20 hours since touchdown,
stepping out for the first time,
through crowded hallways filled
with gold shops and shoppers shopping
for gold, wearing gold, talking gold
"Seventy dirhams per gram, so
everyone is buying."
Through the Cha-Choos one time
for the experience of tiny aisles
in a labrynthine configuration
"Everything is here is fake,
cheap knock offs,"
nonetheless crowded with shoppers
squeezing past, by, and
through to a hall and out
a side door.
Up an alley to the main street
traffic is stopped,
idling Hummers, quiet Mercedes
and impatient Nissans wait for a
change, but stuck for a time,
opening a path to cross over
to the Family Restaurant
"Tea is one dirham, but
bachelors only eat there."
Past a mix of high and low,
disparate stores and shops showcasing
a lack of funds or an abundance,
a profusion of saloons, salons,
hardware stores, dollar stores,
restaurants and bakeries,
"That's Al Damyati. We used to get
shawarmas for two dirhams, but those
haramis charge four dirhams now. What?
We're made of money?"
To a cross walk, something seemingly
familiar, a known quantity,
one foot forward on the white stripe,
and a hand lashes with a scream
"Watch it! This is not like back home,
those lines don't mean cross, they mean
wait until there are no cars anymore.
Trying to get yourself killed?
See, now we can cross, but hurry."
A giant sign in rainbow neon stood overhead,
blinking to life in the encroaching dusk.
"That's the post office over there,
across from it is Mister Baker, but
they're too expensive. Four dirhams
per slice, and they taste like
garbage. You see that? That's Al Reef,
we all used to go there,
but those haramis were so rude,
they always pretended not to understand.
Oh! And before I forget, we have to go to...
Watch it! People drive crazy here, you
have to be careful all the time.
Look! Here we are."
Past the rotating shawarma rotisseries,
displays of prepared, and uncooked kebabs,
beside the counter full of baklava,
across from the kebbes and manakish ovens
there cama smile and a request.
"Tell them we want two meat, no
two LARGE meat, or make that ONE large
meat and one large meat and cheese, and
whatever else you want,
but ask if they have Pepsi first,
and how much is the total?"
Outside at a table because inside
the air conditioning was broken
and this being winter it was a chilly
twenty five celsius, still tropical
to bones straight from the snow
and minus thirty. Sweating in
what other saw as deathly chill
attracted no few eyes, as passersby
bundled jackets closer to hold in
the escaping warmth.
"Not bad. Only thirty dirhams.
I thought it would be more."
But four for a shawarma was theft,
when they used to be two.
"Yeah, but this place was always expensive,
and besides, I've waited for you for
three months, so I don't care
because we're having dinner together
and sometimes I thought that would be it
and you'd never get here,
and you don't know how many times I cried,
and Mackenzie doesn't even know you,
and daughters should know their fathers."
The manakish was good.
It was worth the walk.
But I didn't come for the manakish.
"I'm just glad to be home."