By Basilio Valentino
Not only did I almost immediately come to regret my decision to have stayed in the desert for so long, I also regretted having left it at all. I had spent over a month traveling through the Sahara. Why I had been there and what had befallen me in that grandiose expanse is something I might relate some other time.
For now it suffices to say that being there had been the natural culmination of my desperate odyssey; my search for purpose. I had found the strength and inner peace that I had been looking for. I was ready to return.
So, great was my dismay when I found out that it was not just I that had changed. No, in those five weeks the world had altered, almost beyond recognition. In a fortnight it had become a frightening and confusing place.
I should have been more vigilant, I could have known. In fact, I did know; I had known that something was about to go askew. I had flown to Marrakesh from Hong Kong – there I had heard about the mysterious new virus. I had not paid much attention though.
These kind of things had happened before and they had never had much impact on my existence. But now everything was different, everything was fucked. My nice hotel – so conveniently located just a stone's throw from the Jemaa el-Fnaa – had closed its doors. And so had every other goddamned hotel in the city!
Everything was shut, restaurants, bars, tearooms, everything! And worse, police were telling people go home and remain indoors. I really wanted to stay, yet I had no choice but to take a taxi to the airport. The taxi-driver was wearing a face mask and plastic gloves. He was not in the mood to talk.
Things did not improve at all once I had reached the airport. Two whole days I spent in that cursed place, trying to get a flight home. All my efforts were in vain. I met dozens of Americans and Canadians who were in the same predicament. Everyone had different information, no one had any viable solutions.
'Why would they keep us in, while in fact they ought to want us out?' one of them lamented. Another said: 'we are hostages in a country that doesn't care for us at all!'
I did not know what to think. All I knew was that I was sick of it, that I did not want to talk to any of them anymore and that I could not stand another minute in that fucking airport. I decided to return back to the city.
In the desert I had traveled with a group of Tuareg for a couple of weeks. Great musicians, great company. I should have stayed with them, I muttered to myself, as I was snaking through empty, rain-soaked souk alleyways. One of the Tuareg, Yakub, had accompanied me back to Morocco.
He traveled to Marrakesh because he intended to stay with his uncle, Hakim, for a while. When we parted ways he told me that if I ever needed anything I should call him. Well, I concluded, after having been harassed by police officers for the umpteenth time, the moment that I needed someone to help me had undeniably arrived.
I called Yakub and explained my predicament to him. While I was doing so a police officer, who had told me to leave the streets several times already, began to shout at me. 'Did you hear that Yakub?!' I yelled into the phone while I started to run.
'I do hear!' he cried back, 'come to Ryad Sukkham quickly! You can stay here!'
I ran through the small streets, being chased by several policemen who shouted furiously at me. Thankfully I knew the medina like the back of my hand (dear reader, I'll explain why this is so later, I promise!). Yakub was waiting for me outside of Ryad Sukkham. He threw his arms up. 'No hug, nu embrace!' he cried.
'I know, I know... what can we do?'
'We can go to the house of Hakim.'
'Let's do so quickly, I'm about to be arrested.'
My friend took me into an ancient, large, square building. It was just in time, because outside I heard the angry cries of the policemen who had been on my tail. We went up stairs, through corridors, down stairs, through more corridors, we crossed a courtyard and went up some more stairs.
From behind many dozens of doors I heard voices of men, women, children, and sometimes music. Eventually we reached a large room in which some ten men were playing cards and smoking shisha. My attention was instantly drawn to one of them: a huge man with an extraordinarily ugly face in which there was only one eye.
'That is my uncle Hakim,' Yakub whispered as he nodded in the direction of the hideous giant. My friend bowed before the men and talked to them in Arabic. Uncle Hakim listed for about thirty seconds, then he began to bellow like an infuriated ox. It was obvious that my presence was the cause of his rage, for he pointed at me vehemently with his index finger and even threw a tea cup at me.
I heard several pieces of glass crunch under my shoes as I gently stepped back towards the exit. 'I think I'd better leave,' I whispered in Yakub's ear. My friend turned around and left the room with me. When we were back in the corridor he smiled and said: 'it's okay, you can stay.'
I was not quite convinced that it was wise for me to stay in the building for another second, let alone lodge there. But Yakub swore that was exactly what I should be doing. 'Where else will you go?' he asked, to which I had no reply. Yakub brought me to a small apartment, at the other extremity of the vast housing complex. 'Sadly no wifi, but you will be safe here,' my friend said.
Confined to those quarters, life was as tedious as it was frightening. Yakub had implored me not to leave the room and not to mingle with anyone. He came by once a day, usually in the early evening, with food and occasionally an English newspaper or magazine. We drank tea together, played chess and Yakub would tell me of the latest developments concerning the worldwide crisis.
One evening, after several weeks of this, my friend did not appear and also didn't pick up his phone when I tried to call him. Oh God, I thought, he has fallen ill. He might be in hospital... Poor Yakub... and what now?! When I had still not heard from him the next morning I decided to break the unwritten rule and leave my apartment.
I did not even have a key for my front door, so I placed a slipper between the door and its frame to prevent it from locking. For several minutes I strolled through the corridors without encountering anyone. This is pointless, I said to myself, and returned back to my place. To my dismay I found that the slipper had been removed and that my front door was closed. I tried to open the door, but there was no way for me to get back in.
Then I called Yakub again, to no avail... Cold sweat began to form in my armpits and on my back. What was I to do?! For a while I walked aimlessly through the corridors. Suddenly I heard muffled footsteps behind me. I turned around, half ready to run, half ready to strike a blow. I was already raising my hand, when I found myself facing a young woman.
She took my raised hand and lowered it to my waist. When I looked at her my gaze was instantly drawn towards her eyes, of which the pupils were of a gold-brown hue I had never seen before. The effect of her eyes was accentuated because the rest of her face and her hair were covered by a light green head scarf.
'Don't speak,' she whispered, 'come with me.'
She took me around the corner and opened the door of a sumptuously decorated space. I found myself surrounded by ocher walls, scarlet divans, gilded mirrors, and intricately carved wooden panels. The young woman blended right in, dressed in a lime-green kaftan (she later told me it was a kaftan, I wouldn't have known), a Paris-green scarf around her head, and wearing a gold necklace that was inlaid with emeralds.
'Thank you for taking me here,' I said, 'this is quite a surprise.'
'Yakub told me about you. You shouldn't be seen by anyone. You are in grave danger... Hakim doesn't want you here,' the young woman spoke solemnly.
'I understand that, but who are you and why are you helping me?'
'I am Yakub's cousin and Hakim is my uncle. My name is Souhaila. It's a pleasure to meet you Basilio.'
She bowed elegantly. Then she proceeded to take of her scarf. Waves of beautiful black hair flowed down her shoulders.
'I'm happy you already feel more comfortable in my company,' I spoke with a smile.
'Yakub said you are a good man and that he values your friendship. That means a great deal to me,' she said.
All of a sudden I began to feel hot and sweaty. I had been on my own, isolated, for weeks. Souhaila was the first woman I saw since my isolation had begun... and under any circumstances this was a woman who could make any man lose himself absolutely. I suddenly felt I could spontaneously combust, right then, right there. I gasped for breath.
'Are you all right?' she said, looking worried.
I tried to speak, but my mouth was too dry, I just produced some garbled sounds. Then suddenly the seriousness of her expression gave way to a shy smile. Her cheeks flushed red. 'Aah, I see,' she whispered.
For perhaps half a minute we stood there, staring at each other. Then I regained my ability to speak.
'This is embarrassing, please forgive me,' I mumbled.
'Well,' Souhaila said, 'I understand...'
'What do you understand?'
'You have been alone for a long time... Perhaps I should not have taken off my scarf.'
'Yes, I mean, no! You are so beautiful that I can't believe... I can hardly bear it... what am I saying?' I stammered.
There was a glimmer in Souhaila's golden eyes. 'I have also been alone for a long time,' she whispered.
That was all the encouragement I required. She walked over and pressed her lips onto mine. Soft and firm... I had been dreaming of women for weeks, but never did I dream of her. She would not have occurred to me. Initially she held her tongue back, but then she licked my tongue, and my lips, and my teeth, with swift little movements, touching me with the wet tip of her perfectly soft tongue.
I gasped and grunted. It was hard not to tear her dress to pieces... it was too beautiful for that. I had to respect it. I slid it down toward her waste and exposed her half moon breasts. Milk and silky; small tremors shook her raspberry nipples. I lowered my lips until they almost touched her nipples. I stuck out my tongue and when I nearly touched them I suddenly lifted my head, took her arms and turned her around in one, unexpected motion. Placed my lips in her neck instead and very, very tenderly licked the skin of her neck, of her cheeks, up to her earlobes.
She shrieked, yes yes! She was now beyond all decorum, no longer able to save herself, to control herself, she fell to her knees and opened my belt, her hands trembled, they almost trembled too hard to handle it. But she handled it, she removed the belt, battled with the buttons, but she managed those too, it was about time, because I was in pain, my cock was tormented in its confinement, as I had been.
But she took it, she exposed it, she licked it... she cherished, sucked, like a plum, like cherry, like candy, like, oh yes, I like it, I like how you lick, you lick how I like... ooh yes, oh fuck, Oh God! Thank you for creating this, for she is truly divine, truly mine, truly... aaah... I need her... I need you... I will have you!
Open your legs, I will enter you, I will be in you, I will come into you... and we will flow together, we will ripple together, we will ebb and tide together... we are with with wet together... salt water, sweet water, sweet words, salty lips, twisting hips, life-affirming hips... so full of bliss... goddess.
And thus we came together, Souhaila and I. We had succumbed to our lust. We had ended a long dry spell, terminated our isolation... and we were in deep trouble. I will go deeper into that later.