After dealing with Francesco, Radouan had a long bath and donning a new cream colored linen suit, arrived at Delphine’s door at nine sharp, only to find her still asleep!
‘It’s time for you to wake up, ‘bibti.’ He slapped her playfully, ‘Wake up, we gonna PARTY.’
Delphine stretched and rubbed her eyes. ‘Hey, STOP! I’m not... let me... Did I fall asleep? I didn’t think I could.’
‘Waha, yes, you did... Now it’s time to go out... we’re invited for dinner, remember?’
‘Are you drunk?’ Delphine observed him critically, ‘You’re talking like... and Francesco, where is he?’
‘We had some drinks together. He’s tired so I put him to bed... sends his regrets - maybe the heat, huh? Don’t worry about him he’s okay... maybe he had too many women in Marrakech. Tomorrow he’ll be fine. Now get up!’
‘You’re sounding like an army sergeant... I’m not a recruit’
‘Really, I’m sorry’
Delphine began to pull herself together ‘You’re not sorry,’ she pouted, ‘you’re talking like a character in one of those American movies you watch...’
‘Al Pacino is my brother, I LUV him...he’s tough!’
‘It’s been tough growing up poor in Marrakech, I suppose.’
‘Of course, what do you think? People promote all these fantasies about Maroc but underneath it’s a very tough place... tough and dark...’
‘Looks like you’ve done all right...’
Radouan’s upper lip curled, ‘Yeah, well… I would make an excellent gangster.’
Delphine put the finishing touches on her make up. ‘You must have learned very soon you had something others didn’t have: good looks and maybe a brain…’
Radouan laughed and sighed, ‘We use what God gives us... here in Maroc my brain is useless but my zahp is famous... too many brains here and no jobs...’
‘What I mean is, you’re more sensitive than you let on - all this tough guy shit you should stop it. Inside you’re something different... with no way of expressing it...’
‘Yeah but I do, I write,’ Radouan said earnestly, ‘keep a diary but I’m always too busy to read what I’ve written. Anyway, there’s no money in it ‘cause nobody reads here. Marrakchis are famous as poets, musicians, singers, sportsmen, fighters and lovers’. We’re supposed to be heroes and winners, not intellectuals. Tha’s for people in Fez.’
Delphine slipped into a pair of panty hose ‘You shouldn’t be afraid,’ she smiled, ‘I mean, you shouldn’t be afraid to let your real feelings come through from time to time.’
‘Oh yeah,’ Radouan laughed, ‘that can be dangerous… people here are jus’ waitin’ for you to be sincere, to reveal your secrets and your desires. If they know what you want or what you’re really like they can get control of you. But with you, believe me, I’m trying to open up... for the first time with anybody I’m trying because we are the same, habibti, we’ve had the same experiences so I can trus' you. Tha's why I worship you.’
In the car they had rented at the airport, with the top down, Radouan and Delphine drove through the warm southern night toward the Dra valley. The rising moon hung in the eastern sky and Radouan was still a little drunk. After some time they left the paved roads for the palm lined lanes of the oasis. From time to time the car skidded and swerved in the sand and Delphine worried that perhaps Radouan didn’t really know the way.
‘Maybe we’re lost’ she said. ‘How long has it been since you were last here?’
‘A few years, but don’ worry we’ll find it.’ He stopped the car, got out, sniffed the air and listened, ‘Hear that... jus' listen...’
Delphine could just hear a major sound system throbbing in the distance. ‘I hear it but how do we get there? Every road looks like every other, all these walls, we could pass the same spot twice and never know.’
After a few wrong turns, however, and advice from stray passers-by they arrived at a pair of massive wooden doors set in a long blank wall and Radouan sounded the horn. The gate opened and they entered a large parking lot crowded with expensive looking cars. Veiled men in blue, mouths covered, whites of their eyes glittering, led them to a path which passed through a lamp lit jungle of fragrant night blooming shrubs to a second doorway beneath a high tower guarded by two tall Senegalese youths in white livery.
Entering, they found themselves in a large tiled foyer lined with lighted cases displaying a large collection of antique weapons. Servants posted on balconies above ululated and showered them with rose petals. Through another open door they entered a huge reception room from whose lofty carved cedar wood ceilings, casting geometric patterns on the guests below, hung massive antique lustures of bronze and colored glass. Still further on, through a loggia furnished with comfortable chairs and luxurious divans, a spacious courtyard opened on to a large pool. Walkways of pink marble spanned it, white swans glided upon it and beyond a colonnade of arches, yet another water course led to more pavilions and ultimately a small lake.
The Kasbah was the work of an eccentric American designer who helped the owner transform a four hundred-year-old ruin into a fantasy of royal proportions. Exotic birds aroused by the night music screamed in the gardens and frogs croaked loudly as the partygoers, gaped with veiled astonishment at the Arabian Night's dream in which they suddenly found themselves. The air was redolent with the scent of hashish and expensive French perfume, champagne flowed and servers passed trays of delicate appetizers.
A tall broad shouldered man in a white silk Gandoura, mahogany locks to his shoulders left a group of guests and came to greet them. ‘Akhouya, my brother... sadiqi, my friend… ah... Salaam alikoum,’ he sighed, and smiling at Delphine, embraced Radouan warmly. ‘It’s been a long time... too long.’
‘I’d like to present my friend Delphine,’ Radouan smiled, and to Delphine: ‘’bibti... this is my old friend Lord Jim from Jamaica and London… our host.’
‘Welcome...’ Lord Jim replied and kissed Delphine’s hand.
‘Delphine was in Marrakech on a shoot for Vogue... I persuaded her to come down here on her way back to Paris.’
‘Our pleasure.’ Lord Jim gazed steadily at Delphine, ‘It’s not every day we get to feast on such beauty. But where is Francesco, didn’t you say you were bringing him?’
‘The sudden heat,’ Radouan replied, ‘he felt feverish... had to catch up on his sleep... sends his regrets and hopes maybe we can all get together tomorrow afternoon.’
‘Ah, too bad... Yeah… unfortunately I must go back to Paris tomorrow... hate leaving... more and more chums migrating out here under the palms... come, you must meet people.’
Radouan and Delphine circulated with Jim and were introduced around. Radouan, who disliked large gatherings, felt uncomfortable and marveled at Delphine’s poise. After his session with Francesco he was now very hungry and wondered when food would be appear. When he was hungry he knew he could become edgy, combative and unable to control himself. While Delphine circulated with Jim, he found some hors d’oeuvres and almonds, which he downed with a stiff drink and though still nervous, began to feel better. At least the voices inside his head which sometimes talked inside him had stopped.
The guests were a motley assortment of musicians, producers, toffs, posh types from London and assorted jeunesse d’or from New York, Paris, Tokyo, Goa and Singapore. Radouan had a second, third and fourth Jack Daniel’s, felt much better, and began to focus on the incredible number of beautiful women Jim had collected.
One of them sidled up to him. ‘Radouan darling, is it really you? You haven’t changed at all but I can see you don’t quite remember me. James told me you’d be here. I’m renting a place nearby for the winter. I...’
He searched his memory. Yes... Ah… Aicha from Beirut! Never would he forget that week with her! ‘It’s been almost five years since we were together in Taroudant,’ he said, ‘can you imagine. But you look more beautiful than ever...’
‘Are you here alone? I can’t imagine...’
‘I’m with that girl over there.’ Radouan said motioning toward Delphine who came over, ‘Aicha, this is Delphine, Delphine, Aicha. Delphine has jus' finished a shoot for Vogue in Marrakech and we’ve come down here with Francesco to do some screen tests for his next film.’
‘But how fantastique,’ Aicha exclaimed and eyed Delphine, ‘you must be very excited... I would be. But where is he, that darling man?’
‘Francesco? He’s back at the hotel resting... the sudden heat...’
‘I know, it’s a shock, but I’d love to see him... such a pet... and a genius too. Perhaps you could all come for lunch tomorrow... you must!’
Watching the dancers around the pool...Radouan gazed out past Aicha at the disc jockeys laboring over their turntables. It was a big party. London’s own Andy B. was playing, as well as DJ Jerome from New York, working the crowd, transporting them into the BEYOND. Across the dance floor, balancing candle lit brass trays on their heads, young belly dancers danced with the guests. Yet the guests looked bored and couldn’t really move.
Aroused by the scene, Radouan had another drink and asked Delphine to hang out with Aicha while he went over and spoke to his friend Jerome, about remedying the situation.
‘Remember The Seventh Sky?’ he asked Jerome.
Jerome smiled, rummaged in his record case, found what he wanted and slowly fed it in, picking up the beat, bass pounding as Radouan stripped off his jacket and shirt and moved out among the dancers.
Across the water, Lord Jim grinned as the first bars of a track he and Radouan had put together years before resonated through the perfumed night. A heavy bass introduction imploded into an old Shirelles track, over a track of some preacher ranting about the end of the world, mixed with a Hindu yogi chanting Kali Yug, Kali Yug, Kali Yug. Then Jim’s voice, somewhere between Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder: ‘IN THE SEVENTH SKY... IN THE SEVENTH SKY.’
Wondering if he wasn’t too drunk, Radouan followed two of the belly dancers out across the pool on one of the pink marble runways. Could he still dance like he had five years ago in Taroudant?
‘IN THE SEVENTH SKY... PLEASE DON’ SAY GOOD BYE... PLEASE DON’ LEAVE ME... NO NO NO.’
Kicking off his babouches, he somersaulted to the other side, and unbuckled his belt, his hips swaying and pumping in front of two girls; challenging them, strutting before them. Across the room Lord Jim clapped his hands and pointed at Radouan. Slowly people turned and stared. Aicha and her friends applauded.
‘IN THE SEVENTH SKY... WE WILL GET SO HIGH... DO NOT LEAVE ME... NO DON’ MAKE ME CRY.’
Muffled voices: ‘Who’s the crazy Arab? Is he part of the entertainment? Is he stoned? My God is he going to take off his...?’ European eyes narrowed, mouths tightened while behind the guests, on the fringes of the party, the servers grinned and clapped their hands.
‘DON’ LEAVE ME WHY OH WHY’
His shoulders straight now, hips grinding, his mind slowly slipping away, Radouan moved gravely over the polished stone, his head turning from side to side, angry at the inertia of the crowd.
‘IN THE SEVENTH SKY... PLEASE DON' MAKE ME CRY... DON’ DENY ME... NAW NAW NAW.’
Across the pool now, he stopped in front of a beautiful blonde and unzipped his pants; then vaulted away, walking on his hands, leaving her open mouthed.
‘WE’LL GET BY YES WE’LL GET BY.’ - and danced on out of his pants around the pool in his black Versace briefs.
‘IN THE SEVENTH SKY... OUT BEYOND THE STARS... YOU MUST FOLLOW.’
Delphine grew frightened. Was this his manic underbelly, coiled like a serpent ready to strike at the slightest provocation - had the two of them planned this; Radouan and his friend Lord Jim? Or was it...?
But glancing around her she realized most of the guests thought Radouan was a hired act. Aicha smiled coolly and passed her a pipe. Delphine inhaled deeply and felt better. Radouan was circulating now among the guests tempting them to dance with him, moving from group to group, flipping over, walking on his hands again, skittishly seductive, hyper-masculine as he touched people and teased them.
‘IN THE SEVENTH SKY...’ And let them touch him.
Then a young woman in high heels a close fitting tuxedo and black tie sidled out and stuffed a wad of hundred pound notes into his briefs as he danced by, twirling like a dervish round and round, letting the crowd tuck in more notes until they formed a fringe around his waist – the hunger in their eyes resonating inside him so that he could have danced forever.
‘IN THE SEVENTH SKY... DON'T TRY TO BUY ME...
NO NO NO’
But as the track ended amid applause and cries for more, more, and MORE, he hurriedly collected his clothes, and managed to escape with Delphine to the parking lot and their car.
‘Shouldn’t we have said goodbye?’ Delphine said breathlessly. ‘Put on your clothes, you’ll catch cold.’
‘We had to get out of there before somethin’ happened,’ Radouan panted, ‘quick, get in, I’ll put them on later. Some people they get upset when I dance. Five years ago in Taroudant people took off their clothes and there was a riot. Jim was there so I had to dance tonight in memory of that evening and because I was hungry and got drunk. When I realised those people thought I was a hired act, I thought maybe I could make some money for you. How much do you think we made? Here, take it out and count it.’
‘Calm down,’ Delphine said, ‘No one was upset, they loved you, don’t be so paranoid... Be careful! You’re going to skid in this sand and hit a tree... Please… CHILL OUT!’
‘Count it!’ Radouan roared.
‘I’m counting, I’m counting!
‘You’re too slow.’
‘You’re too fast… it comes to... £4,850 pounds. I can’t believe it!’
Radouan smiled, slowed down, stopped the car, and slipped his clothes on. ‘That should pay some of those debts you were speakin’ about.’
‘But I can’t, it’s yours.’
‘I danced for you, not for them,’ he smiled proudly. ‘Better than lettin’ Francesco have his way, no? Marrakchis are gamblers and I’m a Marrakchi... remind me to teach you how to win at Backgammon or cards... we could make a lot of money together... go to Las Vegas and WIN.’
‘And you could be Al Pacino!’
‘Yeah, I’m better lookin’ than him but you must keep me from drinkin’ too much.’
‘By keepin’ me well fed... I must not become hungry or I can have fits... you’re smart... jus' remember to feed me, maybe carry some snacks.’
‘Why can’t you carry your own snacks if you think you need them so much?’
‘I never carry anything.’
‘It brings bad luck.’
‘It’s maji. Some day I’ll tell you all about it.’ Radouan heaved a sigh and looked around. ‘We escaped that place jus' in time. If we’d stayed there another ten minutes we’d have had problems.’
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006