On the Overnight from Agadir

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Don’t go to discover your roots, Ladybug says. If you want to look for roots, go and look at a tree.

Another day at a café, avoiding. Pretending—

Why did you come here Tell me why

If you want to die go ahead and die do it quickly

If you want to be dead You can be dead

But the days are long and always the


But the nights are long and always

the same.

I feel that time has me, in a way. Do

you know?

A tree. But do you see its 1roots when you look at a tree? The syringa from the cover of that playbook in high school haunted me for weeks, its net of empty branches. . .

See, that’s the problem. That right there. How the mind moves from the one thing that’s here and suddenly

I am 55 though it’s still 2 o’clock on Tuesday.

2 o’clock on Tuesday happens in Morocco, too.

My mother says we are European and I shake my head at her desperate face. My mother says we speak French in

Morocco and I shake my head.

Morgan says Maybe it could be good for you. To travel to the motherland. It’s necessary trauma for each of us.

I call my ex-partner in Brussels, with whom I lived in seven cities on three continents, and say Habibi, I think

I just want my own apartment and a dog, and to stop working like a mule

and we laugh.

Morgan says You have to go.

Why do I sense that I cannot trust what I feel in my chest—

Are there even trees in North Africa?

If you don’t want to live you don’t want to live anywhere.

Avoiding what? The—I’m sorry, but there’s no other way to say it—meaninglessness.

So that is why you get on a plane and go to the third world for a year?

I don’t know. Clearly I don’t know. And the third world as a phrase is so—

Did the colonizer kill or make thrive? Did the colonizer kill or make thrive?

Honestly, who cares. I don’t need history to justify me. I just want a dog.

I wouldn’t mind having a Moroccan lover, I tell my shrink, out of things to say.

Perhaps taking a Moroccan lover—ideally, a Black one—will help you feel connected to yourself in a new way

and rejuvenate your enthusiasm for living, your sense of purpose.

I fire my shrink on the spot.

Call the second one as I’m leaving the office and fire her, too.

On the street, a Frenchie shits on the curb, her owner on his phone, looking the other way—

I know exactly who I am—It’s that there is no point, and then we—

I’m telling you: Just go and look at a tree.

Then, in the early morning hours, on a bus almost returned to Rabat,

A razor of light slits my eye down the center—suddenly

The bus on its side, dirt in the air, stars in the dirt.

In one skull an eye looks west, another east.

Into a net of glass a girl’s face is pressed.

A hand cuts the smoke inside the bus.

He stepped over a woman his Omi’s age,

hijab beside her,

Blond hair exposed, her arms and legs


Into a geometric shape. He threw himself

from the bus’s side.

A tingling from his shoulder to his thumb.

A green eye, a brown eye in the same skull.

A woman inside a bush. A child and a man merge

At the waist. Two heads, two torsos, no feet.

On the side of the road, weeds. A cough.

Another. No horns. A light. Some trees.

Inside the darkness my eyes make

A dark—

All outline. It hangs heavy over me

Its empty face locked on my emptied face

Holding us in mutual study—Then,

A slow lifting and I breathe awake.

Awake in the hospital bed, my phone rings. Ladybug.

You thought you were going to Morocco, she says, laughing. You were going to the body.

I know the doctor says he’s fine, but cannot feel his hand.

I know, but the doctor says he’s fine, the doctor says

He’ll be back to his old self in no time.

What language were you speaking?

Did you reach his parents? Yes, he doesn’t want them to


Has the mother been informed?

Of her Blackness? Or that of her children?

Stop. The boy’s neck. Has the mother been informed of

the neck.

Would I do what to you? Reckless childish behavior, that’s all it was.

You disappeared from sight.

You can’t really believe I wanted to kill myself. At 5 years-old.

The car horns blared. They were layered, merging.

The exhaust was heavy. Once inside I could not see. I ran until through it.

What do you see? When you think of it now?

I can still hear them. I hear them now. You?

A nearly-white brilliance. An almost-permanence.

Dear one: I was trying to enter my own life, I felt outside my own life. I was

Looking, trying to find a door. To quiet the mind I knew I was more than.

I wanted to control only what I could control. I wanted nothing grand,

Epiphanic, oracular. On the contrary, I wanted to be small.

To disturb and be disturbed the absolute least. Silly? Naïve?

The clock kept telling me my birth day: 12:27. Every day for a year I saw it twice.

You were waiting to live. It happens to the

best of us.

The within is within wherever you take it.

When did you break the neck? 3 years ago


What stillness did you seek?

Whatever you’re looking for is not here.

What does he look for? Who does he look to


If he wants to be dead He can be dead

Dear one: I thought the clock was telling me to start over, that I could start over any time:

I mean. . . Two births a day!

As the bus tilted onto its side and crashed, I saw all I would not become:

A thin book turned into a face, the face turned into four. My work!,

I exclaimed, inwardly, to no one in particular, as we hit the gravel. I have not done my work.

Mo brings me coffee, in the snow, to the Upper West Side, all the way from Brooklyn, and says Baby

you weren’t supposed to be there. You weren’t supposed to be there, and the ancestors saved you.

A wooden bowl of unripe persimmons on my friends’ coffee table. A bowl of yogurt with raw honey.

Randall Kennedy’s nigger splayed open looking up at the off-white ceiling.

Morgan meets me for brunch, so I can start getting back into the world. Still in a neck brace, I look into

her compassion. We both struggle.

I phone my old shrink from college and say Can you believe this shit? I almost can’t—and we laugh.

Mo says You weren’t supposed to be there, baby and we post pics on Facebook to make our friends smile.

Look—You did not listen to yourself, you did not want to go, by which I mean the child inside you, and I don’t care how

that sounds.

I hit reply to the e-mail, then X out of the draft. I hit reply again, then go down the hall for tea.

I mean—the injury took you back to Zurich, where you had tried to love a man into being your father,

Then to your childhood bedroom in the Bronx. You can’t make that shit up.

I carry my tea back to the desk. It goes cold before I take a sip.

Ro says C—if that accident had happened to me, my mother would have been on the first plane out of Toronto

to be by my side.

I say I know, not knowing how to tell her her point is literally classless, grateful for her concern.

Dear one: Another bed, flat on my back again—

Returned to the waiting, I am waiting

For the neck to heal, to live: what generates this sensation

That life is elsewhere, or happening in the future?

That it will begin once the neck has healed and I arrive in California

Where it will begin once I am worthy of living or

Once I feel comfortable more often than I do not or

Once I can provide for myself in a two-bedroom apartment

Where it will begin once I no longer look to my mother for an answer

Or once I no longer feel drawn to Morocco to our pain or once

Where does the self hide when it hides?

Where was I if I didn’t know why I was there?

Where does the inquiry begin Does it begin in my particular body in my particular mind

Does it begin centuries before me Does begin in my mother Does it begin in all these places At once

Various planes of time concurrently playing themselves out and interwoven and interdependent

Once the market tries to close Once the mother gives her son a face he can use

It’s not the skin so much as it is the shape of the bones beneath it the way they form a gestalt

Once the father says Come back my boy I see you I want you to know that I see you

Listen, I have mulled this over ad nauseum. All obvious interpretations are stolid, lacking, uncompelling.

That my home is not there.

That I needed to leave.

That I had to care better for my body.

That my body did not belong to me.

Nothing is ordered, everything is random.

Nothing is random, everything is ordered.

If you will not use your voice to speak, your voice will be taken.

It is not your work, silly boy. If you will not do it, your gifts will be

passed to another.

Thank you for driving slowly, I say from the backseat. When I was last here, three years ago now, I was badly hurt.

The road lines vacant lots of dust, hot air cycling through the open windows.

Yes, they told me at the riad, he says. I’d like to show you something.

He pulls down the neck of his T-Shirt. A scar from his hairline down the length of his spine.

I exit my body, then return so forcefully I shift in my seat. 18 years prior, two thieves in his taxi, he explains, a struggle, the car splayed by a tree, a broken neck, two months in hospital, the scar.

And so I think Allah sent me to you… he says.

What road is this? I ask.

He turns, hands steady on the wheel: The A3. It runs north to south, from Casa to Agadir.

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