Katie and I left Taghazout on a Saturday, bound for the slightly-less sleepy surf town of Essaouria on the west coast of Morocco. Intending on trekking to the official ticket counter in the Agadir bus station, we were instead whisked by a safety-vested middle aged Moroccan man to what he promised was the, “Only bus to Essaouria! So cheap!”
We logged three shuffled strides under our backpacks to equal each of his long, swinging ones and his moustache quivered in the warm noon sun as he kept tossing it over his shoulder to holler at us to keep up.
After forking over a few precious multicolored Dirham bills, he scrawled a ticket for us with a choppy, teeth-marked pencil, shoved it into Katie’s palm and slapped the top of her backpack in a denounced manner. He gestured to a tan man clad in navy blue suede sweatpants and Nikes standing rather amiss on the tiled corner of the street.
“Stand with him. Stand with him, bus to Essaouria.”
The vested man bared his limited teeth at us in his version of a warm, relaxing grin, and disappeared amongst the honking taxis back into the bus station.
Katie and I exchanged calm but relatively skeptical glances, and scooted our way over to Suedepants. He looked us over carefully and held out his palm, gesturing for the yellow filmy tickets clutched in Katie’s hand. She passed it over. Suedepants squinted at the single, wavy pencil mark that was disconcertingly the only distinction on the otherwise blank ticket, and grinned at us.
“To Essaouria! Ahh, very nice. Very nice. Now you don’t need these anymore!”
To our collaborated and succinct horror, Suedepants proceeded to dramatically rip our tickets to pieces. This moment will forever exist in my memory as more dramatic than it most likely was; the image of a cackling, toothless man flamboyantly tossing bits of freshly purchased ticket high into the air, his light-colored tongue engaged in blowing flapping raspberries, his hands, once finished with his arduous task, coming to rest in a quick empassioned bout of the Macarena.
The glances with which Katie and I exchanged following this display dropped any hints of relative skepticism in favor of full-on dumbstruckness.
“Uhhhh….” I blubbered.
“Erm…..” Katie gaped.
Suedepants laughed again, and placed one not-so reassuring tan hand on the brain of Katie’s North Face backpack. I’m still not entirely sure why the Moroccan men that we have encountered choose that approach to reassure us, because it never makes me feel at ease.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry. You don’t need these anymore, don’t need these.”
It was difficult to resist the urge to finish his statements with a malicious not where you are going, anyways.
With our soul-pal mind connection, Katie and I emitted the ensuing conversation in flowing iambic pentameter, as is our custom:
Hello, my friend. This bus will take us there?
Across the hills and coast from Agadir?
I know not where this bus for us will go,
Or if, indeed, this voyage we’ll survive.
And if, to Heav’n, our destination lie,
A pleasure was it to journey by your side.
To describe the bus which then squealed in front of Suedepants as “retro” would label it with a quaint and eclectic nature entirely undeserved.
A few more moustached men spilled out of the squeaking door, grabbed our packs and hurtled them into the crevasses under the bus, our only possessions sustaining a month-long voyaging bouncing heartily on top of a sparse number of dusty black duffels.
Suedepants placed his two hands on each back of Katie and I and ushered us into the half-swinging door, up the steep stairs into the interior of the bus, taking a running leap himself in after us.
Keep in mind that the bus did not in fact cease its forward motion this entire time.
The interior was as dusty as the duffel bags; the air conditioning system that the bus company indubitably advertised as highly appealing served to only spit out more stale air.
The colleagues of Suedepants all pointed gruff, wrinkly fingers at each available pair of seats, unsatisfied until we had been offered every combination of seating choice available. As the bus bounced in and out of every pothole possible, Katie and I hurriedly stuffed ourselves into a pair of grey-clothed dingy seats near the posterior of the bus, perhaps subconsciously hoping that a rear location would allot for a hurried escape if things went south.
Our selected seats were both reclined in a position perfectly inconvenient; too upright to allow for a comfortable snooze yet leaned back at such an angle as to force the sitter to engage the abdominals in order to perch properly.
In attempts to free myself from such an unfortunate workout, I groped my hands along the plastic edge of the chipped seat, searching for the little adjustable lever. My search quickly ended as my fingers met a sticky wad of chewing gum resting comfortably on the lever, and resoundly shot back to the safety of my lap.
The rear door of the bus never entirely closed during our jumpy voyage, stubborn in its blatant refusal to adhere to attempts made by Suedepants and colleague. So Katie and I enjoyed a nice, cloudy breeze of dusty road and small bits of sticky wrappers for our four hour jaunt.
We dozed in shifts, the shafts of sunlight abnormal in color as they penetrated the spotty window panes, igniting the stuffy air. The man seated adjacent served the entire voyage with his throaty, booming voice hurling Arabic words aggressively into the small speaker of his flip phone. The woman seated a few rows in front rhythmically rocked back and forth, clutching a wicker basket of eggs, keeping time to the beat of her own colossal humming.
Suedepants & Co. continually paced up and down the narrow hallway, every now and then kicking open the swinging rear door to grab the jackets of more yellow-ticketed Moroccans to pull inside.
Katie and I exchanged more glances, more telepathetic lines:
Can you recall the taste of crispy breeze?
Don’t look back there, I think that might be pee.
I think that man might only have one hand.
With much anticipated relief, our dingy vessel finally peeled into the cage of a bus station, the welcomed “ESSAOURIA” sign clinging to the concrete grey of the structure never read better.
We slapped our legs a bit to start the blood reflowing and to wake them up from their cramped positions, and hurriedly hobbled out of the bus, a shock of fresh, wavy air filtering out the dust from our lungs.
We somehow dodged the attempts of Suedepants to help drag out our packs from the ravines of the bus, and scooted our way as quickly as can be mustered away from the horrid bus.
We snuggled happily into the straps of our packs, a bit dinged but not otherwise suffering harm. Katie wrapped her arm around my pack, and I leaned my head over to rest on top of her hair.
Hello, my friend. How fares your mental state?
I do believe my mind is still intact,
Although my lungs with dust are wholly filled.
I never have before such longing felt
To leave a dingy vessel such as that.
Goodbye, foul bus, of odor and of gum.
To Essaouria finally we’ve come.
Peace and Blessings,