(Those who are coming to this serialized story for the first time, you can read the complete opus to date by clicking here.)
What did I want from a witch?
My first thought was: I need help with my book.
I’d had to submit the opening chapters of my second novel to my publisher before leaving for Morocco. Utterly fatigued from a four-year marathon of continuous writing (first novel, screenplay adaptation, and music and lyrics for a show), I felt I had nothing left. I forced myself to grind out the requisite pages nevertheless. The result was mechanical and pretentious, and no wonder: I was pretending I could write. My editor had great faith in me anyway.
But I didn’t. And now it was time to make good on my contract, as well as meeting my own ambitious standards, inspiration seemed out of reach. George Sand, who had to churn out reams of romantic novels for her public, once lamented that she had worn out her muse; and now, when she appealed once again for inspiration, her muse came forward all painted up like a whore, delivering empty kisses and a cold embrace, as if faking sex with a client. (I’m paraphrasing from memory.)
My muse had been my grandfather’s spirit, and I felt as if he too had deserted me: absorbed back into the great cosmic continuum, or just gone on vacation. Maybe he’d balked at following me into Morocco, which was definitely not his kind of neighborhood. Maybe he was in Paris or Martha’s Vineyard. In any case, I missed and needed my beloved protector, his company, his comfort, his creative generosity, even his snits. I’d lost my shadow. Whom could I turn to now, to get genius?
To a genie. Natch! I was in the right place for it, after all. I’d done my reading. According to legend – and many Moroccans’ belief – the atmosphere of this country teemed with “jinnoon,” spirits that interacted with humans, beings made of fire and air that ranged from beneficent to demonic. From the myths, I gathered that with careful diplomacy and clever negotiation, a “jinn” (genie) could be engaged to improve one’s situation. You know, get the palace, get the princess…or get the genius…
I turned to my friend Khadija: “Tell her I want a jinn.”
Khadija did a double take, reluctantly translated my request to the sehúra, then turned back to me: “You are a crazy girl! These things do not exist!” Which I thought was hilarious, coming from a woman who had just bought a magic potion to get rid of her boyfriend.
Fatima the witch interrupted, speaking sharply to Khadija, whose expression changed from scorn to bafflement. Again Khadijah translated, “She says you are not crazy, you are wise because if you have a jinn then you don’t need a witch anymore. He will do everything you want.”
I grinned at this. The conversation moved rapidly now, Khadija continuing to interpret the sehúra’s answers to my questions.
“She can do it but it will be expensive.”
I wasn’t surprised. “How much?”
It would be $100, plus $150 for the sheep.
“What’s the sheep for?”
“To please her jinn. He’s the one who gives her powers.”
It was quite a lot of money for what I thought of as a mad lark. I knew I was being hustled, but I didn’t care. I wanted to see the “spell” to the end. I saw myself as doing deep reconnaissance inside the top-secret sorcery business. I was going gonzo. And it would all go into my book.
Khadija agreed to bring me back in a week so I could undergo the Big Spell. I forked over the money for the sheep, the rest to be paid after the ceremony. I think Fatima sensed I was not taking the whole thing entirely seriously. She assured me, “You will believe it when you see him with your own eyes! You will talk to him!”
“English, French, whatever you want. He will even make love to you.”
I wasn’t enthusiastic about the sex part. “Does it have to be a male spirit?”
“Female spirits are no good for a woman. You need a jinn who has recently left this life but he still wants to be attached, so he looks for someone alive to have a relationship with.”
I muttered to Khadija, “I just want help with my book. This is starting to sound like I’m getting a boyfriend. Ask her if he’s going to be the jealous type.”
“No, he will be very nice,” came the answer. “Unless he falls in love with you.”
“I’d like a homosexual.”
Khadija gave a little shriek. “No more! We are finished here!” She beckoned Asía: we’re outa here.
As we three got in the car, Khadija collapsed, laughing and banging her head on the steering wheel. “It’s too much! You talk about spirits like they are real people!”
“Some of them used to be,” I averred, thinking of my grandfather.
Upon our return to Casablanca, Asía went home to husband and kids, and Khadija unlocked her apartment next door. Entering, we stepped into darkness. The electricity had been turned off. Her boyfriend was eating some hardboiled eggs and dates the maid had left by candlelight. He admitted that he’d forgotten to give Khadija the utilities bill.
Fuming, Khadija asked me in English to sit with him and keep him distracted while she went into his closet. I kept up a running conversation with him in French while Khadija got busy applying the sehúra’s potion to the lining of his jackets and inside his shoes. If it worked, he would be gone from her apartment and her life forever, which couldn’t be soon enough for her.
Meanwhile the boyfriend was flirting with me in French, “You are so beautiful when you laugh.” Then he unexpectedly switched to English, which I didn’t think he knew a word of. He pronounced the words slowly and awkwardly: “I want to make love to you. I am Needledick the Bugfucker.”
“Khadija!” I shouted.
She came back in the room, having finished the ju-ju job.
“He just said, ‘I am Needledick the Bugfucker.’ Did you teach him that?”
“Yes, I told him it means ‘I am a great lover.’” Her boyfriend studied our expressions, wondering what we were saying. We kept our faces straight. She fed him a date, telling him in French, “Sarah isn’t interested in you. She’s getting a special boyfriend who isn’t there.” He looked puzzled. She added in English, “Just like you’re gonna be.”
(To be continued.)
Note: I’m able to report these experiences, including conversations, in such detail because I held onto my diaries from Morocco. It was the one and only time I’ve ever kept a journal, which I thought might be the makings of a book some day. I also knew that if I didn’t write everything down I would never believe any of it happened.
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