Wednesday, July 01, 2009
The first time I met her…I hated her. As is often the case with those I find most dear. I took a verbal lashing from her that had not too much to do with me and everything to do with some pretty f’ed up working conditions. It was my first week in Casablanca and I was assigned to observe her class at the tobacco company. I finally got her to agree to let me go along (as there was no way I wasn’t going to go) and we (barely) arranged a meeting time and place. I told Youssef that evening, “well I met the other American lady today and she was really really rude to me and I have to go across town with her tomorrow and I am rearing up for it. Oh, and she said we are taking the bus”. WHAT???!!!!! THE BUS!!!!??!!! [cue in evil theme music of doom] Everyone and I mean EVERYONE, from the janitor to the owner of the school, from Youssef’s mother to the friggin’ butcher in the medina had warned me against taking the bus, the evil, dreaded, unsafe, no place for you, Casablanca public bus. And now here was this…woman, colleague, telling me we were taking the bus. I was intrigued, curious and actually kind of relieved and scared at the same time.
So I show up at said time and she shows up and spits out that we are taking a cab. I had been all prepped and reared up and ready to offer to pay for the cab and insist we take one but then give in to taking the bus. But no, she says “there’s no way I am gonna be the evil villain that takes you on the bus for the first time, they will try to crucify me for it”. I was disappointed and relieved.
So we hailed a cab, her instinctually explaining to me best practice tactics for getting the cabs and how to behave and what to watch out for once inside. Things were going fine and she had set our meeting time so we would have time for a coffee before the class. Once we get across town she announces she is taking me to a coffee shop that is off the beaten path, so to speak, one where the coffee is cheap and the dealings inside are shady.
I remember how we sat outside so I could smoke cigarettes and the wind was blowing wild and it was alternating between sunshine and rain. I remember the smell of the hookahs burning inside and the crazy looking woman who left the drunken men inside the darkened café to take our order. We ordered our drinks and I began to feel the need to know more about this controversial figure with whom I was having coffee. I began my usual questioning, probing for information. She answered my questions and I got the very faint feeling that I might actually like her. If nothing else she was wild. She was a bus riding, seedy café frequenting, wild woman. I liked her history, and I liked it that she wasn’t scared of the bus or the waitress or our boss. I liked it that she acknowledged that she was rude to me, that was all I needed from her not for the apology but just to know that she knew.
The next time I saw her was over another coffee at another somewhat less seedy café (but still not totally on the up and up). And she was the only one that would answer my questions directly and honestly. I decided I would allow my self to like her even more. It was on the third time we met that I started to realize how intelligent she is. How funny and true her observations of the city are. And the rest is history. I confided her my pregnancy. She makes me virgin bloody marys and beans on toast and we sit at hers or mine or some seedy café for hours talking about our previous lives and who we thought we were and how irrelevant that all seems right now. We have traveled together twice and she has an incredible capacity to chill out and sit still which is sometimes the reprise I need from Youssef and his constant motion. She lets me sit on her couch and stare at the wall for hours if I need. She calls me “oh pregnant one” and sometimes we get into it about politics or people or whatever and it is always okay afterwards because neither one of us is scared of directness or confrontation. I met her at the most vulnerable, the most incapacitated nauseated, pregnant, newly adjusting to life in Africa, time in my life. I grew to love her strength and ease and it comforted me because it reminded me that I too am a wild woman. I too am someone that people sometimes hate when they meet because I am honest and I react to things and sometimes I am in a whirlwind of my own passionate drama that will swirl up the innocent bystanders. During these months, that I have grown a friendship with this woman, I have not been myself, but she has been a constant reminder of that self I was too sick and too shell shocked to be. Thank You Jill. I am sad you are leaving tomorrow and you will be sorely missed. I have no replacement, no other go to girl to spill it to. No other wild woman in my life here.
~ How I feel about Paris today ~
She loves Paris more than any of it too.