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Memories are not places. Memories are people and places and the sparks of feeling that connect them together. So I have no memories of Morocco.

I have pictures that tell of deserts and pools, oases and hotels, cars and camels. I am in a few of those pictures, but they feel unreal, as if I had skillfully Photoshopped myself into the sandy environment.

I have traces: my peeling feet, legacy of a sunburn, fading henna flowers on my hands, stubborn grains of sand in shoes and bags.

But there are no feelings to connect me to Morocco. The distance between me and the week I have spent in Morocco is as vast as the unfailingly yellow and ocher landscape of the mountains and desert of the country. The compartment that was set aside for storing Moroccan memories is nearly empty, a hollow the size of my expectations for enjoyment, populated by vague snippets of wonder and puzzlement. One memory, and one memory alone is  vivid enough, and it rattles inside this hollow like a ball in a bowl, each bang against the sides echoing loudly and painfully. A nondescript train station at mid-morning, two people, and six words thrown over the shoulder instead of good bye. No context offered, no reply possible. In retrospect no other ending was fitting. When one makes choices against the grain, the only likely outcome is the negative. And this trip was perhaps the most uncharacteristic thing I have ever done.

I do not travel halfway around the world to meet someone I haven’t seen for many years, and trust him with my enjoyment and well-being.

I do not sit in the backseat of a car observing the landscape while conversation happens in a language I do n0t know.

I do not spend hours in uncomfortable silence.

I do not apologize for my dietary choices, and I do not strain to swallow my food because I’ve been reproached about the damage my tastes cause to the environment.

I do not bathe in the sea alone.

I do not exchange stock phrases in a fake breezy tone.

I do not feel guilty for responding to a repeated, and insisted invitation.

And most of all, I do not ever go on holiday so that I can fall asleep crying every night, or hide my tears behind sunglasses for endless hours.

And yet I did it all in Morocco.

I am classifying Morocco as a  mistake, never to be revisited, but always to be felt. I did not expect the country to be so sordid, half-built, swallowed by debris and Chinese goods. I did not expect to be constrained by my attire and embarrassed by my body. But most of all I did not expect to feel so cold, so isolated, as if I was in a glass bubble and I was watching the country, its people, my host, from the unwelcome vantage point of one who is not wanted. I unwittingly effaced myself. I had no bon mots, no smiles, no ironies, no stories for an entire week. I wanted to touch, and I held back, wanted to speak, and kept silent, wanted to laugh, and cried instead. A week passed without me in it, the body present, but the spirit elsewhere, in an attempt against being stifled by the silence, the aloofness, the alienation.

To say I was unhappy is to minimize the depth of my discomfort.  My trust in my own wisdom is erroded, my trust in others crumbled to its barest foundations. I am hurt, and I am angry at myself for feeling so. I do not know how to be other than gracious about the experience, but I am seething with rage at myself for not calling rudeness by its rightful name, for accepting unacceptable behavior, for letting things happen and not fighting back.

No, memories are not places. Memories are people and places and the sparks of feeling that connect them together.

So I have no memories of Morocco.

Just one bitter feeling, and the sting of tears on my cheek.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Belle permalink
    22/07/2010 17:51

    Your story, although hard to believe when talking about a vacation spent a zillion miles away from home in an exotic environment, sounds pretty much familiar to me. It reminds me of my journey to Crete, when all I could see of Crete was a highway, a beach and a gulf where people did scuba diving. But at least I hadn’t been invited for weeks. At least I knew I shouldn’t have had any expectations of that holiday. At least my “host” hadn’t talked to me about travel plans. At least my host hadn’t had any previous history with me. At least I knew I had had a choice, to go or not to go, and I knew that, by going, I would expose myself to this kind of cold and indifferent treatment. And yet I chose to go. Because I had the idea of going. But in your case, what had your fault been?? Responding to an invitation? We should stop blaming ourselves for everything. They have got NO excuse for rudeness, nor for bad behavior or cruelty. Because THAT which you write about was cruelty. Maybe it was meant to not let you inside his life, and to make sure you won’t try to get into his life again, but the way it was put it into practice was just cruel. Full stop.
    So next time we go out, let’s have a toast AGAINST all the emotional midgets and jerks who try to convince us that WE are the problem.

  2. JVR permalink
    02/09/2010 01:38

    Hope you made your point, spitting out the feelings inside and feeling the necessity to spread this world to the Internet Community. Congratulations for your wise words needed in the life after Morocco.

  3. Miss Barbie permalink*
    02/09/2010 19:45

    I may have been venting, but I guess I am entitled to that therapy. Especially since I spoke of MY feelings and MY feelings only. And yes, I am not ashamed of them. I felt hurt, and I wanted to stop feeling so. And guess what… it worked perfectly, despite my fading looks and general unattractiveness.

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