I position myself on Smith’s lap. I touch my nose from his ear to the back of his neck, lightly pecking tender kisses. “Grrrllll…” I purr.

“I’ve been wondering about your animal.”


“Your secret identity. Every once in a while you let it out.”

“Yes. I’m Tiger Kathy.”


“Tiger Kathy.”

“I was wondering who you are.”

I pet Smith’s head. He hasn’t shaved it since France.

“I’ve been meaning to get rid of this. Too hot here for hair. First time I shaved my head was in prison.”

“Why? Shaving your head in prison, is that a right of passage?”

“No. Shaved my eyebrows, too.”

* * *

“Door… wall… birds… ma’am?”

I’m in an uprise of unfolding interior revelation, a brain blushing high. We’ve just smoked before our walk to the old city.

We walk to the medina wall. It’s two stories high, thick rose-colored plaster. It extends some 17.5 kilometers. People’ve made holes in the wall, for the martins. The birds exit at night, dive in the purple dusk among the brilliantining orange clouds to catch bugs in the last sun.

The outside of the wall is soaked with a thousand years of urine. There are blemishes on the ground, patches of human poo, sometimes pools of bright yellow.

There are no other Europeans tonight. We walk through the wall to the other side.

“Let’s go spy on our guide’s house,” I suggest.

We walk down a longish residential-looking street. There are no road signs. People stare at us. Even the typically tourist areas seem bereft of tourists. In most areas of the souks, we don’t see any other customers. Just a lot of nice men saying hello to us in several languages, trying, hoping to get some money to make a life.

“All of Marrakech is trying to survive off our whims,” I tell Smith.

We find our guide’s house, then we start out of the old city. It’s a little too unknown yet.

“We could try a new street each day,” he says. “Then we’ll become old hat at this.”

The street is alive. I wish I wish I wish I could feel more comfortable at this. I want to document, to live. I want to be alive in a real place.

Yesterday we drank mint tea in a house that was missing its guts. We walked up winding staircases into rooms that hung off the sides of the building’s facade. The walls were gone. A rooster crowed in the courtyard. The crow was alarmingly loud contained within the constraints of the building.

This is home to me, not this big luxury apartment building outside the city wall.

* * *

The way back “home.”

“Now how colonial is *that*?” I comment sarcastically.

Five carraiges pass us on the road. Europeans. There are rarely, rarely any Moroccans in the carraiges.

“Oh, they’re looking at us!” The men who are startled and awkward and clumsily robust, the women who have shoulder-length blonde hair, and the statistically-conforming quantity of two blonde children.

* * *

The hammam, the bath house. Hamid finds me a female guide. He yells at her for a while in Arabic and she yells back. She pantomimes for me to follow, for me to undress, for me to give everything to an old woman behind a desk. Hamid yells some instructions from the doorway. “Don’t pay her anything. It’s finished. I gave her money.”

“OK,” I say. There’s no talking back to Hamid when he’s determined.

My clothed guide disappears. She’s morphed into a rough woman with big breasts, slender waist and big belly. They take my glasses. I make out brown humanoid forms and tiles and buckets.

The woman takes me through several rooms, each progressively hotter. She points for me to sit behind a girl human. I obey. I scrunch so that my legs hide most of my torso, and I try not to stare at any one person.

My guide lifeform fills her huge bucket. As it gets near the top, she ladles some fresh hot water from it to her neighbors’.

A curious older woman visits me, says hello in French. Says some other things as well but I can’t understand the very confusing accent of her French. It’s issued forth as though filtered through a totally different universe. She has a tattoo, a line down her forehead and her chin. Her right eye is fixed in one direction. Her skin is leather. I make friendly noises and she goes away.

My guide scrubs me with a rough cloth. I wonder if it’s a brillo pad. She looks a little disgusted, has me look at my arm. A lot of dead skin and soap scum is wicking off in little pellets. (We’ve found that most homes and hotels in Europe don’t issue wash clothes, and we’ve gotten in the habit of using our hands rather than clothes.)

She soaps and rinses me several times. Lots of water gets in my eyes and mouth (which I’ve read I’m to avoid because of water-borne illnesses.) She rubs my back, my shoulders, my belly, my legs. She has me wash my own genitals, handing me a pile of gooey brown Moroccan soap.

After I’m rinsed, she takes me to a cooler room. She fills another bucket with warm water, and I’m rinsed again.

I give the woman some money because I don’t know how much Hamid has given her (probably not much) and I want to show appreciation and some feminine solidarity.

I dress and my guide indicates for me to sit. I sit between the door and a young woman who has a baby girl. I’m watched by the room as I apply my makeup.

The baby is very pretty. Thick curly brown hair, little pink mouth, thick eyelashes. The mother leaves her with the curious older woman – the one who has the facial tatoos. She changes the child’s diaper. Perhaps she’s the grandmother? Or maybe just a woman who has a community role at the bath.

The child makes some sweet little noise. The grandma has difficulty dressing her. She berates the girl as she tries to fit a tight shirt over squiggly little limbs.

After all of this I feel a bit foolish. I wonder if my guide thought I was like a child. The next time I go to a hammam, I’m doing everything myself.

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