Outside Tazroot

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.

By the Bridge

by Gloria Yip ('10)

They stood on the icy bridge together in the cold.

"Hey, there are ducks over there."

He looked over. "Oh yeah," he said, glancing downwards. "There's even a couple almost right under us."

The two looked down at the ducks swimming around in the freezing water. Giant fluffy, wet snowflakes whirled and fell about them, frosting their hair and their coats. She fumbled for a moment in her pocket for her digital camera, then took a picture of the ducks.

"Aw, crap, the flash went off..." She pressed the review button and groaned. "It looks like giant snowflakes are attacking the picture."

He looked at the camera screen too and laughed. Despite the cold, it was nice out by the woods. The sound of their voices rang out against the quietness of snow falling. Heedless of the photographers above, the ducks paddled across the water, breaking up their own glassy reflections.

She took another picture of the ducks below--but without flash this time. She studied the result that popped up on the screen. "There, that's better." She stared down at the ducks as if to compare them with her photo. "I wish I had brought some bread or something to feed them."

It was quiet for a little while, with just the sound of snow plopping into the water from the laden branches above. On a whim, she swept her hand lightly across the thick layer of snow on the sides of the stone bridge. A handful of snowflakes flew off and fell gracefully to the water below. Two of the ducks swam closer, paddling curiously around the ripples the snow had made.

"Hey, the ducks think that the snow is food." He sent a flurry of snow down to the water for the ducks' enjoyment. More of the birds swam over and gazed in confusion at where the snow had fallen before it had magically disappeared into the lake. They quacked up at the humans.

"They should know that they can't eat snow. Dumb ducks. Maybe they think it's food just because we're the ones throwing it." She made a snowball and threw it into the water. The ducks chased after it, scrambling into a chaotic jumble to dip their heads into the place where the ripples had begun. The two watched the birds with almost childish glee.

"I wonder what would happen if..." She found a small leaf and sandwiched it inside patties of freshly packed snow. She threw the stuffed snowball, which landed in front of several ducks with a small splash. The birds promptly started to flap their wings in excitement, all vying for the mysterious disappearing sandwich. One of the ducks snatched up the leaf and swam off hard, smugly carrying his prize away from the ducks that chased after him in hot pursuit.

"They never learn, do they?" They laughed once again, and she took more pictures of the ducks, which swam around wondering if there happened to be any food left. With every click she caught an instant in time--here was the ducks' search party, there the frothing waters churned by webbed feet, and here that laughing face with that goofy peace sign of his. She knew it was impossible to capture the reality of being here with him. No camera could. These pictures would have to do for now.

She took a short video as well, to keep the memory of this moment even after he had left. She zoomed in on the ducks, following them as they chased each other across the water. After a moment, she swung the camera back up, just in time to catch that smile, to record that laugh. Because she was silly like that, and sometimes... she wondered. But she didn't dare to ask; that answer could wait. The grey sky began to grow even darker. They both started to feel the cold more sharply.

"We should probably go inside now. My feet are freezing."

"Yeah, I guess."

She had tried to plan out this visit with a tour around campus, but what had been the point? The unexpected things were the most memorable: moments that found them instead of being found, and brought that smile to his face.

The two waved good-bye to the ducks from the bridge. "Now I feel like I should really bring them some food for wasting their time."

"It was fun, though."

She laughed. "This was definitely one of the weirdest ways I've spent an afternoon."

She tucked her camera safely into her coat pocket. They began the cold walk back, stomping their feet and trudging new tracks through the snow.

"So when are you leaving?"

"I dunno, probably sometime tonight."

"Oh. Okay."

She opened her mouth again to say something else, but she was afraid to ruin this moment—just wanted to enjoy this time in the snow together before it melted, even though she knew that she would regret leaving her words unspoken.

So they continued walking down the path, and she let the snow fall in silence. She hated that she had lost her courage again, but she hoped that, one day... maybe he would find his.