Feb 21, 2006


Elbouaychi’s Pleasure

The perfect khadim displays two qualities: loyalty and discretion. Discretion means that as the king's subordinate, as his ‘personal servant’, he must not distinguish himself by doing heroic deeds, which might however briefly or accidentally dull the king’s shine. He must also not do anything that gives himself independent power or legitimacy. For example, he should never speak to the press or to the heads of ministries without permission. Even they better to refrain. He must not do anything to undermine a noble patriarchy and a rigorous hierarchy. He must always look up never down, and never court the loyalty of those below him. Of course he shouldn’t scandalize himself by amassing too much wealth or showing what he has in a flashy way. Let others do that if they must; in the end, they will not rise.

Lastly, a loyal and discrete servant is expected to engage in corruption, but without leaving a trace. No contracts, no fixed phones, everything laundered, nothing owned outright. These are the basic requirements, and a king's servant, from the highest to the lowest levels, is left to operate his parcel of the public domain like a personal fiefdom. Twenty five years ago Driss Elbouaychi was the perfect Kadim. He was also despicable and widely despised. The sound of his name was like the smell of shit in a good restaurant. People covered their noses — although not everyone, because some people can’t place that smell. And People always love to forget, don’t they? Now that the horrors are past, he’s desirable. Now everybody comes to kiss his cheeks, to feel the hide of power, to whisper into the ear of ‘someone from that time’. He makes people feel good. He makes people feel secure the way a snake charmer might when he shows you the secret of the snakes and lets you wear one the way he does. Transference, you see? These days, who is more pleasant than Mr. Elbouaychi? Bahir, bahir; Labaisse, Labaisse. Hamdullah.

In those days he was a colonel in the Ministry of the Interior, although no one remembers how he got to the rank of colonel since he was never in the army or the Navy. Now he’s a deputy in the Ministry of the Interior, and that’s a mystery because the last anybody knew he could neither read nor write. It’s also not clear whether he is more Berber or more Arab. Of course, he would like to be thought of as pure Arab, but he has told as many people he’s one as the other. He’s from the south, that’s all that anyone knows for sure. And of course, in some circles that’s a strike against you. But not him. People like to forget his past; it’s more interesting that way.

These days, if you have X-ray vision, you can see him behind tinted windows in a convoy of bureaucrats flying down the road to Casa. Or else you might see him standing in a corner at the opening of a new NGO, ever the voyeur, always in his midnight blue Sharkskin suit, with his perfect-man haircut, every hair in place like rifles stacked in the armory. But his face is another matter, pockmarked, littered with orifices in no particular order or proportion. But he always escapes his face and you see there, chatting away, holding his glass of Medallion cabernet, he’s become quite the wine connoisseur. And you’ll notice, while he’s talking people bend closer to hear him, that’s one of his tricks, and then he has that appearance of respect and also it gives him a chance to peruse the director of the NGO, a very beautiful woman, isn’t she, in the flame of 40, with thick red hair and the look of a woman that really wants to help kids living on glue down on the docks. Sexy and good has always been the specialist’s type.

In the old days he was less visible; he worked in the office of “special responsibilities”, which included cleansing socialists from the universities. But he had no interest in sorting through each department, finding out who was merely disloyal and who might be dangerous, he assumed all academics were dangerous, so he persuaded his boss to close every Departments of Humanity in the country and rename them Society Studies, which was staffed by loyal imams out of work. Now, of course, the names have been changed back because the Islamicists are the threat these days, not the socialists.

In the old days he was always consulting his lists. Short lists, long lists, his ‘mechanics’, the doctor, the hair dresser, his mistresses, ‘friends’ in various embassies, bosses in various ministries, his chums from America. His web. Hotel owners in Agadir. Spies in Casa. Certain restaurateurs in Marrakech, Celebrities in Tangier.

In those days he introduced himself to people as a ‘specialist’. “I am a specialist when it comes to finding people,” he would say with a wry smile. Or, “I am a threat specialist,” which he learned from an American he used to go drinking with. “I am involved in all kinds of things,” he would tell his long standing mistress, Inass whose sister is now the infamous MP they call the ?, which means either the dancer or the prostitute, depending on context. And then to sound technical he would refer to the various kinds of intelligence, and he would say, “Elint”, in her ear and pinch her nipple, and say, “ Commint,” and tickle her crotch, and then say, “ Photint” and grab her foot and bite her ankle.

Or else he will say,” when I was at Fort Benning I became a specialist in deciphering codes. Or to his buddies in the surete he would say I am a specialist at finding the most beautiful whores.

If you were on a certain list, he would send his men out to find you and then he would arrive himself at your house, at any hour. You were always asleep. Or, you were naked with a woman’s breasts wrapped around your cock. He particularly enjoyed finding the married socialist with hotel whores. There are even stories that he is still up to his old tricks, but now with the Islamicists or their sympathizers, and that he will appear in your hotel room wanting proof that you have paid for 'extra company.' "Oh my dear sir," he was supposed to have said recently to an indiscreet imam caught with two women. "Perhaps, you have forgotten that you must pay the extra charge when you bring someone to your room." I was told the Imam was so humiliated that he jumped out of the 24th floor window — and missed the hotel pool entirely.

In the old days, his men would steal into your house and escort the specialist up the stairs, two ahead, two behind, machine pistols drawn. The Specialist never carried any kind of weapon. He disdained weapons, even lead sacks which were very popular of course in the department of the interior.

They would open your door and suddenly here is the "specialist" standing over you. In his sharkskin suit and for a moment you might think what is this bureaucrat doing in my bedroom. But he is so quiet and so curious to see you unawares that you would never hear him coming. No matter how light a sleeper. And so he might make himself at home, wander around your room, even in pitch black and look at what you have in the world, stop to catch a scent of something, and then perhaps find a place to sit and then just enjoy the sensation of being with you.

Sometimes, you might sense his presence. It’s heavy and light at the same time. He was part apparition. Of course he might also become impatient and light up a cigarette or a cigar although he doesn't like cigars, and even blow smoke at your face until you woke up. "Good evening," he would say in French or Arabic. If he spoke in French he would adopt that culture and he might humiliate you verbally for a moment. He might say, "Who is this whore?” Is this your wife or your mistress?" You see and if it was your wife, then she would think you had a mistress. If it was your mistress then you would be on notice. He always knew more about you than you.

Or, he might speak to you in Arabic and he would speak in a low voice and tell you that you were barely goat piss and enough was enough. He would stress the poing — with his left eye fluttering like a moth — that he was finished with your doubts and your Marxist fears, and whatever reservations you had about monarchy. He might occasionally also speak in English, if you thought he could not speak it, or Spanish, as a way to test you and he might say, "I'm going to fuck your wife right now in front of you and all my men after me." And if you didn't react that would tell him something and he would go further to find out if you were either ignorant or clever. He would track you down, bring you to ground. And then suddenly he might stand up and leave. He would go down to the car while you got dressed.

Or else, if you were naked, he might sit there and watch you get dressed and comment on your body, on your fat or your muscles or lack of them and of course inevitably "your thing" as he called it. How is "your thing" doing these days. And he might even talk to it, and have the guards bring you close so that he could speak directly and at close range, as though it were another person. "I'll bet you know something; and I'll bet you'll talk won't you. You'll tell me what's been going on here. You never lie and I trust you. So don't worry, you'll be taken care of; you don't have to worry. But it's important that you get him to understand."

And then he might look at you. And depending on his mood he might have one his men lean down take you in his mouth. Anything was possible. He might pull out a pair of scissors and snap them open and shut. There were other specialists like him then but he was the most feared.

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