The other day my young host brother dreamt his mother left to make hajj.
“Was he upset?” I asked my cousin.
“No! It is good.” he replied.
Of course, I should have known. To make hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It’s a journey to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the geographic center and spiritual heart of Islam. Muslims face Mecca when they pray, and it was an integral city in the life of the prophet Mohammed.
I guess I asked the question because dreams—both good and bad—are often disconcerting. I tried to remember my own dream from the night before, something about a poetry reading and someone I haven’t talked to in months.
Being in Morocco is like a dream in itself, and the parade of familiar faces that I see in my sleep is sometimes less disorienting than my waking life.
On Friday evening I stood in the corridor of a train from Rabat to Fes. I watched the landscape pass by for hours. The colors are softer here: the grass is bluer, the soil more pink— the variegated topography like the chalky palm of a child’s hand.
“You don’t want to sit?” asked a man standing nearby, as the compartments emptied.
“I’ll sit when it gets dark.”
On their last visit to Fes, my friends became close with a riad (small hotel) owner, and he arranged everything for our visit. Saturday morning, after a late night in the club and far too little sleep, we landed on the terrace of his riad. Endless views were interrupted only by an iron portico above us. I thought of the little caged canary in the lobby—we were the lucky ones.
The sun was warm. The men disappeared, some promising to bring breakfast and others for a shower. Minarets dotted the wide, white horizon, lending symmetry to an otherwise chaotic silhouette. A hill ascended toward the city, covered in graves that looked like crushed shells from a distance. I tried and failed to capture a mountain’s scale in my camera lens, and settled instead for watching the buses moving along its base.
As if all in agreement, my friends and I promptly fell asleep. We woke up content and in that odd dreamlike state I spoke of before—which was reinforced shortly after by the men’s return with tray upon tray of juice, bread, pastries, and spreads. I drank a cup of tea, and then a cup of coffee, but the jolt of energy that American chains have made their fortunes off of continued to elude me.
“Where are you?”asked the riad owner later as we sat by the pool, “You are not in Morocco, you are out of your mind.”
I am thinking of the precise words to describe “here.” I am seated at my kitchen table talking to my mother. I am looking forward to watching the leaves change again in Maine.
I am not out of my mind, I am too far in it.