As I sat on my one-person balcony, I breathed in the crisp air of Tangier. It was the kind of air you get when the seasons are changing. Fall was ending, just as was my time here, and just thinking about this made me wince in pain. “Boy, I wish I could turn back the clock,” I thought to myself. And it was then I realized that, in my mind, I could. I could time travel at will because I will always have memories. I took one more look at the clock. It was 3:22 am. I shut my eyes, though not to sleep. I went on a trip into my thoughts.
I was back at the Tangier airport for the first time, looking around trying to figure out what I had gotten myself into. I was fumbling for a pen I did not have and tried to fill out the arrival form which I had never seen before. I met Mourad and Douaa for the first time and formed those first impressions that made lasting impacts in my life.
I chuckle now at how confused I must have looked when the security officer started shouting in Arabic. It wasn’t funny at that moment, but boy is it hilarious now.
My next mental journey back in time took me to the overnight Marrakech express, and how I was getting claustrophobic in that ridiculously tiny car. I was trying to convince myself I was on a boat! Because that didn’t work, I was getting more nervous by the minute. But I was also filled with excitement at my first overnight trip and the memories of a lifetime I was about to stockpile. I figured that moving to the other side of the bed and looking out the window for dogs along the tracks helped, and in fact it made me feel happy to be trapped in that train. I fell asleep like that, with my head against the cold window, on the metal bar on the wrong side of the train.
Now in this moment, at three in the morning on the eve of my departure from Morocco, I would give anything to be back there.
In my next mental excursion, I was back at the Gelateria with my host brothers from Chefchaouen and the friends they introduced me to. There was crazy energy flowing through the place because Real Madrid beating Barcelona at soccer was a life-or-death event for the men in the cafe. I chuckle again at the yelling and booming, the ungodly noises one side would make when the other team scored, or when their side did. It was as if they believed that by shouting enough, they could jump through the TV screen and bark into the face of the referee—as if their hollering and theatrics could change the outcome. I was just happy with my dairy-free lemon and strawberry sorbet. I had never found it anywhere else, and I was always so ecstatic to order it from my favorite waiter whose real name, strange but true, is Obama; and yes, he looks just like President Obama, ears, skin, eyes, and all.
From the ice cream shop, I found myself walking in the most colorful parade I’d ever seen, not just visually but the music and the emotion and the history and culture which surrounded me opened my eyes and soul to a wider worldview. I looked up to see a mother in an apartment building holding her beautiful child up to a window so that he could see. I felt her hands transferring love to mine. I smelled the sweet smell of chawarma as we walked past Mix Max, and I instantly started craving one. I tasted the fresh, crisp Tangier air that you can never find in the States. I heard wedding horns and Moroccan drums that took me back to our first dinner together at a Moroccan restaurant where everyone danced the night and our troubles passed away. For we had made it to the place where love and happiness reside. Everyone in the parade welcomed us; they were so genuinely happy that we were there. And let me tell you, so were we. So. Were. We.
4 am. I was disappointed, to say the least, when I opened my eyes and saw the calendar on my desk, reminding me that I had two weeks left in the only place I’ve ever felt I truly belonged. I know I will return to Tangier—hopefully, sooner rather than later—because one cannot live with only half of her heart for long.