Morocco, 1975

I told the stranger straight to his beard that the youth hostel would not open that night. I didn’t say right then that he could come along to my place but he didn’t look too young to understand. He certainly was young: blond, bearded and thin. This thinness is good in men but I’m a large woman: Moroccan men prefer me that way.

I had walked over from my yard, just opposite the hostel here in Meknes. Since the building was locked he was sitting on the bench outside and reading. He only looked up when the bench creaked as I sat on it. After my first line we talked and I looked at him in my special dreamy way. He told me his book said the youth hostel was open all year and that yes he was having a good time and that no he hadn’t met any Moroccan girls so far.

I was moving closer and closer to him on the bench by asking to look at the book, showing him it was out of date, assuring him I was right about the hostel. He could stay at my place, really close by, with me. It was just after he’d got up and sat on the bench on the other side of the table, because I was now right next to him I suppose, that I could sense him looking at darkness closing in and wondering what his options really were.

And damn me if Nuri didn’t appear right then, puffing along on his bicycle, waving the key to the hostel, apologising for keeping a customer waiting. He must have sent his class home from school: he was ten minutes early that evening.