The Curse of the Tangier Whore

The white and blue houses of Tangier’s Kasbah swelled and sunk across the hillside. From the rooftop, I could see the whole city laid out before me, the high rises of the downtown to the east and the slate gray port to the north, along the coast. The sky was overcast, and rain had been falling off and on throughout the day. I hung my clothes out to dry on the line without much hope. A cold wind was blowing.

Fabian yelled up from the lower floor of the rooftop terrace. “You ready?”

“Give me a minute,” I said.

I put out my cigarette and breathed in the sea air.

“Please dry,” I muttered to the clothes on the line.

“Please don’t rain,” I said to the sky.

The loudspeakers stuck on the sides of mosque minarets around the city began to belt out the noon prayer. Alllaaaahhhhu Akbar. Alllaaahhhu Akbar. Alllaaaahhhu Akbar.I hobbled down the steep staircase. My legs were still brutally sore from my adventures in the Atlas two days prior. Coming down the third of stairs into the bottom floor of the hostel, I ran into Martin, the perpetually sad-faced Dane who worked the front desk. His thinning hair was pulled back in a ponytail and a half-smoked cigarette was tucked behind his ear. He wore baggy cargo shorts and a Hollister friction belt, the equivalent of social suicide in any American high school. Fabian stood in the doorway to our room and adjusted his glasses. Houston had just rolled out of bed. He scratched his head and yawned.

“We going out?” he said.

“Jesus man, it’s almost eleven. What the hell did you do last night?”

I only asked because I knew the answer. Nothing. We’d made a huge bluster in picking this hostel. Not only were all the bedsheets damp, thanks to Martin leaving them outside on the line, but there were absolutely no travelers staying here, save for Houston and I, Fabian, and a chubby, button-nosed guy who had come careening into the hostel as we checked in the previous day and catapulted himself onto the top bunk in the corner of the room. He hadn’t spoken a word to us since. I reckoned him to be Russian. Houston slipped on his shoes.

“Where we going?” I shrugged.

“I dunno. I’m hungry. Fab?”

“I also am hungry, but I don’t care too much about eating either way, to be honest with you guys,” Fabian said, in his wordy, pointed, German way.

We’d met Fabian the day before. He’d arrived at the hostel in Tangier around the same time as us. He was a small, mousy guy, with glasses, a pencil mustache, and bleached hair. He said “mega” a lot (“that would be megacool”) and wore a red denim jacket with a stitched on patch that said Pisse.When I asked, he told me this meant what I thought it meant. I liked Fabian.

We trucked out the door with a somber goodbye from Martin and hit the streets. Morocco being Morocco, we were ensnared in a hash deal within seconds, with a gang of urchins who’d set up camp on a stoop down the street. Houston grimly bought a few grams and some rolling papers from the boys to appease them and stuffed them into his pocket, muttering. We wandered into the souks

With the hash weighing heavy on Houston’s pockets, it wasn’t long before we were holed up in a café lighting up. The place was packed with Moroccan men, playing dice and cards and drinking mint tea. Traditional Arabic music, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan cycled through the café speakers. A haze of hash and tobacco smoke hung heavy in the air. We set up shop at a table in the corner by the window, with a view down to the port below, and played cards as the midday sun filtered through the windows. We plowed through the three grams Houston and bought and within an hour all three of us were furiously high. My eyeballs felt weightless in their sockets, floating around aimlessly.

“Heady,” Houston said.

The thoughts of my mind plodding through clouds of hash smoke, I didn’t even see the woman approach. She was just in front of me. She smiled, revealing blackened, chipped teeth. Her hair was long and lank. She could’ve been twenty-five or a hundred-and-five, but she’d been living hard. She smiled at me again, rubbing her hands across her chest as she approached, and I suddenly realized what she was selling. “No thanks,” I said, holding up a hand.

“I’m good.” The woman slowly slid up her torn cotton shirt, revealing wrinkled brown skin up and up and up higher and higher.

“No thanks,” I stammered again, reeling away. The woman hissed in Arabic, spitting after me. I caught up with the guys.

“Did you guys just see that?” I said.

“What did we just see?” said Fabian.

“Huh?” said Houston.

“That chick, that prostitute chick, she was scary, man.”

“I’m pretty stoned, to be honest with you guys,” said Fabian. His eyes were vacant. His shirt sleeves, which he usually kept rolled up (all his shirts were three sizes too large), had fallen down, covering his hands and reminding me of Mickey Mouse when he puts on the wizards robe in that old Disney movie.

“What are you talking about?” Houston said to me.

“There was this lady back there…” I half-turned looking back the way we’d come. The woman was right behind us. She was staggered after us no more than five feet back.

“Oh fuck dude, she’s right fucking behind us,” I hissed. My feet felt like melting pudding. I wobbled on the cobblestones of the street.

Houston turned around. “Oh shit,” he said. “That’s sketchy as fuck.”

I turned my head around again and the woman smiled at me. In my stoned haze, that smile seemed to stretch eons, off of her face and into the houses on either side, wrapping around the whole world and back around to swallow us up.

“Dude this is freaking me out,” Houston said.

“Walk faster,” I hissed.

“I’m megahigh,” said Fabian.

We picked up the pace, and the next time I turned around, the woman had fallen behind. When we reached the port I could see her, watching us from the top of the hill. She made eye contact with me and spat.

“Dude, she’s spitting at us,” I said.

“Spitting?” said Fabian.

“Yeah. Do you think she’s cursed us or something?”

“I definitely hope that she did not,” said Fabian, dusting off his jacket. He scratched his chin. “I think maybe I smoked a little too much.”

Three days later, Houston was on a train to Marrakech, firing liquid shits out of his ass like a water cannon, wracked with aches and chills. Fabian and I were in a hostel in Fes. Fabian lay buried under four thick wool blankets, sweating furiously and muttering to himself.

“I actually feel very bad at the moment,” he said.

I’d thought I’d escaped the wrath of whatever plagued the two of them, but two days after, in the midst of a camel trek along the Algerian border, the diarrhea laid into me with savage intensity. I clenched my butt cheeks together as tight as I could, perched on the back of a swaying camel, for our seven-hour trek into the dunes. When we’d stop for a break, I’d scurry behind the nearest dune, drop my pants, and spray my last meal out into the sand. With nothing to wipe with, I coated my hand in sand and rubbed it up and down through the crack of my butt.

“What’s that mark up there? On the big dune?” Fabian said as we left our nightly camp one morning.

“Dunno, probably like shade from the sun or something,” I said. I looked up. There were no clouds in the sky.

Somewhere in Tangier, a whore was grinning.

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