"Western Africa 2012" story # 35

Rabat, Morocco           December 5, 2012

The weekend came to Rabat and my Moroccan school. It was the last weekend in November.
     To this point, most of my New Year's Resolutions for 2012 were still intact. This included Resolution # 9: "Designate one day a month, 'The Day I Try to Get a Kiss', and go out if I have to, and attempt a kiss."
     The month of June had been especially hard. I committed myself to attempting a kiss one day at the Gnaoua Music Festival in Essaouira, Morocco. On the beach by day, and while attending concerts at night, I was surrounded by thousands of women. I befriended a funny European woman who I unfortunately wasn't attracted to. I wandered off.
     Two a.m. arrived. The pedestrian streets of Essaouira's stone-walled medina were almost barren. I felt tired, hopeless. Suddenly, a girl waved in my direction, as she and her friends walked past. In desperation, I called for them to stop. (I would later learn she'd been waving to a guy I was walking with.) I ran to them. Introducing myself, I shook hands with a young man, with a second girl, and tried to kiss the first girl on the mouth. She turned her cheek. Her friends seemed to like me. But, the conservative Moroccan girl said, "C'est quoi ...?" (What was that?)

"Don't respect other people's inhibitions." - J.Breen philosophy

I'd succeeded! Onwards into July ...
     I committed myself to trying a kiss in a nightclub in Thies, Senegal, where bright and rapid Senegalese music played. I danced beside a tall girl in a shiny navy blouse. She had protruding babyish lips, elliptical eyes, and hair which swooped around her neck. Lakes of sweat formed on her clavicles and forehead, and I gently brushed her brown skin. I tried to kiss her babyish lips twice. She - Maria from Guinea Conakry - wouldn't let me. She only tickled me, gave me her phone number, and kissed my cheek.
     August, October, and September (not in that order) were easy. I was in Guinea-Bissau, where I always had girlfriends.
     But in November, I was once again in a conservative Muslim country.
     I sometimes felt tense, possibly due to a lack of human warmth and companionship. There were few people I could talk to in Rabat, unless I was buying something from them. This was a materialistic and big city. My lack of a cell-phone made maintaining friendships difficult.
     It was precisely for times like these that I'd created Resolution # 9. I needed to seek companionship.
     On Saturday the 24th, I befriended my neighbor: a twenty-nine-year-old Moroccan named Ben. He told me about the bar, "Yakuts", where a live West African band played. The females who went there were sub-Saharan Africans or Europeans. It sounded like the place for me. I declared Saturday the 24th, "The Day I Try to Get a Kiss" in November.
     Oh, the suspense!
     Ben's French roommate, Marjorie, joined us on the rooftop. I happily befriended her. She had curly brown features and skin that grew pale around her eyes. Her innocent eyes, round face, and hundred-miles-an-hour French made her seem younger than her thirty years. She asked if I wanted to go to a European Film Festival that evening. It seemed like a good start to "The Day I Try to Get a Kiss". I said, "Oui."
     After the film, Marjorie had several parties to go to. I wanted to go home and cook a big dinner in preparation for Yakuts. I wanted to cook something with a lot of garlic and onions, which probably wasn't too smart. Would this be a fatal mistake?
     But first, I found myself standing outside the Mohammed V Theatre with a German girl who was friends with the German girl who lived above me. Agnes. She was short with blond hair. During our conversation, I got inspired. She was cute; I asked to kiss her. She said she couldn't, because she had a boyfriend in Germany. How was that relevant? We were in Morocco!
     I walked home past the bronze and mahogany doors of the closed shops in the medina. I thought to myself:
     Why was I asking to kiss girls? Just try, stupid! I could've tried to kiss Agnes. My mission would've been complete by now. Agnes would've gotten a kiss on the cheek to go along with the e-mail from her boyfriend. But, it had been too early in the night; I wasn't desperate enough.
     Would that mistake cost me my resolution?
     I arrived at Yakuts after midnight. My neighbor Marjorie arrived soon afterwards, coming from one of her parties. She danced mostly with a guy from Cameroon wearing a West African suit decorated with bongo drums. I should've worn my West African suit!
     Marjorie had arrived with a bunch of French girls. In truth, I was intimidated by them. French people seemed way too comfortable in Morocco. They used to rule the place.
     I looked elsewhere for my kiss. But, there were no more European women in the bar. And there were no unaccompanied sub-Saharan women. What were there? Moroccans. Moroccan women, oh no!
     Was I doomed?
     I spotted a small young woman whom I was immediately attracted to because of her body language. In a black tanktop, this caramel-skinned girl was the only one showing cleavage, though she still fit into the classy atmosphere of the bar. She smiled and rocked to the music, too happy to stay in her seat.
     She danced. She squatted, and wiggled her body in wide arcs to the music. Her slow turns commanded power.
     Speaking Moroccan, I asked if she'd been to Senegal. She danced as if she had. She didn't understand me, so I asked in French. She understood me a bit better. She said she'd never left Morocco. She was a regular at Yakuts, and the bandmembers - "her friends" - had taught her to dance.
     I realized with reluctance that it would be wise if I looked for my kiss elsewhere. Why?
     1. She had plenty of friends already.
     2. She was highly sought after.
     3. She loved dancing alone.
     4. The communication between us wasn't good, suggesting she wasn't too interested in me.
     I turned to examine the rest of the bar.
     There were dozens of local women here. But, there were even more local men. Any woman who entered the dance floor was quickly surrounded by guys, normal guys who wanted girlfriends but were in a conservative society. This romantic friction created an environment in which no girls, not even the more liberal Europeans, felt comfortable for long. Women felt much safer in Yakuts than in other clubs, however.
     In every country I visited, girls wanted guys and guys wanted girls. It seemed to me that the objective of any society lied in making the two genders' romantic desires as harmonious as possible. Arabic society, by keeping the two genders distant from one another, was letting its men and women down.
     During the next hour, I found no girls who wanted to talk to me. I simply enjoyed squirming to the African rhythms like a worm. The band came to its last song: a slow song.
     I asked the girl in the black tanktop to dance. Few girls danced with guys here, but she'd just finished dancing with a middle-aged Frenchman. She smiled at me and took my hand.
     She said her name was Zahra. She didn't become impressed with me until I said I was from America.
     Now, I didn't believe I should go around impressing girls with my nationality. But, if Zahra liked Americans ... I was just going to have to live with that.
     After the dance, we talked. Other guys butted into our conversation, and it was tough to get them to go away. Zahra gave me her phone number.
     But, I didn't try to kiss her because:
     1. I didn't want to jeopardize her reputation. I didn't want to discourage her from being so free.
     She and her friends departed to catch a taxi.
     I walked home with my neighbor Marjorie and her French friends. We stopped to take pictures in front of Rabat monuments and the Bou Regreg River. I imagined using a girl's camera to take a picture of me sneaking a kiss from her. But, I didn't put this plan into action.
     I said good-bye to my neighbor and retired to my house.
     The night was over.
     All hope was lost.
     Resolution # 9 had fallen. I'd failed to try.
     My favorite girl at the bar had given me her number. By Moroccan standards, that was a pretty good night.
     Pretty good for a loser.

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