“Did you study today?” Asked he looking at him and wrinkling up his forehead to three ugly folds lined above his thick eyebrows that Ali noticed whenever, at the mischievous times, he caught him playing with the swarm of the kids by the reeking swamp opposite the house. Throwing stones in and filling conserved tomatoes’ cans, plastic bottles with water to splash each other. That nasty swamp, which everybody complained about, was formed whenever it rained, unveiling one of the hundreds examples of the municipal’s nest of corruption. It was one of the things that brought the neighbors to talk about politics, politicians and being the victims of their lies during those fishy election campaigns.
Today Salah was different… and that look, a look that Ali couldn’t return and see if it was of angel or of a devil. Preoccupied by his father’s mysterious mood, Ali terribly bowed his head flinching from having his eyes met with his father’s glances.
“N’nn No” he mumbled, rubbing his palms together. He sometimes snatched glances to his mother, like if he was surreptitiously asking help from her to get him out of the sticky situation he was squeezed and felt snared in. He had never been put through such a cobweb like dialogue where a small, weak like him wouldn’t make it to survival. He had never heard his father asking him that dazzling question to which no filial behavior he had learned.
Could that all really been missed from his life to fill the gap inside that made Ali unable to compose full and steady response?
While he remained motionless, a head bowed, his chin dived in his jacket’s collar, Salah patted the yellowish ripe banana color sheep’s skin he was sitting on in a gesture for Ali to come closer, like if it was a matter of father and son discretion. An inner indecisiveness took hold of poor Ali. His fear cheated on his attempt to stand up when he felt his feet heavy. Like a baby he crawled instead to shift nearby his father’s side, and then he sat slightly touching his unzipped jacket hanging down from his stooped shoulders to his hips that started to squeak when it rubbed against his as Salah moved his arm and wrapped Ali’s little body.
“Aww Ali”! “A’liwa! Sweetie!” “You are growing up very fast!” he said in a soft voice that sounded like moaning. He brought him against his side in an affectionate squeeze with his arm, like a belt tied around his body to which Ali knew no feedback, only more time of bowing. He felt at sixes and sevens, still nervously rubbing his palms red off-white. He couldn’t feel at ease thinking what would later happen and what in the world could have happened that ripened his father’s raw emotions. As he kissed him, the boy slowly raised his shoulders up to his ears in bewilderment, sort of disgust that he didn’t want more of his kisses.
“You have become a man, and really you have to study and become a policeman. That’s how you are going to reward me son!” He said caressing his shaggy hair.
One could easily tell that Salah’s ultimate goal was to see his son working with “Mekhzane”. Like most of Moroccans he believed that if anyone wanted to live in this country he had to have a relative working with “Mekhzane”. Nepotism is all what this country about. He wanted privilege too, and more messing up on the opportunities that life could offer to someone who would be fully protected by “Mekhzane”. Since life was all about dirt, corruption in a country where nepotism is deeply rooted in its culture, why not for him?
He was so obsessed with authority. Had he had the chance to become a policeman he would have became a real holdover that nothing could stop him from misusing his power… (To be continued)