This Magic Would Never Happen in New Jersey

I’m usually outgoing, but for some reason, approaching a stranger in a cafe to talk about his life made my stomach twist. “Hi,” was all I managed as I walked up to the young man sitting alone.

We were at Cafe Hafa, a cliffside spot famous for its mint tea and stunning ocean views. I’d gone with friends to see what the hype was about. We sat in mismatched chairs around a mosaic table, the sky a brilliant blue, the ocean shimmering in the sun. No wonder this place was legendary.

The man next to us looked young, maybe in his twenties. He spoke Darija to the waiter, but on a phone call, he switched fluidly between Arabic and English. Nervously, I finally finished my tea and walked over to his table.

“Hi,” I started awkwardly.

“Hi, how are you?” His response disarmed me—no brush-off or weird look, like I’d get back in New Jersey.

“I’m good! Mind if I sit for a minute?” This felt so wrong, so socially unacceptable…

“Of course,” he smiled. “What’s your name?”

“Avery, and yours?”

“Jalal. Visiting from the US?”

“Studying here for a few months,” I explained. “And you? Tangerien?”

“Actually, from Marrakesh. Here for an audition.”

“An audition? For what?”

“I’m a musician, trying to find gigs around Morocco. Last week, Casablanca.”

“That’s so cool!” I blurted out. Music had always fascinated me, and this felt like fate—I needed to interview a local for class. “What do you play?”

“Mostly guitar and sing, but piano too,” he said. “Want to see?”

“Yes, please!” I was amazed he’d share something so personal with a stranger.

He didn’t pull out a guitar, but played a video on his phone—him playing “Creep” by Radiohead, a song about modern alienation.

“This is amazing!”

“Thanks, that means a lot.”

And there we were, two smiling strangers brought together by music, by chance, in this magical cafe. Never would’ve happened back in Jersey.

Avery Jacob is an Animal Behavior major at the University of New England.

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