Monday, September 29, 2014

The Sweet, Sweet Tea of Morocco

Maggie and the family walked out the gate into the open, wondering who was in the car pulling up to their home.
       “Finn, what a surprise! What are you doing here?!” Maggie exclaimed, all 100 lbs, 5' of her, reaching up to wrap herself around Finn’s 6’5”, 225-pound frame.
“Maggie, you look wonderful, nice dress,” Finn answered.
“I made it myself. Mama helped me. Come on in, Finn,” Maggie said, smiling.
Across the yard, Samir contemplated Finn’s arrival.
Mama, Papa, Sara and Lina, Samir’s family, warmly greeted Finn as they all walked into their traditional Berber concrete home. Finn towered over them, close-cut sandy hair, clean-shaven face, a broad smile and bright blue eyes. He got down to the floor with the others, as Mama poured sweet, sweet Moroccan mint tea from her silver teapot into small steaming-hot glasses. 
Finn leaned around, spoke quietly to Samir, who was sitting on the other side of Maggie.  Samir is the only family member who speaks English, after having spent some time in school and college in Marrakesh.
“Samir, I’d like to speak to Maggie alone.  Could you explain to your family and excuse us?”
“Of course, Mr. Finn, yes, take Miss Maggie out in the courtyard.  We wait for you,” replied Samir, standing to help Maggie to her feet, as she glanced from one man to the other, wondering what this was all about.
Finn took Maggie’s hand in his, longing for more than just her warm hand.  They walked outside to the stone courtyard wall overlooking beautiful bright green spring fed fields and gardens.  They watched an old man on a donkey, slowly making his way through the dry river-bed.  Finn put his arm round Maggie and felt her pull slightly away.
He smiled as he gazed at this slip of a woman he’d known half his life.  Hazel eyes, wrinkled tan face, long dark with silver streaked hair. He could feel the heat rising not from the earth, but from the nearness her.
“I'm afraid I have some bad news for you, Maggie” he said quietly, as he pulled back a bit to look her square in the face, noticing Samir standing leaning against the door frame, watching.
“Finn, you’re scaring me, what is it?”
“It’s Danny, Maggie, we need you to come home.”
“Danny?!  What happened?!” Maggie could barely get the words out.
“Maggie, you’ve been gone a year now, we get it, you wanted to be away, off the grid, and you’ve missed a lot.  Danny and Julia split up 6 months ago.  She left him, left him and little Nora, and took off with Clark Smithson, her old boy-friend.”
“Oh, no, Finn,” Maggie replied, looking down, thinking of her only son without his beloved wife.
“That’s not the worst of it,” Finn said, watching Maggie. 
“Danny tried to kill himself last week, he tied a rope ‘round his neck.  Miraculously, your Aunt Sally walked in – she’s been helping with Nora.  But it might not have been soon enough. He’s in a coma. The doctors are hoping for the best, we just don’t know, though.  I’m sorry, Honey, but that’s why I came to get you.”
“No, no, no, no.  Finn, I can’t go back to the States, even for Danny.  This is my home now,” Maggie said.
“What are you talking about?  This is your son we’re talking about.  What do you mean you can’t come home?” Finn was raising his voice now.
 “A lot has changed for me, too, Finn.  I’m sorry to have to tell you like this.  I’m married to Samir now, five months ago.” 
They stared at each other.
“You and Samir? 'You shitting me?” Finn’s shock was moving into anger with lightening speed. He looked at Samir.
“Finn, Samir and I, we’re very much in love.  He’s what I want and I’m happy here, really I am.  You go home, be with Danny and Nora.  Take my love home with you. I’m staying here.”
“Damn it, Maggie, what the hell? I’ve come halfway ‘cross the world, choking down dry bread and figs, over those freaking mountains, scorching in the desert, without a drink in days and I’m not leaving without you. You can come back later.  The medinas, the mosques, the food, the people, Samir, yeah, I get it.  But Danny might not make it.”
“I know, I know.  I know it's not easy, but Finn, we all die, we do.  I’m alive, I feel alive for the first time in a long, long  time. I’m here and I’m not going back to the States. Ever.” 
She turned away and walked over to Samir, who reached out for her hand, the same hand Finn had just been holding as they walked into the house.
Finn sat outside for a while, coming to terms with Maggie’s decision, with her life now, disappointment settling in as his anger diminished in the setting sun. So many times in the past, she’d wanted to marry him.  Each time, Finn had those damn cold feet. 
In darkness, he walked back in and sat down with the family.  Mama handed him another glass of that warm, sweet, sweet tea.  He was quiet, barely listening as they all them murmured gently to each other.  He could feel Maggie and Samir’s love now.  He could see it in their faces. 
Samir, the man who housed Finn and Maggie when they first came to Morocco together, so long ago.  Samir was a good man.
Finn was up before daylight.  He couldn’t bear to see Maggie again. All he could think of was Maggie and Samir alone in the dark.  He stood up from the Berber rugs and blankets stretched out below him on the concrete floor, walked quietly out the sleeping room door, across the courtyard and out the gate.
Just before night was turning to day, he got into the car, turned the key in the ignition, switched on the headlights.  With a long glance in the rearview mirror, his lips quivering, he started up the gully to the main road.  Such as it was.  
It was a while before he could relax, the car bouncing up and down the rocky dirt road and on up to the paved two lane stretch over the Atlas Peak Mountains.  The sun came up in a blaze, stunning mountain top views, a mile and a half above the world, amazingly beautiful.  
He understood, yes, he understood.  He pulled off the road as his cell began to ring.
“Finn, it’s Danny, where are you, Man?”