Thursday, January 6, 2011

the way things begin

April 11, 2010, my boyfriend died. We lived together the last two years, but our shared history was much longer, much richer. We knew each other so long I'm not sure when we actually met. Sometime in middle school: I can picture his sullen look and plague of acne, his thick glasses and lingering baby fat. We both grew up on Flint's West Side, behind Corunna Road's coney islands and pawn shops. When he was 18, his mother died and we began dating. We were together two years before I left for Europe and Bryan moved to Ann Arbor.

In the summer of 2008, my grandfather passed. Papa was my mentor. Poet of the Ford assembly lines, storyteller, world traveler. Bryan saw the obituary and sent his condolences through the funeral home. I invited him over and he pulled his mother's obituary from his wallet. His mother and my grandfather died the same day, 6 years apart. A second funeral brought us together again. It felt like an impossible gift.
After I graduated from University of Michigan-Flint in 2009, Bryan and I backpacked for two months across Europe and North Africa. We slated two weeks in Morocco, to explore the place so vivid and luring in Papa's stories. In the 1950s, as France handed independence back to the Moroccans, my grandfather served as a Peace Keeper, stationed at Port Lyautey (now Kenitra), Morocco. Papa told fascinating stories about the Moroccan tank drivers stopping to roll their prayer mats over the sand and pray toward Mecca. The sun and minarets and the mysterious women behind their veils.
Bryan and I made it from Marrakech to Essaouira, where Bryan dropped a small bag containing all our money and credit cards in the back of a taxi. We waited out exhausted, hungry days for our Western Union transfer. We never made it to Kenitra.
 Of our journey, Bryan and I talked about Morocco the most. It was the place that demanded the most of us (rather than fighting, the threat of homelessness and starvation in Africa strengthened our solidarity). And neither of us had experienced something so wonderfully Other: the muezzin calling the prayer. The narrow sun-baked streets. The constant, strangely intoxicating smell of dust and blood and mint tea. We loved it. Of the many letters Bryan wrote me, one of my favorites was penned just weeks before he died and says, "I wish I could take you to Morocco and you'd have the biggest smile."

I'm going back to Morocco, alone. To make it to Kenitra, for Papa, and to Essaouira, to scatter Bryan's ashes.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry that I wasn't your first follower but maybe I was the first to cry about it. I will definitely be your most ardent follower. Great start Chi--Mom