself, "Approximately, a quarter of a kilo."
I stood there stunned. I didnt know what to say at the moment. I
laughed on the outside, but in the inside I thought he was a loony. I
had never met somebody who weighed his poop and took the pleasure of watching
it balancing on a scale. I couldnt believe that somebody like that
existed on this planet. But existed, he did.
Since kids sensed that there was something going on between me and Nezha,
they started to give me hard times. Kids would bring it up just to see
how I would react, and if I reacted defensively, they would bring it up
even more. Grownups knew about it also, but nobody could come forward
and talk to me about it directly, because romance was a subject they frowned
about a great deal. One day, one of the kids went to Nezha, who was standing
by her door, looking at us playing, and asked her to bite him on the arm.
Nezha said, "No way!" and he said, "Please, bite me, please!"
And Nezha grabbed his arm and bit it. He opened his mouth to scream but
then she let go of his arm. After that, he came running to me saying,
"Sidihmed, Sidihmed, look!" And he stuck out his
forearm right next to my mouth. "If you lick her saliva from my arm,"
he said, "it will feel like you kissed her!" He was so excited,
his eyes were showing more white than black. I said, "youre
crazy," and walked away, even though in the back of my mind there
was something that wanted to know how her saliva tasted.
In those days, my brother, Ben-Asher, was still deadly sick with his stomach.
We took him to Swissi, one of the largest hospital in the country, but
they didnt do anything useful, because he didnt feel any better
after we took him home. My mother then took off the wool from our bedding
and replaced it with cheap material made of tumbleweed and sold the wool
to pay for my brothers stay at a new private hospital. That also
didnt work and my brother died at a young age. I knew exactly of
his death when my father woke me up in the middle of the night from a
deep sleep and told me not to panic and slapped me with the news.
A few moments later, everybody in the house started to cry loudly. My
mother didnt cry, she wailed. The next-door neighbors heard her
wail, and told other neighbors, and the news propagated through out the
neighborhood. And all the neighbors, kids and grownups, including Nezha,
came to our house.
I went to a corner in a room to cry by myself, and Nezha followed me and
came inside and sat right next to me. I kept on crying, my head down,
when she put her arm around me to console me and pulled me tight towards
her. She started to cry also but not as hard. She kissed me gently on
the cheek. I felt that kiss and sucked it deep into my soul. That was
my first kiss and I will never forget it.
© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra December 2002
Child Molester and the Sea-
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
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