Finding Paradise (chapter 9)
The following is based on a true story about a journey I took with my boyfriend. We traveled through Morocco in the 80s and it didn’t quite go as planned.
The next morning there was complete bedlam in the house; we had been woken up very early by the racket from the new tenants. When I went to the bathroom, I had to duck under a makeshift clothesline full of clothes that wasn’t there the night before and dodge a couple of children that were headed straight for me. They ran up and down the hall screeching with delight — this must have been so exciting for them. Their ever oppressed mother called to them as she hung out the clothes.
It was like a different world.
I went back to the room. We quickly gathered our stuff together and headed to our new room over the other side of the village. I felt good about this change, maybe we could start again, where we had left off before Nigel had come over.
It was a much better room, east facing, but we could still see the sea. We had a table! Now, when I say table, I mean a huge cable spool. They make such great tables, and they even have a space in the middle for the sun shade. The change was refreshing after all that had happened.
I wasn’t even sure what had happened. I felt disconnected from everything that had happened with Ray and Nigel. It was like I had been just a witness to the whole event and somehow not part of it. I was so glad that we were going to spend the day somewhere else, with normal people!
We went to the village with Jeane and her boyfriend to get some bread and cheese and some water, for our trip. The bus was leaving at about 10 am and it would take about 45 minutes to get there. I was looking forward to it!
Jeane carried the chameleon on her head — the idea of this trip was to let it go in the Valley. I kind of envied it.
The journey was pleasant apart from Ray. He was acting odd, like he had reached Nirvana or had become an overnight Guru master. He was tripping me out! He spoke softly and slowly, but with conviction. He sounded like Osho. He constantly criticized Jeane and her boyfriend, when they weren’t listening, saying that the valley would be dry now and they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. He kept saying we couldn’t trust them. He seemed paranoid. That was normally my gig.
What really got to me was the constant arm stroking. He kept stroking my arm and rocking back and forth in his seat. I had never seen him like that before, come to think of it, I had never seen anyone like that before. He observed his surroundings and said the strangest things, mostly the obvious. Things like:
“We are in Morocco” and “This is Islam”
I was sick of hearing it! When we had first arrived in Morocco he had this whole Islam thing going on. Like we were on holy ground or something. I found it a rather dull place, but that was only because we hadn’t got to see anything really nice yet, like Marrakesh or Fes. Not Agadir and Tetuan bus station.
We passed through a rather small village called ‘Banana Village’. There were lots of vendors selling fresh sweet bananas on the side of the road which were grown in the valley above. In fact Banana Village was given its name by Jimi Hendrix after his visit in the 1960’s after seeing the numerous banana fields in the valley and the large amounts of bananas sold in the village. That information came straight from Ray’s rough guide book, and must have been the only correct information in it! We bought some bananas to add to our pack lunch and a fresh watermelon too.
As we got closer to the valley, my mind began to drift, I felt a little tired and making conversation was difficult. Jeane and her boyfriend seemed to be enjoying themselves though, they chatted and looked out of the window. I felt as if I was being rude by not speaking to them, but they didn’t seem to mind.
We finally arrived!
The bus stopped a little way from the river and wouldn’t return until about 4 pm.
It was such a beautiful place, everywhere you looked was like a postcard. Tall palm trees swayed overhead and we could hear the rushing of the water. The valley is in the middle of a region called Imouzzar which is known for its broad biodiversity. There were palm trees, banana trees, olive and fig trees. in Reality it was very similar to Portugal. We were hoping to see the numerous small waterfalls, cascades and rocky pools, we had read about.
“There isn’t going to be much water” Ray uttered, in his Osho voice. “The book said this time of year it is dry.”
He lit up a cigarette as we walked, the others walked on ahead of us.
It was quite hot, I had a blue cap on, that Ernesto had given me in Portugal. I was trying to persuade Ray to wear it, so he wouldn’t get heatstroke and behave even more strangely, but he wouldn’t wear it.
Suddenly two men appeared to the side of us, high up in the rocks. They called and gestured with their hands for us to go to them. Ray was about to go.
“Are you mad?” I asked him “You are not really going to go to them are you?”
“Ray, you haven’t got any idea who they are…or what they want.”
“They probably want to smoke with us.”
The others had stopped and turned to face us.
“Ray I am not going. You go if you want to, but I am going with Jeane and her fella.”
Ray hesitated for a while then shrugged his shoulders to the men as if to say, ‘the missus won’t let me’ and we continued up river.
Palms and oleander grew right next to the river; Ray’s bookwas right though, it was practically dry.
“See I told you” he said smugly “they don’t have a clue.”
I was wondering if it really mattered. We were there and it was the nicest place we had visited in all the time we had spent in Morocco. I couldn’t see why he was nit picking about it. I just wanted to relax and forget about everything that had happened, just for that day.
Jeane found a nice spot for the chameleon and let it go. Ray took a photo of us all, John, Jeane and I. I still have that photo; I can’t believe how young I look. When I look back at this experience and think that I was only 19 — a very young 19 — I cringe.
We wandered around the valley, ate our packed lunch, and in no time at all we were sitting on a couple of large boulders, waiting for the bus again. Despite Ray’s ramblings it had been quite a nice day, very strange, but nice.
All day I had been nurturing a strange feeling that I couldn’t seem to shake off, though.
When we got back, Jeane invited us in for something to eat. We ate with them and afterwards, the same Moroccan, who had told us the rocks were better over this side, turned up and invited us all to a party. I declined straight away and Ray also declined. Jeane and her boyfriend decided they would like to go and said that we both could stay in their place and finish off the wine. Sounded like a good idea to me!
Ray lay on the bed and soon fell asleep. It was good to see him sleep. He had hardly slept at all the last few days, he had been fighting it. Now he slept like a baby.
I poured myself a glass of wine and went and sat on the roof.
That was the most relaxing moment of my whole trip, without that moment I don’t know what would have become of me. I sat and forgot about everything as I gazed up at the stars. The vastness of the universe made all my troubles flee. The sound of the ocean, calmed my soul, and assured me that we are not alone. None of us.
I am not sure just how long I was sitting there, maybe about an hour. From the roof I could see right over to the other side of the beach and I saw two people walking towards the house. It looked like Jeane and her fella.
“That party mustn’t have been that good.” I thought as I sipped my wine.
John saw me on the roof and quickened his pace. I started to chuckle because I thought…
He looked in a panic as he got closer to the house, and I laughed harder.
“Are you OK?!” he shouted
“Yes…” I laughed, “you didn’t think I was going to jump did you?”
He started to laugh too. I mean the roof was only about 3 meters high, with soft sand below.
“Good job you didn’t come to the party it was terrible” said Jeane finally catching up with John “One of the guys got drunk and he started to fight with someone…it was too much.”
I climbed back into the room as they were coming in the house. They saw Ray sleeping, they tiptoed past him and joined me by the window.
“So how are you feeling?” Jeane asked.
“Ok, I guess. I am so glad he is asleep. He is wearing me down. I have the strangest feeling though…I just can’t shake off…like…”
“…I don’t know exactly what… I am scared that he is going to get violent or something”
“Has he ever hit you?” she asked rather protectively.
“No, never. It’s just that…I don’t know. I have this feeling…I can’t explain.”
Suddenly Ray woke up and we all looked at him. He hardly took notice of Jeane and John as he stood up, paced towards me and grabbed my hand. He said we should go. I reluctantly said goodbye to them as I was pulled out of the door.
Once outside he told me we couldn’t trust them and that I shouldn’t talk to them any more. We went back to our room. He was in a terrible state. He sat and rocked as he smoked cigarette after cigarette. He held me close to him and stroked my arm.
“I don’t think you are well,” he said to me. “I think we should go and see Jerry. Jerry will know what to do.”
We left the house again and went round to Jerry’s place. It must have been after midnight. I was glad he had suggested going round to Jerry’s as I didn’t feel good being alone with him. He was freaking me out. Jerry greeted us happily. We sat down and he put on some music and made a spliff.
Ray rocked as he smoked. Jerry glanced at me, as if to ask if I had noticed the state Ray was in. I just nodded.
“Jerry”, said Ray as he stroked my arm, “I am worried about her.”
“She seems fine Ray, but you like you could use a rest mate.”
“No she isn’t.”
“Everything is okay, let’s just relax.” Jerry seemed to feel a little awkward with the situation.
“What did you guys do today? Oh, yeah, you went to the valley. How was it?”
“Dry”, Ray answered softly, “I knew it would be.”
He could hardly keep his eyes open and was starting fall asleep.
“Listen, you two can crash here tonight if you like, no problem. Have the bed.”.
Ray didn’t protest and drifted off to sleep. Jerry didn’t last much longer either. I kind of had one eye open.
Hypnagogia, is the technical name for the transitional state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep. Apparently there is a whole bunch of mental phenomena that occur during this “threshold of consciousness” phase, including lucid thought, lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. I don’t think I have ever experienced those but when I reach this state I can sometimes be very perceptive to future events, I can’t always define exactly what, but sometimes I can…
I heard the cry from the mosque and that night I prayed for the first time since a child. I prayed to God to give me the strength to be able to cope with what was about to happen.
Ray sat up suddenly.
“We have to leave,” he stated and grabbed my hand. “If we stay here Jerry will steal our things” he insisted.
I didn’t want to protest or contradict him in any way, as I thought it might not be wise at this point. So I left with him. Once back in the room we got into bed and turned off the light, and he started to cry.
It was completely unexpected.
“What is it?” I asked him as I put my arm around his neck.
“It is about Nigel” he sobbed. He sat up and lit up a cigarette.
I had a feeling I knew where the conversation was going. All this time I think I had known, deep down inside — yet it seemed so improbable at the same time. It just hadn’t fully registered that there was something abnormal about their friendship. I mean Nigel was so much older than us, he was well into his thirties. Ray continued:
“When I was 16 I left home. There were problems at home because of me smoking and taking drugs. I had a big argument with my dad and he told me to leave… I didn’t have anywhere to go… and Nigel said I could stay with him… until I got a place of my own.”
He puffed on the cigarette.
“He let me have a room in his house, and he told me he was going to get me a lock on it… and I could have my privacy and that…”
He put that cigarette out and lit another.
“Sometimes, on the weekends, he would come home after the pub and come into my room, and then I would wake up and…he would be…he…He said he couldn’t help it, and that he would stop it. But he didn’t. He just kept doing it, I told him I wanted him to stop…”
“It’s okay Ray,” I assured him. I had to just let him get it all out.
“He said he was going to get a lock..so I could have my privacy… but he never got one. He just kept on doing it. He wouldn’t let me leave…he told me not to leave.”
I embraced him as he wept.
“I didn’t want to tell you because I thought you wouldn’t want anything to do with me, I thought you even knew,” he sobbed. “ I thought you knew.”
I felt so bad for him. I couldn’t believe what that bastard had done to him. So many things were starting to make sense. His reaction to Nigel, when he had turned up had been perfectly natural. It was normal that he felt threatened by him or thought that he might want to harm me. The time away from him had obviously changed things between them. Ray was only 16 years old when this happened, what kind of sick bastard would do that? he still had a hold on him 6 years later.
I could see why he had been freaking out when Nigel had arrived. Well he was gone now. I held Ray tightly and we both drifted off to sleep.
That would be the last night we would spend together.