Jan 9, 2006

The Bicycle

W works in the housing department. He also runs a small drama club, not unlike mine. Actually, he's very good with drama exercises. In June, I ran into him one day at the residence where he was helping to oversee some renovations. He wanted to borrow my bike. Of course, I said and when he returned I urged him to use it as he liked. He is endlessly charming and a jovial fellow, always laid back.

Whenever I saw him W would tell me how corrupt the university was, all the secret deals going on, all the little decadences. And how the workers putting in the central air heating system are treated, how no can make an error, and who does what to whom. "You can't trust Moroccans," he said. "They always betray you." "Why is that?" I asked. "Well," he said, "it's just who we are." I could never tell if he was joking because he always wears the trace of a smile.

I told him I needed the bicycle back in August, because it's Dash's and although a little too big for him, he uses it, and indeed we all use it. August came and went. I asked him one day in September if I could get the bike back. Oh, he said, I'm so sorry. Of course, I will bring it right back. September passed. I was gone in October. In November I began inquiring again. Oh, he said, yes I will get it right back. December came and went. I sent him several emails. In one he told me he was going to return the bike but it was raining and he didn't know what else to do so he gave it to a friend in a far district of the town, to store. I wrote him back saying I didn't understand the logic but I didn't care what had happened before, I wanted the bike now. No reply. More emails, No replies. I said, 'listen, either give me the bike or its worth.' Which was about $50.

Then finally yesterday I saw him leaning against my car, as I came out of the bank. He was charming as always. He said he had tried to call me again and again. Perhaps, there was something wrong with my phone. I said everyone else reaches me. He said, well let's get the bicycle right now.

It was a gray, dark faced day. We drove into a district at the edge of town, went down one street and then another. He had forgotten where his friend lived. Eventually, we found the address. But the word was that the man was not there. W was told to check with his friend's brother who works in centreville. He had the bicycle now. We drove to centreville, first to the police station then to a liquor store. Finally, W found the brother who said he had given the bike to a third man who lives in the poor district next to the quartier des voleurs. We drove to the district and finally found the house of the third man, but he wasn't there.

We returned to Centreville, to the bank. He withdrew some money, got back in the car and offered me $50. I told him the bike was worth only $40, took that much, and drove him to the taxi station where he was going to make his way home, which is in El Hajib.

As we were driving around I said to him, 'listen, you're a nice guy but I don't trust you anymore.' He said, "I know it's my fault. I should never have given that bicycle to my friend. But still you should trust me.'

"I like you", I said, but I don't trust you, particularly after all you told me how I shouldn't trust Moroccans. I do trust Moroccans for the most part; I just don't trust you."

But what does it matter if I trust you or not? I thought.

"I have excuses," he said.

"I'm not in a position to forgive myself much less you," I told him.

"But you can't ignore my excuses," he went, with this dangerous little smile. "You have to honor those. You have to...."