(Those who are coming to this serialized story for the first time, you can read the complete opus to date by clicking here.)
Going to sleep in a relaxed manner, as the witch advised, was almost impossible. After Khadija and her boyfriend went to bed, and her daughter and I retired to the banquettes, I lay awake in the dark and waited in vain for fatigue to draw me down into dreams. I didn’t know how or if my boughten spirit would come; with my hand on the knob to let him in, I was so torn between anticipation and dread that I really didn’t know which was my better instinct – to fling the door open or slam it shut – or if I even had a choice in the matter anymore.
Khadija’s daughter was dreaming plenty, tossing in her sleep. But my eyes kept popping open at every sound; my stomach spasmed; my heart lurched along like a wagon with a wheel off. Finally I fell asleep and had a perfectly farcical dream.
I had ordered a gigolo from an agency. They sent over a short gay guy who had no relish for his job and just wanted to get it over with. Furious, I called the agency. They offered to replace him at no extra charge. Would I please check the take-out list and choose someone else? I scanned the flyer in my hand. Bullfighter…Pirate…Hippie… Ah, here was a bargain: a Cowboy with a “chorus” of four more cowboys included. (For background harmony?) Anyway I was partial to shitkickers. But when they arrived, I found out the extra cowboys were rowdies, whose role was to hoot and throw beer cans while the Cowboy and I got it on. So I sent the chorus away. Just as I was about to settle in with my rented lover, Khadija popped up to remind me that I wasn’t supposed to make love to any other man before my jinn. So the Cowboy went, too.
I woke up annoyed, and took a Valium. I managed another couple of hours of sleep, waking when the maid arrived instead of the jinn.
The sehúra had said to be patient; his was a long trip. Maybe the jinn needed an extra day. He’d stopped off at a jinn motel.
I filled the hours renting a car for the drive to Marrakesh and picking my djellaba up from the tailor; meanwhile my obsession raged like a furnace. He had to come! And soon, before I headed south.
By evening I was exhausted from too little sleep the night before, and looking to go to bed early, but Khadija’s boyfriend arrived with his chorus of soccer rowdies and proceeded to throw a party. (They sent me out to procure whiskey and wine, which could only be sold to non-Muslims and foreigners.) Because of the noise Khadija deposited her daughter at the neighbor’s for the night. On and on into the wee hours the men stomped and sang and hollered. I kept glancing over at Khadija to see if she was going to throw them out yet.
One time I looked over at Khadija, her head was twisted away as she gazed over her shoulder at the wall. When she snapped back, her mouth was open; her shocked eyes met mine.
She fought through the crowd to join me. “I can’t believe it. I saw him!” she shouted above the music. “He was behind me, did you see?”
“Yes, your jinn!”
“I didn’t see anything.”
“I felt a pressure on my back like someone was crowding me behind. I thought it was strange because I was against the wall, and I turned – and he was there. Very tall, like you said, dark hair – w’allah, I thought I was going to have a heart attack!”
“Khadija, you’re drunk.”
“I swear!” she protested vigorously. “He had a little smile. And these amazing dark eyebrows.” She traced the swoop of the eyebrows on her forehead.
That stopped me. I’d never told her about the eyebrows.
“I’m not drunk, but now I think I will be.” Khadija left me to intercept a bottle of whiskey the men were passing around.
I felt like crying. She really had seen him. What was he doing, showing himself to her and not me? I was the one who’d been waiting, who’d placed the call, who’d ordered him from the agency…
Khadija passed out in her bedroom, while I had to wait for the living room to empty out before I could sleep on the banquette. The party didn’t break up until 4. I slid under my blanket, so pissed off: those assholes had stolen my dream time. By the time I fell asleep it would be time to get up again, when the maid arrived. There would be no time for a rendezvous with my spirit guy. Curling up on my side to face the wall, I started drifting off…
And then I became aware of a presence behind me. It wasn’t touching me but I could feel a vague turbulence of atoms, like fizz in a soda, on the skin along my back. In response, my whole body prickled with excitation.
I heard his voice next to my ear. As before, his tone was gentle and polite. “Do you know I’m here?”
“Yes,” I answered behind closed lips.
“Then you must be Sarah.”
I had a fleeting thought that something was not quite right. His voice was a little different from the first time, pitched a bit higher, as if it belonged to some other man.
“Yes…Can you understand me?” I wondered if I should move my mouth and speak to him aloud. No one would hear; Khadija’s daughter was sleeping next door.
He replied, “You’d do us both a favor if you looked me in the eyes.”
I opened my eyes, glimpsing the wall. He waited behind me. I gathered my body and rolled over, very slowly, afraid that a quick movement might disturb the contact.
(To be continued.)