On the second day of his confinement, the cell door had been thrown open and looking dazed as if he had no idea what was happening to him, Nicholas K Brady III had been unceremoniously shoved through. Radouan waited in the shadows wondering why Nick had not been taken to the Psychiatric Hospital. Or was this the Marrakchi way of telling him the police knew all about their relationship and were throwing it in his face?
After some time, two of the inmates began cracking jokes at Nick’s expense, cruel jokes in the local Marrakchi dialect which they assumed he would not understand; which brought Nick out of his stupor and led him to provoke them with equally sarcastic replies. Radouan waited certain he would have to intervene. At first, the other prisoners were impressed that a foreigner should speak their tongue so well. But as Nick became ever more abusive, exposing their hypocrisies and deeply wounding their sensibilities, a few bullies among them surrounded him, taunted him for being a Gay, challenged him to deny it and forced him to his knees.
Unable to restrain himself, Radouan pushed his way through the crowded cell and disposed of the main culprits, knocking three of them unconscious. This invoked respect from the other men and they drew back.
‘I’ve known this man for over twenty years,’ he harangued them, ‘you sons of donkeys, you bowls of shit. This man is a great intellectual, a professor and a teacher who taught many of us boys to speak French and English. He is a good man. If anyone else touches him, I’ll kill him. On the head of my mother, I will pound him to dust.’
Then he helped Nick up, and elbowed their way to a corner where he managed to find enough space for them to sit down together. ‘At least here we can rest our backs against the wall,’ he sighed.
‘Where am I... are we?’ Nick blubbered incoherently, rubbing his eyes, ‘... I suppose its Hell... or what I’ve always imagined Hell would be like ... over crowded... smells like it too. But why did those men burst into the riad and grab us, Fouzia and me? Fortunately Pero was not there... he’d just left. Must say,’ he shrugged, ‘though I was longing to get out of there I can’t imagine a more bizarre way of leaving. Why are we here? Why are you here? Que se passe-t-il?’
‘My old friend, the Baroness Minna, is dead. Murdered they say... someone has filed a complaint against me and I’ve been charged. When it’s murder you know, they often arrest whole families and all the acquaintances of the accused hoping to scare them into giving the kind of evidence they want... I guess you’re part of my family. Do they know about Pero?’
‘They didn’t ask for him... just grabbed us.’
Radouan chuckled, ‘Good! He’s my Avocat now... I’m his first case... for sure they would like to throw him in here too; except it’s his family who owns the riad... we’ll see... Inch Allah.’
Sitting knee to knee crammed in their corner; no room to move or even stretch their legs. Radouan stared sullenly down at the floor. Finally the lights went out and they managed to lie down together in the fetal position, Radouan’s arms protectively sheltering Nick.
‘Strange it would take something like this to get us together again... I mean so physically close,’ Nick chuckled.
‘Please lower you voice, Radouan whispered, ‘These people will think bad things about us.’
‘No one speaks English here... I was remembering when your beard first began to grow, the first soft fuzz... now I see it’s very heavy and black... grows very fast... when you don't shave you look like a terrorist...’
Radouan snickered, ‘That time, I remember it well... it was about then you kicked me out. You said: "Now the time is approaching when we must go our own ways... when a boy’s beard begins to grow he’s a man and men aren’t supposed to be fucking around with each other. Your reputation will suffer." Tha's what you said.
‘You won’t let me forget will you?’ Nick mumbled.
‘Even so, I would have stayed with you if you’d allowed it. When you kicked me out I almost died... started wastin' away.’
‘Com’on, you didn’t waste away at all, you took revenge... almost killed me... more or less succeeded in neutralizing me – neuterizing, I should say...’
‘It wasn’t my fault...’
‘Yes yes, it was habibi.’
Radouan whispered sharply: ‘Think where we are and stop speakin’ Arabi... go to sleep... we need sleep... it’s your fault... everything in my life is your fault. You abandoned me... then you came to regret it and wanted me back but by then it was too late... now sleep, you crazy man, SLEEP!’
‘I’m not sleepy,’ Nick whispered matter of factly. ‘I’m wide-awake. How can one think of sleeping in a place like this? When I realized I was so jealous of you it devastated me. That’s why I had to send you away... and that’s why finally I came back... Your glances had wounded me forever oh hunter who shoots arrows with precision... and now I'm HAUNTED... but I guess it was my own fault because I’d allowed myself to become your victim.’
Radouan chuckled softly. ‘Now you’re jokin’ me... I always thought I was the victim!’
‘Stop dissembling clever one. I know perfectly well that you make maji on people… have it in your blood!’
‘Your jus' now understanding this’?’ Radouan whispered sarcastically, ‘really, in some ways you’re very stupid...now go to sleep, you’re tired.’
Nick turned away from him, ‘I’m not tired,’ he mumbled, ‘I’m wide-awake! You don’t understand... you do it with your eyes, make them like black holes... traps into which souls fall... I let you go on like that as an experiment, but I got caught.’
‘I didn’t destroy your mind you destroyed it yourself tryin’ to challenge me... always gazin’ at me... then took Ch'dak J’mel.’ He hugged Nick tightly. ‘Now you must bury your passion and become a Martyr... He who hides his love and is chaste, then dies, will be admitted to Paradise as Martyr -Hadith: al‘Ish . Sleep... Sleep now and I will watch over you...’
Nick turned over and faced him. ‘You resort to these pious thoughts when you don't want to take responsibility for your actions...’he whispered.
‘That doesn’t mean pious thoughts aren’t true, ‘Radouan grumbled, ‘jus' because we can’t live up to them… It’s time for you to surrender to Fate, to the Absolute Ruler of the Universe. The meaning of Islam is Surrender and when you do it you will stop sufferin’. Absolutely I know you are gonna to do it. Moreover, it will make you happy and me too once we get out of here...’
‘You really think we’ll ever get out?’
‘Of course, absolutely we will. I married Antonia Howard a month ago in London under British Law.’
‘I’m sure I told you, maybe I didn’t... so much has been happening.’
‘Congratulations,’ Nick muttered, ‘but I thought you were going to marry this girl your mother picked out?’
‘Yes, of course, I came back here from Paris planning to do jus’ that.’
‘I’ve been there the last three weeks on business… became engaged there.’
‘Wait. When did you get married in London?’
‘The week before I went to France...’
‘Where you became engaged to another woman...’
‘The one in Paris, Delphine,’ Radouan replied contemptuously. ‘I told you about her the day I met her... you never remember anything.’
‘Sometimes it’s hard to keep up...’
‘The one who was here on a fashion shoot for Vogue. I got her a screen test with a famous director; she’s gonna be a big star... I married her in Italy last week...’
‘Married her in Italy last week. The director, Francesco Monte, he took us to his village outside Rome... we were all drunk. I think we got married but I’m not sure. Very soon she will come here and we will be married according’ to Islam...’
‘So you’ve married twice in the past month?’
‘Yeah. Two different ones; the English woman and Delphine, the French one... now stop speaking this blah blah and let me sleep...’
Nick held Radouan’s hands tightly. ‘You’re crazy and you drive everyone around you crazy!’
‘That’s what everybody says... your problem is you are a victim of El wahm taa al Hawa…’ Radouan whispered.
‘Dreamin’ love. You’re always dreamin’ this thing with me that isn't real...’
‘Difficult is the love between patron and client, teacher and student, an old man and his young love, between the warrior and his stallion.’ Nick intoned and closed his eyes and sighed, ‘Oh al fahl, tell me who between us was the horse and who the rider? I remember when our relationship changed from teacher-student to lover-beloved, I had this strange vision of you as my nemesis... a sudden illumination... a premonition that you had come into my life to destroy me... You say I gazed at you too much, but that’s why... because I couldn’t believe what my intuition was telling me... and I still don’t! I should have ended it then but I couldn’t... Mach’allah.’
‘How can you say such things to me? We’ve shared so many unforgettable moments together...tender moments live on.’
‘Ssh...Yes, to poison the rest of one’s life.’
‘Everything passes,’ Radouan observed, ‘nothing lasts forever.’
‘I wanted you to be the best... you had the potential.’
‘I’m still the best!’ Radouan muttered indignantly.
‘But you had this bag of tricks, which I’m sure you learned from some prostitute... the constant teasing... coming on to people ‘til you captivated them, then discarded them like used toilet paper.’
‘I never discarded you,’ Radouan purred softly, ‘LOOK; here we are together after twenty-two years... There is no Power and no Strength save in God, the Almighty and Compassionate!’
Nick turned until they were forehead to forehead. ‘I want you to admit I gave you a life,’ he whispered angrily, ‘that you would never have made it without me… you have this real talent for making people unhappy, well what you give, you get back. So here you are in jail at last and you may die here or they may kill you... that’s the pay back! Life has two days, mon ami, one peace, the other wariness; and two sides, worry and happiness.’
‘What’s written is written,’ Radouan growled, ‘Don’t think without you I wouldn’t have made it... whether I die here or not is up to the All Mighty...’
Nick tried to fall asleep but was tormented by the thought that soon his body would be crawling with fleas and mites. ‘Think of the time I devoted to you back then,’ he said at last, ‘ just think of the way you were living...’
‘We’ve spoken of these things many many times.’ Radouan replied wearily ‘You wanted to disappear. I should have sent you back to your wife but I didn’t because I had compassion for you. With your money you deserved a beautiful young girl...’
Nick stiffened, ‘You always say I have money hidden somewhere... Just because you hide your money doesn’t mean everyone does.’
‘No no no,’ Radouan insisted, ‘inside you’re a very mean man, mechant. I’m sure you have it hidden somewhere.’
‘I’m sorry, but the word is frugal... I’m frugal, not mean, there’s a difference... You’re always projecting your behavior on me. You do that all the time. Anything you don't like about yourself you accuse others of... If I had money do you think I’d have let you sit here in Marrakech all these years fucking your brains away?’
‘I haven’t fucked away my brain, believe me my brain is very sharp! But I must fuck women... as often as possible.
Nick sighed. ‘Either you are a genuine schizophrenic and can be helped or you are a totally selfish man whose beauty has made life so easy he can’t imagine making the least effort to please anyone but himself.’
Radouan was exhausted and determined to put an end to their conversation. ‘Believe me,’ he declared, ‘now I’m tellin’ you the truth. I KNEW HOW YOU WERE SUFFERIN’ AND I ENJOYED IT. Can you understand that? Can you forgive me? ’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006