My second day in Marrakech. Woke with my Chinese (not Japanese, as my conversation with them last night proved) roommates still sound asleep and lingered over my mint tea and bread with honey and butter, reading. Into the sqaure, so much calmer, so much quieter in the morning, before the tourists come in and the snake charmers and monkey handlers ready to greet them. In my last post I mentioned the aggressive merchants, but I should mention the most aggressive are the women who do henna in the square. In their long caftans and veils, they overturn crates on the ground and sit with their syringes full of henna, calling after females relentlessly. If you come close to the vendors near the spots they've claimed, they come after you, syringe poised, reaching for your hand because as soon as their work is on your skin, you owe them. But this morning, with that syrupy mint tea singing in my veins, a woman called out to me in beautiful English and I couldn't resist. I sat on the milk crate and had my right hand decorated in exquisite arabesques and flowers, the henna curling up my fingers and down to my wrist while the woman, Jemilah, asked me how old I was, if I had a boyfriend, what Michigan is like, and explained the designs. "This one's for good luck," she said, drawing a flower in the center of my hand. "Soon, you'll have a husband." I smiled. In Granada, outside the cathedral a fortune teller seized me, dragging her sprig of rosemary over my hand, and told me I was a strong person, that soon I'd be married and have two children. It's all sillyness, but pleasant prophecies are nice to turn over in my imagination after a long time of not being able to imagine myslef happy ever again,
Somewhere in this journey, it feels as though my life circled back to me. After Bryan's death, it was like being shoved in a dark, windowless room with the door locked behind me. Like sensory deprivation. My sense of taste was totally gone-- for months I just ate tuna sandwiches dripping with horseradish so I could taste something. I had no desires, no interests. I slept poorly. I grieved myself into stomach ulcers that were further complicated by an infection, and I became sick. The process of mourning has been hideous. But somewhere on this trip I found my thought process shaken out of its dull repetition. Not grieving in Flint, but free to do as I wished in beautiful Krakow, Spain, Morocco, with grad school waiting for me and a new life to begin when this journey is over. It's as though someone opened that door, flicked the light back on and told me I was free to go. I don't have to sit in the dark anywmore. So there is still grieving to do-- Marrakech breaks my heart, the ashes will be scattered this weekend in Essaouira, and I'm still mending, still healing-- but I guess a sense of beauty and the richness of experience has returned to me. In the morning sun, in Africa, with a woman practicing an ancient tradition on my hands and promising me love and happiness.
Later in the day, after touring the Majorelle Gardens and having salade marocain in a cafe for lunch, I toured the souks looking for the right pair of camel leather babouches (slippers) for my sister. The Moroccan merchants, with their indefagitable charm, always ask, "Is this your first time in Morocco?" No, I get to smile-- my second. Today, with one man, I admitted my story. My dead boyfriend, me chasing his ghosts through the souks. "How many times he died?" the man asked. I was confused. Surely this man was Muslim, not Hindu-- how many times do we get to die? I quickly puzzled it out in my head. "Oh-- how old? 26."
"You have babies?" he asked.
No babies, I said. Just a lovebird.
"We all die," he said. "Sometimes very young, sometimes not. We must think of it every day. We will die."
I didn't say it, but I thought, yes, I do think of it everyday. We die. And everyday I choose to live despite that fact. In the brilliant sun and colors of Morocco, in the snow and industrial desolation of Flint. And I'm even learning how to be excited about living again.