It was pretty amusing to witness a gay clairvoyant appraising the young men who passed by our table. They would linger a beat, catching Desmond’s eye to see if he was interested, before moving on. Desmond would give each one a psychic scan, murmuring, “He has a spinal defect since birth,” or, “I’m getting a lot of negativity around that one. Pretty sure he’s killed someone,” or, “Poor boy. He’s going to have a terrible time of it in jail.”
Desmond had his choice of companions, due to one of the stranger hypocrisies in Moroccan society. Their custom kept young men and women from mingling until marriage; their religion reviled homosexuality and discouraged masturbation; but everyone knew that boys were brimming with libido and, if they couldn’t afford prostitutes, they had nowhere to spill their seed. Thus it was widely accepted that at a certain age a young man would couple with other men until he got married, at which point he could revile homosexuality just like the other adults.
This could turn into a bigger game in the cities that were tourist destinations. Rich tourists offered not only a sexual outlet but also cash and gifts. The jackpot was, if you got a benefactor to fall in love with you, he or she might sponsor your visa out of the country. (With high unemployment, most young men wanted to leave Morocco, but the King clamped down on emigration and made it next to impossible to get a passport.) The boys never saw themselves as prostitutes, but rather as astute entrepreneurs.
Desmond took a casual fancy to a sweet sunny youth who wanted us to call him John Travolta after Desmond bought him a three-piece white suit. Desmond didn’t like his restive, sour friend Ahmed, but they came as a pair. John Travolta had never been south to Agadir, a resort on the Atlantic, so Desmond treated them both to a plane trip, bringing me along as translator.
A trip to the beach was a welcome respite from work on my book, which still wasn’t going too well, and from my hungry-ghost problems. In retrospect, it seemed to me that my spirit contacts had taken a turn for the worse when I relocated to Marrakesh; so maybe I’d tapped into a local blend of exceptionally rude and crude jinnoon. It was a relief to leave them behind to fly to Agadir.
Upon our arrival, we found all the waterfront hotels unexpectedly booked. I called my friend Mohammed who ran the Hertz office in Marrakesh; he in turn called his friend Hamid in the Agadir branch. Hamid pulled some strings and scored us some excellent rooms. By way of thanks, we invited him for drinks in the hotel disco after he got off work.
Hamid turned out to be a nice-looking young man, pleasant and proper; he and Desmond and I shared mint tea while John Travolta and Ahmed slurped whiskey and danced. Hamid allowed he couldn’t stay long because he was meeting his fiancée later; they would marry next month. His English wasn’t very good so he and I chatted in French while Desmond’s attention turned to his butt-shaking duo.
And then I saw Hamid’s face change. His features seemed to shift and resettle. His eyebrows thickened, lifting like black wings. I sucked in my breath. I knew those distinctive eyebrows: they were the jinn’s.
Mesmerized, I wondered: is it the light? Is this the same guy? Or is it him…
The effect only lasted a second, whereupon Hamid’s face returned to normal – except for his eyes, which focused intently on me, suddenly gleaming with desire. His polite conversation turned to blatant come-on.
“What’s going on between you two?” whispered Desmond, who had turned back to us. “I’m getting these waves of heat.”
“I – I think it’s – ”
“Him?” As usual, Desmond guessed my thought. He glanced back at Hamid, vetting him with professional intuition. “Yes, that’s what’s going on, but don’t worry, he’s harmless. Just go with it.”
I don’t know what sort of dressing-down Hamid got from his fiancée when he failed to show up for their date.
The next morning, all hell broke loose. John Travolta did a fade, leaving his friend Ahmed to pounce on Desmond. Feigning outrage, Ahmed threatened to tell the police that Desmond raped him, unless Desmond paid him 2000 durhams and also signed some visa papers Ahmed just happened to have in his pocket.
Desmond was quaking with fear as I translated what Ahmed was saying. Then I pulled him aside to add in English, “Don’t you dare give him anything. He’ll never go to the cops.” I was used to Marrakeshi-style cunning. “It’s a hustle. Call his bluff.”
But Desmond was already forking over all he had, 300 durhams. I glared at Ahmed, warning him in French, “He’s not signing anything. Now get out of here, or we’ll go to the police ourselves and report you robbed him.”
“I knew he was trouble,” moaned my clairvoyant friend after Ahmed fled.
Desmond calmed down after a few drinks on the plane back. “Thanks for rescuing me,” he said. “And how was your night with Hamid?”
“Fun,” I said, fatuously.
“Fun?” Desmond chortled, with that look that said he was watching psychic replay images in his head. “I know what you did.”
“He apologized afterwards. He said he didn’t know what came over him. Desmond…Do you really think it was – ? ”
I shook my head, sighing,“What next?” For any other friend it would've been a rhetorical question. But if your friend was a psychic, you could actually get an answer.
"I'm on vacation," he replied.
"I'm on vacation," he replied.
(To be continued.)