Thursday, April 5, 2007

a weary brain

3/24/07 (backdated)
I am in Shithole, unfortunately. In the interest of politesse, I should say something kind about the place... BBQ is good. The little movie theater around the corner is probably agreeable. But overall, it’s boring as watching paint dry. It has all the culture of a moldy peach; maybe not that much.

So what am I doing here? I have to remind myself of the answer every day, even though it’s as clear as my withering arm. As dear V said, you’re just going there to score. Today, I gave myself a ($50) shot which was the reason I left my adored country. These will continue every day until further notice. Fortunately, they don’t really hurt, just sting a little.

The point of these, I believe, is to give my misguided immune system something to chew on other than my tattered nerves. Thus decoyed, my myelin should be able to rebuild itself. (Since it is not nervous tissue, which appears to remain intact.) Insha’allah, as we say.

I miss my country immensely. Why do I call it mine, and not the US? Because I have little more than cynicism for my culture. I am glad of the grant of their powerful passport, but I do not have much loyalty. Other than this serious but irritating medical issue, nothing could have taken me away from Morocco. I loved my life there; I could not compare my circumstances here.

I had a teaching job until mid-December. My diagnosis with MS (ugh) threw my concentration into the gutter, and all my classes complained. So I lost that job. Too bad. The boss was good, but the kids were snotty. Better to be in Meknes, in some ways. Then there was the French job. Puzzling why I left that job: it was incredibly easy, the students were all 1) professionals and 2) French. Plus the salary was good. I left it because I didn’t like living on one time and working on another. One of the bosses was a decent guy (I probably bit him too hard on the way out) but practically incompetent. The salary was good enough to mollify these issues, but I had my fierce back up by then. I would have done better to swallow my pride, but too late. The good salary is no longer offered. Fine, I preferred to work in person.

I will get back there. I think Meknes is a good idea: I know the place, I know the (dumb) curriculum. I don’t know if I will marry Jalila. I expressed my doubts about my suitability to my mother, who basically confirmed them. Thanks, Mom. Unlike some guy in Danny’s extended family, I have not bought my second house, and I am going on Medicaid. This is fine with me: I am not interested in the various sneaky slots of standard medical insurance anyway. I don’t need much, just for the state to pick up a couple things for me. I don’t see why they don’t do this for everyone anyway. Isn’t this called governance?

At any rate… I had been back here (ugh) only a few days when I woke up to find most of my right side not completely paralyzed, but surely not right. My muscles were feeble and weak, my gait was badly affected, and my speech was close to incomprehensible. This still affects me, but it has improved. So I went into the hospital for prednisone, as I did once before in Rabat. This has helped a bit, but it’s hard to tell. I’m told that reducing inflammation in your brain is a good thing though.

Mostly I was struck by the differences between the two hospitals. In Rabat, they had only metal equipment, not plastic, and they put the IV in my wrist, which required bandaging afterwards. Here, they post signs outside declaring the non-smoking zone, which would be ludicrous in Morocco.. There, I smoked two joints that my friends brought me. Sweet guys.

O, life was so much sweeter there! I know why they feel urged, to leave, to find a decently independent life, to extricate themselves of their various obligations.. and why they then return. Because, as Jiji put it half a lifetime ago, “c’est plus froid”. Yes, dear lady, it is colder. People seem much more hurried and put upon in the West. They are.

So I will return as soon as I feel it is safer. For my health, that is; any endemic danger there is negligible. I am in more peril from my own immune cells than from any Moroccan. Will I marry her? Hmm.. I honestly don’t love her as much as I should. Not like I loved Jane before her. After all, we don’t choose what we love. I didn’t have to love my life there, but it captured me. It has let me go only by a royal indulgence.

My worry is that I will not meet another like her. I do love her, just not as passionately as I might. I think it would last though. But I really have no idea.

So what will I do next? What do I want to do? To work, and to study. And to sleep. Perchance to dream.

I would stay in Meknes for awhile if I were offered a job there. Now that I know a little better, I think it suits me somewhat better than Rabat. Fewer foreigners, a greater chance to enjoy what I know is richer in life there. Like the orange juice shakes. The khliaa tagines. The sun setting over Bab el Mansour. (Actually, I dimly recall it doesn’t set in that direction.) The in-between undeveloped space between the train tracks and the old wall, where I puffed with Illyass. CafĂ© ness-ness and a fouri chocolat. And a Gauloises. I’m such a wannabe-Frenchy. But not really.

If I were there, I would surely concentrate on my (passable but not excellent) Arabic, I would work harder at being a decent teacher, I would leave the city to explore more often.. I would go to Fes, and more distant places.. I would continue my life lacking a plan to return. Knowing how people are with foreigners at first, suspicious and touchy, I would work to overcome this by NEVER LEAVING. Get used to me, Simo: I’m not going anywhere.

For now, I need to be assured of my supply of the medication. Once daily hardly seems adequate, but this seems to be a disease of prolonged development, with periodic flare-ups. Not having any plans for the next several months, I will stick on it, and I will slowly feel better.

In the meantime, I really should have something else to occupy my time. I consider this a time equally of convalescence and exile. I know how ungratefully cynical this is of me, but I’m not too concerned about resolution. Being a child of the self-aggrandizing and hedonistic 70s and 80s, I’m not sure what matters in life besides what makes it good. You should position yourself to gather as much as possible of what is important to you, since your time is limited.

Perhaps my mother is right: t’ai ch’i, or something like that. It’s probably good for me. I eat a good amount of vegetables, I drink more green tea than coffee (this would not respect qewha b’halib), I keep a good attitude.

I trace my own condition (I feel that the use of its name in my personal recordings is an intrusive and unwarranted legitimation of an impersonal description. I prefer “brain spots” or “brain freckles”. “Lesions” are for cancer, leprosy, and HIV.) to an over-reactive, trigger-happy immune system. I reckon that it reflexively had to attack something, informed by a fiercely protective instinct. I expect that it would have developed some other autoimmune disorder had it been left as it was. At the least, I am fatalistically certain that this development was beyond my control. God has some weird plans.

I can’t sleep, as is often the case. I imagine my medication sending me back to the land and the life I love. I obsess (some things never change) over places I know, people from awhile ago… Kein shi besteila lyum? Hada zwin f’darek, kan’a’rrf.
Ah yeh, besteila kein. Kih deyir? Bekhair nta? Bghiti sh’wiya?
At’tayni alf rial, afak. Kulshi bekhair, hamd’ullah, ‘lla khfik.
The warmth and sincerity of the people feels sewn into my skin, just as integral as my dubious tattoo (though I would never remove it). After two years, even spending as much time around the foreigners as I did, I was intensely comfortable. I squandered a number of opportunities, thinking in careerist lines that were no longer fully appropriate: this is not New York. Do not cower from the virtues of a conservative existence. If you find something good, then seize it with both hands. Maybe a foot too. You already know that there is more to life than cash. It’s only as good as what you can get out of it.

I feel like a foreigner here, as I did in New York most strongly a few years ago, as I expected to feel now. The most telling signs are in the behavior of the servants, by whom I signify the service industry. The portly waitress approaches me at the stand: “I’ll be with you in one minute, please excuse the delay.” Or the librarian, who feels no rush, but expects that I might: “I can order the book from downtown, but it could take two or three days.. Would that be all right?” Grief, ladies, are people really in this big a hurry? No wonder they’re all dying of coronary disease. I mean, it’s a book, for crying out loud. “And bring me Dostoyevsky, stat!” Spare me. Send me back to the land of the sane, where the only useful time is now, during which nothing is happening.

This is an interesting element of the Moroccan outlook. Really only now exists. The past is largely a memory, or fantastic invention, and virtually all the future falls under the slyly convenient insha’allah. Terry wanted to reserve a car for the trip. This would appear central to the agent’s business, don’t you think? “Yes, I will have a car for you, insha’allah.” Terry flipped out a bit; this sounded like he wouldn’t have one. He didn’t, as it turned out a few days later. So, fully prepared for our trip and a bit edgy, we set off for another agent. He produced a car handily. See, they do do business, just on their terms. Here is the lesson: if you honestly need something now (meaning for-real now, not in an hour, or when it’s convenient for you), someone will gladly help you. Just don’t be pushy, don’t abuse your privilege of the now. Ninety percent of the time, you don’t need whatever it is now. You can wait. Have some tea. Your abuse of the now will be noted by a slightly dismayed concern, and a price at least 200% beyond normal, which you will discover later. What, now you’re angry? Have some tea.

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