Jun 25, 2005


Recently, I asked one of my students, “but how do you know the government is corrupt? As a journalist I would like to know where this notion comes from, where’s the proof? After all, newspaper accounts of corruption are few and often anecdotal. There aren’t ‘paper trails’, trials, or publicized admissions of guilt.”

The student smiled first as although to say, ‘it is so obvious, so pervasive that proof is unnecessary.’ But then the student added, “When people come to our house my mother makes a cake but if I ask her for a piece she will deny there is a cake. I may have peeked around the door and seen her make it and put it up in the cupboard. Yet she will deny there is a cake. It’s the same with corruption.”

Jun 21, 2005

In the Mind of Atlas

ann at window
Originally uploaded by macnamband.

Mother and middle aged son sitting at a table next to a window looking out on a residential compound in the Atlas Mountains. The air is usually clear but not today, the color of ambivalence, even with the wind. It’s mid afternoon. The sound of sprinklers, a baby crying, a hammer knocking somewhere in the building, the chitter chatter of maids talking in high-pitched voices. The sound of someone running a rubber squeegee on the tile floors in the hallway. A dog barking. The annoying whine of building doors opening and slowly closing. And then we come to the two of them. Dressed from another era: He in his school boy blazer; she in her shawl... There are signs of other people in this apartment, school bag, lap top, something cooking, books and papers.

He: Did I tell you that 80 percent of Moroccans have a bad 12th disk?
She: No.
He: It’s from slouching in their chairs all through school. It often takes surgery to correct it....
She: Where’s the dog?
He: I don’t know. and you know what, I don’t care.
She: I know you don’t. I KNOW YOU DON’T.
He: She’s around.
She: Could you go find out where she is.
He: Let her go.
She: Would you go out and find out where she is, please.
He: She doesn’t want to talk to just now. She’s having a private moment.
She: Never mind. I’ll do it myself.
He: Why do you have find her now? She’s in the other room.
She: (calling the dog. Dog doesn’t come.) No, she’s not. See. When I call her she comes.
He: She’s passed out in the other room, I’m telling you. I took her for a long walk this morning.
She: (Sternly) She is NOT.
He: Well, if she’s gone out the window again and the guards find her wandering around the ocmplex, they’ll tell Mrs. Abusaid, and that’s it. But you know what? I’m tried of worrying about it. These people have nothing to worry about but the dog. That's the despair. If they spent as much time worry about keeping internet service as they do this dog, this university could almost call itself a university.
She: Where’s my dog?
He: If she’s gone, we’ll be thrown out. It’s too late. Whatever’s happened, happened. Have some more tea.
She: I want to find her.
He: Oh my God, sit down. Why are you so crazy today?
She: (Turning him, looking at him utter contempt) Because I want to.... (she trundles toward the door).
He: You want to, but you don't have to.
He: leave the dog alone. (picks up a magazine)
She: (Wandering around in circles) The dog in his lonliness and affliction....
He: What?
She: (shaking her head)
He: It’s a bitch, not a male.
She: A bitch is for sure. The suffering of all bitches.
He: Want some tea.
She: I want to find my dog. (calling desperately)

Later. Early evening.
She: (Eating ice cream, her face nearly touching the bowl) Deeevine,
He: (He seems indifferent to the ice cream but watches her closely)
She: Don’t you think?
He: I do.
She: I adore it.
He: It’s good.
She: That’s all you can say?
He: What were we talking about?
She: To die for. Really, it’s the best I’ve had. Ever. Honestly.
He: (No reply)
She: Who was that woman at the party last night?
He: Which woman?
She: She was so attractive?
He: (shakes his head)
She: C’mon, you know.
He: I don’t.
She: Yes, you do.
He: I don’t.
She: Are you an idiot?
He: What did she look like?
She: I was talking to her.
He: On the sofa. Yes, alright.
She: She was darling. Wasn’t she? So attractive.
He: She’s from Tangier.
She: I know THAT.
He: That’s all I know.
She: But what’s her NAME?
He: I don’t think I ever knew it.
She: Sherri, Mary....
He: (shrugs his shoulders)
She: Lisa. That’s it.
He: Lisa. You’re right.
She: If I were a man, that’s the woman I would want.
He: But you are a man.
She: (looking steely eyed; cross leg swinging) Something you could to aspire to....
He: I couldn’t resist... Want more ice cream?
She: (nodding enthusiastically) And what about another glass of wine? Or is the bar closed?
He: We never close. But we might have to cut you off. Have you got somebody to drive you home?
She: (wistfully) Home?
He: Where you live ‘mam.
She: (suddenly serious) My home is with Natacha.
He: Of course. Soeur N.
She: Make fun if you like.
He: (shakes his head)
She: My home is not here.
He: Well, it could be.
She (Her expression is “definitely not.” He pours her another glass)
She: Don’t you drink anymore?
He: (reluctantly pours himself a glass.) On occasion.
She: Not intellectual enough, I suppose?

Later. Still in the kitchen.
She: Tell me more.
He: Tell you what... Despair, that’s all I can tell you. The ‘culture of despair’. That's what the academics call it.
She: Yes, I see that.
He: But there’s more to it, of course. It’s not just that.
She: I have the sense of so much possibility.
He: Yes.
He: They’re like a patient who’s been abused for 40 years; they’ve been in therapy for five years; you’ve still a way to go. You’re still remembering it all.
She: And they do remember it.
He: Body memories.
She: But you can do so much.
He: What.
She: Hope. Thaaat's what they need.
He: sanity's what they need.
She: To have sanity, you need hope. How can I tell you that so you understand?
He: (He turns away).
She: They’re such an attractive people.
He: (laughing cynically)
She: Not like Americans.
He: Why do you always disparage America?
She: You know very well. Are you getting homesick? Is that why you sound like that?
He: Not at all. No. In fact, there are times when....
She: when...
He: When I feel as though, as far away from the centers of power I’ve known, I’m at the center of the world.
She: Well then, FOLLOW IT....
He: But at the same time I think I may never leave here. That something has happened, I’ve gone off track, I went into a dream and I’ll never get home.....
She: There’s some purpose you haven’t found. You have to keep searching.
He: It’s not about purpose; it’s about destiny. I’ve lost my way. I trapped myself. I didn’t plan well enough.
She: What does your wife think?
He: She doesn’t have these neuroses.
She: You should stay here.
He: Why?
She: You belong.

He: You want to call her again?
She: Yes.
He: It’s been 10 minutes since we tried. Give it a rest...
She: I can tell time.
He: Then watch the second hand.
She: Okay put me off for as long as you can.
He: Well I just think it’s crazy.
She: Well it’s not crazy.
He: My God, what’s the rush?
She: I want to talk....
He: We’re not leaving for two days.
She: I WANT TO TALK TO Claude. Do you hear me?
He: We’ve tried several times. Let’s give it a rest. She’s on the phone. It’s okay.
She: It’s not okay.
He: Anyway, remember her husband is ill.
She: It couldn’t have happened to a nicer man.
He: What kind of thing is that to say?
She: It’s a true thing to say.

The next afternoon. The weather has turned. Lightening and thunder. The sound of flapping sheets on the clothes line, strange sounds from within the building. A baby crying.
He: That baby never stops.
She: So tomorrow night we’ll be in the...
He; Ibis.
She: Ibis (pause) In what city?
He: Casablanca.
She: Right.
He: Okay?
She: And then what happens the next day?
He: You’ll be going to London.
She: I’ll be going to London and you’ll be with me.
He: No. You’ll be free as a bird.
She: (about to say something, then checks herself)
He: You’ll be going one way and I’ll be going another...
She: That’s right. You’ll be going home. Here.
He: I’ll be dropping you off
She: Where will you be dropping me off?
He: At the airport.
She: In...
He: Casablanca
She: But in what country?
He: In this country.
She: Morocco. And you’re not coming with me....
He: No, you’ll be on that flight alone. But they’ll be stewardesses... And maybe, the co-pilot will give you a pair of wings, like they did when I was a child.
She: Oh when you were a child. Let’s talk about that.
He: It happened.
She: The thing is to get me there.
He: That’s what I’m trying to do.
She: But I don’t feel the plan. I don’t have a sense that you’re doing...
He: You don’t feel what?
She: The plan...
He: The plan? I’ve told you the plan. We’ve been over the plan. How many times do you want to go over it?
She: Until it’s clear.
He: It’ll be alright.
She: Will it?
He: I told you. Not like Nice.
She: Don’t...
He: Don’t what?
She: That didn’t happen. Just forget that.
He: Why do you think I’m doing all this? I know the experience you had there. That’s why we’re going through this hour after hour after hour. My God if I spent as much time creating as I have as your travel agent....
She: Oh you’re so patient. I so appreciate it.
He: Well, I don’t know what else I can do.
She: Don’t worry.
He: Well I keep thinking of that dream you and then it came true and I....
She: No, please don’t say another word about THAT. Please.
He: I’m just saying...
She: That’s all behind me now. So why do you want to talk about that? That’s finished. I’ve gone through that. Okay? You don’t have to worry about it.
He: Well, I do actually.
She: Well don’t. There’s no need. But from Casabianca to Gatwick....
He: First Heathrow.
She: And then Gatwick.
He: Exactly.
She: Where I will take a cab?
He: Where you will take a bus. It’s all arranged. NationalExpress shuttle.
She: I’ll have assistance.
He: I’ve arranged it.
She: When I’ve had assistance it hasn’t been too tough.... They’re so good, so good at assistance. And the people are so kind, so helpful, but you have to know what to ask for... (knocking an empty glass on the table, a sign for more) And that’s tomorrow morning... or is it the next morning? I don’t know if it’s Monday morning. Is today Friday or Saturday?
He: Sunday.
She: Then tomorrow, we leave. But my plane doesn’t leave until Tuesday.
He: Correct.
She: And I’m leaving on Tuesday from...
He: (let’s her rummage through memory for the city)
She: I...
He: Casablanca.
She: You put me on the plane and say goodbye and then we get to a place called Gatwick... I think.... But first we’re staying at the ibis. And then on Tuesday you propose you we get up at 8 a.m. or thereabouts and go to the airport.
He: First, we might stop by the travel agency and pick up your ticket.
She: Okay, I’ve got a lock on it.

Later. Evening. Still around the kitchen table. Two glasses of wine; hers empty.
She: More.
He: (He pours.) Well tell me then, what did happen in Nice.
She: (shaking her head)
He: Why don’t you tell me?
She: (shaking her head)
He: Just tell me what happened.
She: I had a dream.
He: You had a dream.
She: It was a foreshadowing dream. And I knew that even as I was in the dream. But I...
He: You what.
She: ...in an airport and I was lost. I didn’t know what city I was in and someone was supposed to me but they couldn’t find me.
He: I see.
She: And then I was walking through the terminal but I couldn’t find the way out. There were those long corridors in every direction. I had no bags but people kept trying to get me to baggage claim. ‘I don’t have any bags.’ I kept saying, ‘I have no bags. Why do you want me to go to someplace I don’t need to go. I HAVE MY BAG. DO YOU HEAR ME?
He: No skycap even in your dream.
She: Nothing. No one would help me. No one knew me. And I had to ask people, what airport is this? And they kept saying, ‘Madame, c’est Nice. Vous etes a Nice.’
(pause. She is distracted by the thought.)
He: And then.
She: And then that’s EXACTLY what happened.
He: You landed in Nice.
She: Natacha put me on the plane in Calgary and that flight lasted a day or two. We were in that plane at least a day and a half. Seemed much longer, I know that. I was sitting next to these two Canadians. He was smelled very foul. Pony tail, you know that type. His wife. Very nice. But they didn’t bathe and I wanted to say, ‘you really should consider a shower once in a while. If only for the people around you. You know, it’s good manners. But they were nice people and I just sat there. And I don’t know how long we were on but eventually we landed and ... (weeping) and I got off the plane and I asked someone, ‘where am I?’ And they said, ‘oh, you’re fine just back on the plane.’ And I said, ‘but where am ? I’m supposed to be in Nice.’ And then that was when I got, ‘Mais, Madame vous etes a Nice.’ And I said, ‘but there’s no one here to meet me.’ And then we were on the plane for another whole day. Literally, a whole other day. Again. It was so endless. And then I was sitting in seat, it was across from the lou. And the door opened, by accident, someone pushed it and it opened and I looked and there was this woman, sitting on the toilet her legs spread-eagled, you could see everything, I mean it was all just right there. I looked, I mean as you would look. You don’t have a choice you just happened to look and here’s someone spread-eagled in front of you. I looked and she smiled as though well this is just the way I ride on airplanes. Well, it just went on and on. I told the stewardess.... What did I tell her? Well after that I thought you know the best thing to do now is just sit here and not say a word, not move, just stay absolutely still.

She: But does Natasha know I’m coming. I want to follow whatever she’s arranged to the letter. Do you understand? To the letter.
He: But she hasn’t arranged anything.
She: Oh yes she has.
He: What? What has she arranged? You mean three weeks ago when you were going back to Nice but no one was willing to meet you or let you stay at their house? That was beautifully arranged.
She: that was not her fault. Nothing to do with her.
He: Whose then? I only go by what she says in the email. And the message was she would never let that happen to you again, what happened in Nice....
She: Well she’s having me travel with Soeur Sarah.
He: Another live wire.
She: What?
He: That’s arranged.
She: But from Heathrow. Right?
He: NationalExpress shuttle. They’re waiting for you. It’s all set. And all paid for.
She: Always the money.
He: 8 or 10 pounds. I’m just telling you I arranged it.
She: You always have to mention how much things cost; I know you can’t wait to unload me.
He: Pianissimo from the string section please?
She: I’m going to pay you back from next month’s check. If you can stand to wait that long.
He: I can’t understandastan....
She: I’m glad you’re amused. But it’s not funny.
He: Where were we?
She: I know this is difficult to go through but I need to know where I’m going.
He: I’ve been working for days on this trip. If I spend this much time on anything else in my life I would be wildly rich.
She: Oh I know. How I know.
He: So where were we?
She: In Casabianca.
He: Yes, Ms. Jagger, where can we take you?
She: Home.
He: After Heathrow you’ll take the shuttle to Gatwick and then you’ll get to the hotel.
She: But where then?
He: Where-wolf? There, castle... Do you remember that line? Marty, what was his name, the wall-eyed comic?
She: The hotel.
He: At Gatwick.
She: Gatwick.
He: Le Meridien.
She: If you’re going to say it at all you should say it properly. L-E, new word, M- e-r-i.... you need that iiii sound, d-i-e-n.... Got it? Le Meridien.
He: Le Meridien.
She: iiiiii., I-dien.....
He: (in a mock French accent) Yes, le meriiiidien......
She: Yes, but not much better.
He: Le Meridien.
She: Yes, that’s better.
He: Now where am I staying.
She: We just said.
He: Gatwick.
She:` Le Meridien.
He: There you go.

She: (taking her itinerary away from him) I’ll screw around with this. I’ve been screwing around for a long time now.
He: I know you have.
She: (looks at him with slitty eyes.)
He: You handle it.
She: It’s not like you’re a mental deficient, are you? This is not a trip for mental deficients...
He: We’re not talking about mental deficiency anymore, are we?
She: The thing is to get me there...

The next day.
He: We’re leaving.
She: I’ve been packed since dawn. It’s now 2:30.
He: You didn’t have to. I told you.
She: (mimicking) I told you.
He: well, I did. There’s no need for this.
She: Are we leaving now?
He: (looking at clothes in a wardrobe.)
He: why are you leaving all this.
she: (seething) Because I CHOOSE to.
He: I’m glad that you choose to. But why not take it?
She: I’ve just told you. I choose to.
He: Okay, you choose to. But what do you want me to do with it?
She: why don’t you just eat it?
He: No, I’m serious. Do you want me to send it to you?
She: That would be nice. You could but I don’t care about it. I’m leaving it.
He: (picking up a piece of cloth) what’s this?
She: The Muhammad family gave it to me.
He: Why don’t you want it?
She: Not in MYYYY suitcase. Do you understand?
He: I understand but why?
She: It’s a liability. If I’m searched,
He: Why is it a liability?
She: I don’t want to give them any reason. They look for things like this.
He: alright. Enough. I don’t care. Leave it here.
She: thank you.

Later. Half way to Casablanca.
She: When are we going to get there?
He: Two more hours, three. If we get there during rush hour.
She: Well don’t get there during rush hour.
He: We may not have a choice.
She: (Black speak, like Minnie in Gone With the Wind. You couldn’t tell the difference, high pitched voice and all ). Well I don’t what I’m a gonna do. I’m just gonna daaaaaa.... But I need me a drink. I need alcohol. And a lot of it. I need mimosa, otherwise I’m gonna just die. I can’t stand it no longa.
He: Shut yo’ black ass.
She: What you talkin’. You can’t have my black ass.
He: Nobody want yo’ black ass. You just a dumb white bitch.
(0n and on they went until they worried they might not be able to break out and speak normally.)

Later, lost in the streets of centreville.
She: Go round. Go. Why do you wait?
He: So we don’t have an accident.
She: You gotta have balls.
He: I have balls.
She: Go. Go ahead.
He: Now, I know why my wife hates me.
She: Why are you waiting? Go. Go.
He: Traffic, mother. This is heavy traffic.
She: We’ll never...
He: Just hold on.
She: I don’t understand why you don’t move. MOVE.

Later, in the Ibis bar, her mind out on a limb. Huddled in a wicker chair, watching TV, waiting for her son to return from checking in. He arrives. She doesn’t look up.
She: You don’t ever come back.
he: I think about never coming back, but I always do.
She: The waiter never came.
he: Well, we’ll get him. We’ll get you a drink. Don’t worry.
She: I needed that about an hour ago. Now it’s too late.
He: It’s never too late. Hold on.

Later, after a weak handed screwdriver.
She: what time is it?
He: 8.
She: It should be 50...
He: 50 what? What are you talking about?
She: All this jazz...
He: All what jazz?
She: All this jazz. Jazz. So we’re not going to Casablanca until tomorrow...
He: Right. We’ll be there in the morning.
She: Where are we now?
He: In Casabianca.
She: And I’m leaving tomorrow....

At dinner, out in the hotel garden. Under a frail moon. Fish. A half bottle of red wine. Bad service, and a sense of ‘last supper.’ The waiter finally brings some peach melba.
He: Anyway, there you are.
She: You sound unhappy.
He: I'm tired.
She: I want to tell you something. Appropo of nothing.
He: What do you want to tell me.
She: I think in the world it's better to 'avoid' than to 'resist'.
He: avoid what.
She: whatever it is.
He: Okay.
She: What I mean is that in life there are all these sins, cheating and stealing and lying. And I think if you resist these things they come back to you, they keep hammering at you, and you cannot escape. But sometimes, if you're clever, you can avoid the situation. Sometimes... (long silence) And so the cheating, you may have to cheat finally. You may be not be able to avoid it but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. You know, you are human after all. You have to go through this process. YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS PROCESS. The maitre was always very clear on that, you have to go through the process of living. You cannot resist that.
He: Alright.
She: And so we are all in this ship and everyone is the same and you just have to go toward the human-ness. Toward the danger. You have to exhaust evil, take it on and exhaust it. Otherwise, if you try to run away it will catch you. Shouldn't you get the bill.

Later. Darkened room. The television going. The king, dour faced, greeting the ambassador of Mauritania.
She: Before I arrive from Heathrow, where will I be?
He: You mean when you arrive in Gatwick?
She: Yes.
He: You’ll be in Heathrow
She: But why am I in Heathrow?
He: That’s where you’re leaving from...
She: I might recite it all night long....
He: But don’t wake me up while you’re reciting.

The next morning. Dawn. Just waking up.... The sound of traffic and a long train whistle, the faint call of a muezzin.
She: Is he tinted?
He: Who?
She: Muhammed.
He: Muhammed, the chauffeur. Yes he’s ‘tinted’.
She: The man in the dream.
He: I don’t know.
She: Why do you keep saying that?
He: Because I don’t know, that’s why I keep saying that. You ask me who people are, I don’t know who you’re referrring to....
She: You said you knew. I thought you did.
He: I don’t.
She: There was a man in my dream.
She: I couldn’t get in your dream. It was locked.
She: I thought he might be one of these people you’re always talking about.
He: I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.
She: It’s not that complicated.
He: No doubt.
She: Well then do it.

At breakfast.
She: I want to tell you something.
He: Tell me.
She: This is something that will last you all your life.
He: Okay.
She: I never want you to forget it. I want you to carry this with you. You may not understand but you will.
He: Okay.
She: And just remember...
He: Okay. What is it?
She: Pay attention to Mohammed.
He: Your friend. Mohammed, the taxi driver.
She: (nodding) I want you to do whatever you can for him.
He: This is what you wanted to tell me?
She: Listen, this is extremly important. You may not realize that now, but you will. You will. You will, you will, you will. That's all I can tell you.
He: He wants you to help get to Canada.
She: I want to. That's what I'm tellling you.
He: But then he didn't pet the dog properly and you told me that was the deal killer.
She: I don't know what you're talking about.
He: That's what you said.
She: I said that?
He: Yes, don't you remember.
She: I don't remember and you probably misunderstood me, which you often do. But I can only tell you that this is something extremely important and I want you to listen to what I'm saying to you.
He: I'm listening.

At the airport. She, sitting in her wheelchair, as though lost in thought. A short redcap stands behind her, holding on to the chair. He’s trying to work out a crimp in his neck. The son arrives with an arm full of chips and water, cookies.
He: There wasn’t any vodka, but I got you these things.
She: Just something to drink.
He: Here.
She: (she takes a very long, masculine drink of water.) Oh, that’s better.
She is wheeled to the partition behind which is the gate. A guard looks at her ticket and passport. The son talks to the guard.
He: I'd like to go with her. Just to make sure...
Guard: You cannot go past this point.
He: I just want to see that...
Guard: You will need a pass. Upstairs.
He: There's no time. I just want accompany her to the...
Guard: You cannot.
He: (turning to his mother) Savages. All just savages.
She: Well that's a good start to my trip.
He: (leaning over to kiss her) I love you. I'm sorry...
she: Oh sure, sure, none of that. Stop. You love me too; I love you too. Goodbye.

ann's last message
Originally uploaded by macnamband.

Jun 19, 2005


A few months later, in October, the boy would cheat on a test, in class, and be brought before the disciplinary committee. He would be given a week of detention and other punishments. In his defense, he would say this was the first time he had cheated. One of the teachers would contradict him. He would modify his statement: "it's the first time I've cheated this year," he would say. "And maybe once last year." The teacher who caught him cheating would say to the other teachers, after the boy was out of the room, "I can tell a psychopath. When I was working in prison (Canada) I met a lot of these types, all killers and rapists, and the only I was ever afraid of was the one who hung the little kids that lived next door. This one is like that."

This is the same boy who recently has been involved in a series of incidents. He beat up some smaller children. He had a tantrum on the soccer field. He intimidates class mates. One night near Fez, driving his car with three friends who were drunk, he ran over and killed a man on a bicycle, a father of five. No one saw any remorse after that.

He's big and powerful.

Today, on the last day of school, the boy got up close to Barbara, in a threatening way, and told her to shut up and leave him alone. She told me and I went to him. I will regret this, but at the time my anger got out of its box. He was being reprimanded by the head of school. I interrupted and drew him out of the office to a private part of the school house. He had a friend with him. 'You're a piece of shit," I said, getting in close. "You have no right to say that," he said. "You're a piece of shit," I repeated getting in still closer, in a whisper.


If Batman were a dog, that's what she looks like. Black and tan, slick black coat, runs like whippet, high on the back end, low in front, if she were a stealth fighter, you would say shows no footprint. And sometimes, when she's been running - I run her beside the car, or on a bike, when she's been out there - the veins around her mouth enlarge. Her expression takes on a hideous smile. I tell her, you've got to watch it. If you keep on like this, we'll be out of here. And you might have to go back to where you came from. Whereever that is. She listens but then, what was that? One ear down, the other up, perpeptually. Something out in the wild. What is it? I ask her. She looks at me quickly, then back to whatever it is. Be careful, she's saying. This is not a hospitable place.