Mar 8, 2006


Time is running down. Already, memories are under review. I realize now I can only take a few back. The rest are for burning. Meanwhile, I go see Rachid in Azrou. He's become my metaphysician. He doesn't speak French or English; I don't speak Arabic. He's 24, a Bottisatva, my size, runs a two-bay garage in a back alley down the hill from the bus station. Outside, the street is littered with car bones. Inside, he's eating tagine set out on the slanted end of an ancient gear box. His hands are black, his uniform is black. He looks like a coal miner. His face is round and muscled, from solid stock.

He makes me remember the names of his mechanics. Omar, the quiet. Hicham, the unsmiling. Sallal, the tall lanky electrician who frankly should be in some other profession. Mohammed, the foreman. Mohammed speaks French, runs the runners, turns away the beggars that happen by. He's first violin, the go-to guy and kidder. Sometimes, I ride with him to pick up parts in this demi monde of lower Azrou. Everything is on a slant. Even the uphill legs of dogs seem shorter. In this part of town there are few connections. Buildings are not built side by side. Your building, a space and then mine. No windows except front and rear. No light from the side. Vines grow out of thick cement. There are no public spaces. The mountains hang over all.

Rachid gives me a stool to sit on. He places it next to the bay. Lately, this nitch is in the sun. He always brings me tea. I have a book of dharma poems and stories that I read and then find some spec of glass in the dust to meditate on. I'm finally getting the mind to slow down. It's like a badly tuned engine. Les bougis sont mal. Everything here is a metaphor.

Rachid is just back from Meknes, just on his way to Fez. He's got a long line of customers. Nobody is more easy going. You look at him and you say, 'this is a kind man.' You watch him work and you think, this is somebody that knows what he's doing. He's in no hurry. He enjoys the puzzle. He likes to look at the magazine pages taped to the wall, with the newest Audi or the newest Ferrari. He's been running this shop since he was 14. It's all he ever wanted to do. He found a new engine for the 405 after I tore it up and put it in for less than $100 in labor. It works like a charm.

Meanwhile, Rachid never stops working. He's forever torquing, adjusting, unscrewing, tightening, he talks to me with his head down in somebody's engine. Or with his smiling eyes. I like to read when he's working. I like to be around that place. Things are getting fixed, repairs are under way.

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