by Maggie Proctor ('08)
She wouldn't have noticed the fountain at all, caught in a knot of her fellow tourists, if the bus driver hadn't wandered over and taken a drink from his cupped hands. They'd stopped at this place, a stretch of dirt road somewhere between the little village of Tazroot and the city of Tetouan, to stretch their legs and take pictures of the mountains that posed dramatically in the distance. Thirst had prompted her to break off from the group, though she knew that if the Harrisons, who had been looking out for her health and safety since they realized that she was on this trip alone, had seen her come over here, they would have strongly cautioned her against drinking the local water.
After a moment's hesitation, she unscrewed the cap of her water bottle and held it under the spout of the fountain. It wasn't like the fountains she'd seen pictured in her guidebook, with their brightly colored mosaics and fanciful metalwork gargoyles from which the water spilled in a constant stream -- this one was made of simple, bare porcelain with a broad, deep basin. She could detect a slight green patina glazing its copper fixtures, and there were a few leaves resting near the drain at the bottom. But it seemed clean enough, and the water trickling into her water bottle was clear. Cold, too; she could feel it through the thin plastic of the bottle. She had lost her Nalgene within a day of their arrival in Casablanca, and so the large bottle of Sidi Ali mineral water she'd bought at the airport had taken its place. The blue and green label was already starting to peel off.
As she waited, the level of the water slowly climbing, she listened to the others in the group as they chatted and shuffled around, looking at the scenery. The bus driver was currently slouched against his dusty vehicle and smoking, idly watching the buzzing group of tourists. She could hear one raised voice -- it was probably Mr. James -- complaining about how the brochure hadn't mentioned how damn bumpy the roads were in this country, but most everyone else seemed content to snap pictures and talk about the mild weather. The tour guide, a thin man called Driss whose smile was wider than his moustache, started to explain the history of the region.
"Tazroot is a very old village, very historic," he said, his voice clear and loud. "The shrine has been there for centuries, since the reign of the Idrisi. People came from all around to visit and to pray at the mosque."
The water bottle was nearly full. A brown lizard, not more than a few inches long, dashed across the white porcelain surface of the fountain and back under the shaded underbrush. She screwed on the bottle cap, and then ran the tips of her fingers under the trickling water for just a moment.
"The Alaouites rebuilt the complex. They expanded the mosque and the shrine, filling it with decorations. This was the seventeenth century, and the buildings are still there as they were then."
She turned and walked back to the rest of the tour group. Condensation had already begun to collect on the outside of the bottle, so she couldn't put it in her bag with her guidebook and her wallet. Instead she held it in her hand, its weight threatening to pull it out of her grasp.
"You will like Tazroot very much," said Driss. He beamed at them all, and scanned the crowd as though he felt it was necessary that each individual get the full benefit of his smile before he continued. "Now, are we all ready to go on? Yes?" He looked to the bus driver, who nodded curtly and dropped the butt of his cigarette before climbing back into his seat.
She kept hold of her water bottle as she slid into an empty window seat near the back. The bus soon shuddered to a start, the wheels kicking up dust as they began to move towards their destination.
"So, dear," said Mrs. Harrison leaning forward across the aisle between their seats, "aren't you excited for Tazroot?"
"I suppose," she said, but she kept her eyes on the fountain until it had passed out of sight.