The Ocean

He gazed at the blazing sun and moved his hand above his head to shield his head from the dizzying heat. Sweat started to form drops on his forehead before falling onto his cheeks and neck. It was an average day in Ouarzazate. If you cracked an egg right there, it would instantly fry on the concrete ground. The streets were empty as if the city was abandoned to reveal later on a loud scene of people walking up and down the streets visiting the shops and buying cotton candy and colored popcorn from the street vendors.

Khalid had never swum in the ocean. He had not even been to the beach. He spent his life wandering around from Tinghir to Ouarzazate near the Atlas Mountains, olive trees, and the desert. He often wondered if the sand of the beach was softer or rougher than the one he knew. The home screen on his phone was one of a random crystal clear ocean which he once stumbled across online and cherished because it brought him a unique comfort that he never received from people.

He wondered why his friend Kamal called him all of a sudden to meet in Café Swiss to talk about a very urgent matter at 3 in the afternoon. Khalid usually met with him at night, and Kamal talked for hours about his passion for European women and wealth. He was haunted by the idea of belonging to an aristocratic family throughout his life of 25 years. He dreamed of owning a German car and marrying a European woman. He visualized every night before going to sleep the scenario in which he drove into the neighborhood in the latest model of Mercedes with a blond woman in the passenger seat and his neighbors peeking from the windows as they usually did. Khalid would stay quiet and listen to him. He only talked about his desire to swim in the ocean.

“Hello my brother Kamal.” Khalid greeted.

“I haven’t seen you in a long time! How are you?” Kamal replied.

Khalid had seen Kamal the day before and talked for a bit while sitting on a bench. Kamal talked more than him. Kamal was quiet and seemed hesitant about what he wanted to say. He would start sentences and never finish them. He asked for two cups of freshly squeezed espressos and drank the first one without sugar. He started talking eloquently after the second cup which he added too much sugar to.

“You know my dear brother that my uncle Abdelkarim has returned from Belgium.” Kamal said.

Khalid nodded without commenting because he knew that Kamal never listened to him and pretended to be interested in his words to wait for him to finish speaking in order to talk about himself again.

“He’s told me that he’s been looking for a French woman for me to get married to and eventually move to France to live with her.” Kamal said.

Khalid suddenly remembered his uncle Ali who lived in Agadir and never invited his family to visit him there. The stingy uncle who kept wearing the same shoe even if tore to reveal his toes and wore shirts that had holes. He often asked him about the beach in Agadir, and his uncle always responded saying that there were better things than the beach. Then he asked: “And has he found her?” “Yes! She’s 37. She has blue eyes and owns an apartment in the outskirts of Marseille.” Kamal said.

Kamal’s eyes glimmered with joy, and he pulled out his phone from the pocket of his black jeans to search for a picture of her that his uncle sent him two months before. She was an extremely thin woman to the point that her collar bones were visible wearing a blue dress and had a short blond hair, and she had a charming bright smile that revealed the gap between her front teeth. He expressed his gratitude for his uncle for “saving his life” and told Khalid that they had been talking for a month and she was going to send him a plane ticket and a large sum of money to buy himself clothes and the things that he needed. They planned to get married in September. Her name was Marie, and she was a widow. Her late husband was Moroccan, and they loved each other dearly before his passing in a car accident in Spain. Marie claimed to Abdelkarim that Kamal was his doppelgänger after taking a glimpse at a video chat that the uncle had with his nephew at her presence.

“I’ve heard that the beach looks wonderful in Marseille. You should come visit me one day there” Kamal said. A weevil was crawling on Khalid’s leg as Kamal was speaking, and he removed it with grace without crushing the insect with his rough fingers. He stared at it for a while before gently putting it on the ground.

“You still can’t hurt bugs.” Kamal said.

“Those weak little things matter more than some human beings.” Khalid replied.

“Yes, you’re right my brother. Please meet me after the sun sets to shop for my wedding in France.” Kamal said.

Khalid nodded and stood up to give him a hug and they both left to their own dwellings. He opened the door of his house and entered the living room. His mother was immersed in watching a Turkish soap opera dubbed in Darija and munching on peanuts oblivious that her son was there. He cleared his throat to make her aware of his presence which made her tiny body jump a little. He asked about his siblings’ whereabouts and went to the kitchen to fetch something to eat. He grabbed bread, butter, and a sharp knife and sat on a mat on the floor devouring the buttered bread. Khalid kept playing with the knife and took it to the room in which he slept with his two brothers. A small mirror hung on the wall; he stared at his reflection for a while, gazing at his own brown eyes as if he was looking at a stranger. After sunset, he met with Kamal and talked about his hopes of visiting him in France. He told him that he needed to see a friend briefly. They walked towards a dark and empty alley, and Khalid pulled the knife from the inner pocket of his jacket to swiftly stab Kamal seven times leaving him drowning in his own blood. He smirked at the corpse of his friend and leaned to passionately kiss his lifeless lips before cleaning his knife, hands, and mouth with a handkerchief and walking back to the busy streets.

He sat in Café Swiss and stared at the picture of the ocean on the home screen of his phone before ordering a glass of cold milk sweetened with pomegranate syrup.

Hajar Bamoussa