Starbucks, Starbucks in Casablanca...
I’m no coffee addict, but the familiarity of the color scheme, purposeful queue of customers, and weight of a Grande caramel macchiato was certainly sweet. Even hearing the barista say “for here or to go” triggered an undue affection for everything from the overpriced souvenir mugs to the puffy cap of cupcake frosting flecked with vanilla bean.
I remembered how flattered I was last summer, when asked for directions to the nearest Starbucks. Did these tourists think I was a genuine New Yorker?! Alas, the sight of the working world's mecca was too endemic to my daily life for me to remember where it actually was.
When my friend picked me up from the train station in Casablanca on Tuesday night, I asked about his parents. “They’re good, they’re in Paris,” he responded.
He hadn’t mentioned that over the phone.
Although surprised, I wasn’t alarmed to find out that it would be just the two of us in his family’s apartment. I had no reason not to trust him, and—perhaps anticipating this moment—I’d changed my Facebook status to read “in a relationship” a few weeks before.
After a brief stop at his cousin’s house (I eyed her row of high heels longingly) we headed towards the apartment to relax for the afternoon.
“I have a question, I need your help with something,” said my friend as his car passed the Morocco Mall.
"Yeah sure, what is it?"
"Do you have a friend that would marry me, and I would give her money..."
“You want a Greencard,” I said flatly.
“Why don’t you try and meet someone when you’re in New York?”
“Yeah, I will, but if I meet someone it will be love not money.”
“I think that’s better.”
“You think that’s better?”
“It’s complicated,” he said.
I didn’t know whether he was talking about love or the immigration system, but the statement rang true either way.
When we got home, the reporter I’d come to Casa to interview texted me to confirm our meeting at Starbucks on Wednesday. Nervous to finally be constructing the capstone of my studies abroad, I would spend the hour before the interview riding my friend’s cousin’s Disney scooter around the apartment—over to the window to gawk at the unidentified European sports team gathering below, back over to the TV where a house version of Paul Kalkbrenner’s “Sky and Sand” was playing.
“we build up castles/in the sky and in the sand/design our own world/ain’t nobody understand”
Now, interview finished, we took turns sipping my Caramel Macchiato. He ejected one of his signature mixtapes from the car’s CD player and passed it to me. I tucked it between pages 170 and 171 of the Woody Allen collection I was reading.
We picked up his cousin and he asked if I was hungry for lunch. “Can we go to Rick’s?” I queried, somewhat embarrassed. Eating in the replicated backdrop for the old Bogart-Bacall romance was the only specific sightseeing request I’d made. 'Of course," was the answer, as it was for all things.
After lunch we drove toward the beach. A guitar neck stuck out the window of the car in front of us like a skeletal dog. There were real dogs along the beach too, running in line with the surf, spurred on by men on horseback until they could go no further. “No,” my companions told two little boys, we did not want a red rose.
Sidi Abderrahman seemed to be the cut off point for our walk. In fact, we were still pretty far off from the rocky island when my friends and I turned back. My friend told me that the whole place is devoted to witchcraft. In an odd instance of modern lore, the outcropping's proximity to Casablanca’s current pride and joy—The Morocco Mall--has contributed to rumors that the mall is haunted.
The director of the mall fired back at such whispers with the following statement:
"These are rumors of another time. It is sobering to note that in the 21st century, our critics still use arguments that aim to keep our compatriots in the dark ages [...].We wanted to make Casablanca Morocco Mall, a symbol of modernity in our country and its influence on the continent and the region, and spread such rumors just goes in the opposite direction of our country by giving a image and retrograde opposition to progress”
Last time I was in Casablanca my friend showed me around the place--the aquarium, the luxury brand-name boutiques, and the food court sporting, yes, a small Starbucks.
On Wednesday night I fell asleep relatively early. My friend came in and asked me if I was hungry. “Shwiya,”* I managed to mumble before face-planting into the pillows for good.
In the morning he brought me coffee and breakfast. I was in bed, on my laptop. A quiet insistence seized me, something I needed to articulate. By the time I’d finished my chocolate croissant and taken a few more turns around the living room on the princess scooter, expressing what was on the tip of my tongue had been elevated to a moral necessity. By then it was after 12, and I kindly hinted that I was ready to leave, largely because of my proven record of letting the afternoon drag on.
“Come back any time,” he said, as I was gathering my duffel. “It was less lonely with you here.”
“It was less lonely with you here.”
We pulled up in front of the train station and I prepared to speak my piece—maybe it wouldn’t sink in as deeply as I wanted it to, but at least I would have said it: “Thank you for being so nice to me. I’m sure you’ll find a nice girl in New York--and it will be because of love and not money.”
I checked with another passenger to make sure I was on the right train.
“You are from England…I can tell because of your accent when you speak French.”
“No,” I said, “I’m American.”
I turned back around and put on chapstick. The edges were crusted with sand from the Sahara.