Travelling with a Twat

Travelling with a Twat

It’s only day eight of a 14-day trip and I bite my tongue, again. I’m petrified to show my lack of cultural knowledge because I know one of Pierre’s patronising smirks is sure to follow. Instead of being able to enjoy myself and learn about Morocco, I’m too busy trying to avoid playing his favourite game, One-Up.

“Do you see that Kasbah over there?” asks Pierre proudly, pointing towards a painting of a castle as we pass an old wall.
“What’s a Kasbah?”

I get my answer as he snickers, turns his back and walks away.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

I usually prefer to travel solo, but the thought of Africa was enough to frighten me into inviting a travel buddy. I met Pierre six months earlier in Madrid, and his interesting French-Canadian sense of humour was enough for me, a friendless backpacker, to latch on to. I definitely don’t claim to be a man of many skills, but if there’s one thing I’ve always been sure of, it’s my ability to judge a person’s character. But I’m beginning to doubt these skills that used to satisfy me.

The sun is peeping over the faded horizon and the local market is a sea of pulled-down drapes. The city of Fes is still asleep. I contemplate exploring, but the weather is mirroring my mood perfectly – wet, unsettled and ready for a thunderstorm to hit. Fes is a labyrinth of narrow, damp and unfathomably confusing alleyways, and what we’ve learned is that the tangled layout of endless and disorganised concrete allows the criminals of Morocco to operate a theme park of victims.

We’ve just spent a week dodging locals who trick tourists into thinking they’re being helped with directions, but are forced to pay when the “tour” ends. It’s become almost as common as the shopkeepers’ constant rip-off attempts. My knees are quivering and I’m not sure if it’s the fatigue or knowing that I’m completely lost. There has been a sinister feeling lurking in the tense air all morning, Pierre’s rudeness and lack of self-awareness has been twisting my insides like a bad chicken tagine. But for the sake of the peace, I muffle the screams.

He now beckons me to follow him with an abnormal smile strewn across his face. He is following one of Morocco’s “guides”.

Where the hell is he going? I wonder as he begins moving into the towering shadows. He’s following an expressionless, mono-browed Moroccan man dressed in an untucked business shirt covered with stains. All my internal warning-sirens are set off as I pass through the mossy walls of the gloomy passageway.

“Pierre, what are you doing? You know he’s a fake right?” Pierre snubs me. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
“Pierre?” I stress, ignored again. “Fine, you’re going to pay him then,” I spit. My brave face is executing its role perfectly, but my insides tell a much more worrisome story.

“No, I’m not going to give him the satisfaction,” rebuts Pierre.

I’m stunned. Surely this is just more of his bizarre behaviour.

“Are you serious?” I snap, increasingly worried. I can feel the ventricles pulsating blood around my body at a concerning pace. The build up of venom is edging to the lip of my overflowing tank of emotions. But again, the cries for release are hushed.

“No money, I give you no money.” Pierre suddenly decides to dismiss the scruffy Moroccan, who ignores the self-righteous and cocky Pierre, continuing to lead us down a seemingly endless path. He reaches a group of three men leaning against a mossy wall, mutters something in Arabic and suddenly we find ourselves cornered.

It’s three against two. The stony exterior of the sandstone wall is digging into my back and I can feel their ashtray breath on my face.

“Yes, you pay now. You pay or you two will be hurt,” barks the clearly offended man. This is the exact moment of a timely realisation that my life is completely situational and that this situation was utterly preventable. The overwhelming sandstorm of humiliation and anger finally hits Fes.

“Fuck this Pierre!” I screech. I’ve had enough. I make my exit. Just me and my backpack, leaving every trace of doubt behind me. Pierre takes pursuit and tries to calm me from my burst of liberation, only further infuriating the mob, and me.

Expletives are oozing from my mouth; my heart feels like it’s going to burst through my ribcage and the rain droplets are dripping down into my eyes from my sweaty brow. I’m trying to keep my composure as they all shadow me. I’m struggling to find my feet on the slippery, uneven pavement, trying to keep myself safely distanced. I’m failing at finding my bearings.

“I don’t care where the fuck you go, but you can be sure that it won’t be with me. Pay the fucking man,” I yell.

All the manners that have been drilled into me throughout my life take a back seat as I tear Pierre’s scrunched up money from his wallet and toss the crumpled notes towards the scheming Moroccan men, who walk off, pleased with themselves.

Right now there is nothing in the world I want more than to see Pierre be swallowed up by the living hell that Fes has become. My red and flushed complexion stains my usually tanned and easy-going cheeks. I can feel my fingernails piercing my palms because my fists are clenched so tight.

“How dare you put me in that situation, you fucking idiot. Do you know what you just did? I could have been killed!” I lose complete control of my sense of reality.
“I didn’t think it would happen,” he mumbles sheepishly.
And that was the end of it.

It was finally me who was in control, but at the same time, so out of control. Why didn’t I listen to the muffled screams? Why did it take me eight days to follow my gut? I spectated my outgoing and spontaneous personality wither away to a fuming mess. Travelling with others not only reveals true characters, but also reveals your own pitfalls. My pitfall came from within, in a part of me that I will never doubt ever again.

Cover by Kodiak Jack

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