MEAT-EATERS of MARRAKESH
When I reach for Frank's hand and that hand is not there, is instead tucked inside one of his hidden Willis & Geiger poplin adventure coat pockets fingering some of his stash, habitually plying for wetness -- I can hear the stiff crackling of plastic between notes from the cobra charmer's flute, the crinkle of foil, or coarse paper, the muted come-hither rustle of pill against pill, tablet upon tablet, moist crumbling of dung-style opium, the promise of oblivion and answered need, not mine, not mine to answer-- when the press of bodies all around us becomes a breath-skinned constrictor that desires to squeeze the very fluids from our viscera, I feel a jerk at my elbow, hear a gargled voice, a hiss, but say nothing, not even when a low cry escapes Frank as he sinks, sinks! glorious defeat of the all-too familiar body which torments as it pleasures, I believe I can even hear the proud steroidal muscles sigh as bunching down they hit the dust of Marrakesh, and Frank's cry is immediately swallowed by more hissing and the distant drumbeats of leprous tribesmen, the stomps and claps of midget acrobats as they form human pyramids to jeer in their own unintelligible clicking language, and "good price" chanted by a small women no older than twelve with eyes of dust who weave carpets until their fingers and eyes leak blood, and I, rejoicing, watch all this dissipate in the twisted columns of oily smoke from the food stalls where earlier Frank ate a plate of lamb brain, sopping it up with a torn crust of bread, his mouth transformed into maggotry, into a portal of decay and insatiability; is it any wonder that I now turn and grind my foot into Frank's hand until I hear the concertina of cracking bone before I reach down to help him up with great delicacy of gesture and intention, only to bury my fists in his eyesockets once he is standing, then digging further into the cranial playroom itself, there to cop a feel of his beloved addict's brain, one little affectionate squeeze, knowing nothing except that we are everything and nothing together and I am damned, damned to the bone -- my anxious pelvis a shark's gaping jawbone -- eternally and with all due disdain, because I cannot erase the vision of two bodies rising, hers and his, his and his, always his and someone's, falling, nor fathom the way I want to think of them in the kasbah, the way I want to smell each and every smell from cured goatskin to sewage, from almond soap scum to yeasty orgasmic juices, see each item in the ritual room as it held its fetid breath for the ancient spectacle of the oldest duet, I want to hear the stupid things they whispered, how their bodies slapped and sucked away the twotimed sweat, the way the world's clock cracked its sixty knuckles against their one-two skin and beat mine a shinypurple while I slept in cretinous innocence in the Hotel Amalay around the corner, I confess I am perversely mesmerized by their beasting need, the enormous banality of betrayal, and must play it back again and again until it becomes pornography and me the Fecal Eye that shits in its Sacred Cunt.
"We can wash this filth
away, we can erase the dust. I will hold the nozzle over your head," Frank said.
It happened in Marrakesh. In the filthy square of Djemaa El-Fna. On a Saturday, the day the Saadians customarily used to display the heads of their enemies by skewering them on iron stakes arranged artfully around the perimeter. The gore would slide down the red walls to form viscous puddles which were baked away by the sun within the hour, and baked into the walls in jagged streaks. From anywhere in the square, you knew you were being watched.
Poppies. A red minaret. The
color of your tongue.
Before the apple was bitten,
and partaken of, twice, there was this. The ancient square of Djemma El-Fna. Their third
day in Marrakesh. Second week in Morocco.
In Ouarzazate, where the
world-famous rose water is made, there was a cookie named:
The meat is on the hook. Hanging. Skin flayed and stripped to expose magnificent marbling of creamy ratcolor. And muscular red meat --only in this case, the fat is discolored yellow with orange pustules and the meat is decidedly green not a uniform green, but pale pistachio at the edges and extending into a sodden green --for the meat, you realize, is rotting before your eyes -- the stench is so incomprehensibly vile that at first the brain rebels-- proclaiming the putrid scent sweet before the truth assaults the nostrils and one reels backwards. Only she can see the green rotted meat. Only Cora.
Frank stopped at a food stall
selling lamb brains. The brains were displayed on thick white ceramic plates. They were
puttycolored and looked wet under the single acetylene bulb. The Moroccan boy at the stall
grinned at Cora.
In Marrakesh, Cora saw:
Frank sat abruptly on a wooden
bench padded with a few sheets of folded newspaper, pulling Cora down beside him. The
Moroccan scraped two lobes off a plate and into a bowl, placed it before Frank along with
a disk of Arab bread.
Imagine how the Saadian slave climbs out to the stake holding the head in a golden towel. Imagine him grasping the freshly decapitated head by the temples and plunging it down on the stake until he hears the thud of the skull crown meeting bone, but this time, he pierces the head. What a glorious shattering! A geyser of blood plumes forth dousing all the lucky ones who have pressed the closest, trampled the many. Where would Cora be in this eager crowd?
Meanwhile the Moroccan, with a sly glance at Cora, drew back the boiled lips of the lamb's head and exposed the teeth. In Cora's discomfort and dimly sensed foreboding, she noted the lamb had an overbite, a clear case, and might have benefited from braces, if indeed they masticated the same way as humans. The boy leered at her, running his tongue along the bottom of his upper teeth, causing her to indulge in a fantasy replete with filth and disease and sublime degradation. When that faded, which was rapid, she could no longer deny the stronger vision: there was a spider that had appeared at the lamb's dental gates and stared at her in his radiant magnificence for a full eternal moment, before he retreated to shield her from certain blindness at such a holy vision. What had it meant? Frank was nothing more than a slurping sound; she did not look at him, not daring to look away from lamb or boy.
Before Marrakesh, they had driven all over the south of Morroco. From Agadir, where Frank's wallet was stolen, to Tiznit to Adai to Tafraoute, on to Ouarzazate and Todra Gorge then Erfoud, through Berber villages. They had even ridden dromedaries through the drifting Saharan dunes of Erg Chebbi at sunrise, on Cora's insistence, but all she could remember was the corpse women. They had passed briefly through one village -- she couldn't recall whether it was before or after Erfoud or closer to Tiznit and she couldn't recall the name -- where all the women were covered from head to foot in black. Not even their eyes peered out from a medieval slit below as she had seen in other villages. Even Frank had been unsettled by the sight, and drove faster; but Cora didn't stop watching until the last silent blackshrouded woman faded into the dusty background.
The boy released his filthy
fingers and let the lips slide slowly back into place, at which point he buried the knife
in the skull and began to slice. As he did so, the boiled ears flopped and steam rose in a
halo from its head. Cora found herself laughing. She did not respond to Frank's irritable,
The Moroccan stared at Cora
while he cut. She looked at his fingers, saw the black filth gestating beneath his
critical nails, the black filth growing in spirals from his knotted knuckles. She thought
about how she'd been warned to use only her right hand in public because the Moroccans
wiped their asses with the left. It was true, there had been little sign of toilet paper,
and what passed for napkins were paperthin tissues that disintegrated with the least bit
Palms. A white wall. The blankness of your face.
Through the corridor of hanging meat they came, into the square of Djemaa El-Fna. Knuckles and hooves and glorious shanks of thigh meat dangling like earrings from iron hooks. Chopped hearts, strangled chickens with bound feet, past harpooned bladders, spiny pimplyskinned stomach linings draped over stalls, testicles garlanded over stalls. There were festoons of tripe -- Hawaiian leis of tripe -- and picture this -- the most splendid sight of all, an upside down bouquet, a chandelier of bloody lamb's heads, twisting in the clear African light.
I turn and grind my foot into
your outstretched hand until I hear the concertina of cracking bone before I reach down to
help you up, knowing nothing more than we are nothing and everything together and I am
damned. It is at this point what connects a man to a woman collapses into the unspeakable
filth of a Berber toilet. I stand with splayed legs, each foot firmly planted in the
ceramic footholds with the well of filth beneath me, exhale the possibilities in one
silvery globuled stream until it disappears in the hole of iniquity. It is a peerless
depth that is not even shallow that is woman.
|© 2000 Rachel Resnick
This story may not be archived or distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our conditions of use.
L.A. based fiction writer, essayist and playwright,was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Her
first novel, Go West Young F*cked-Up Chick, was published in 1999 by St.
Martin's. The paperback version is due out this May. She is currently at work on a female
detective novel set in the world of L.A. strip clubs and plastic surgery. To find out
more, to order books and to contact the author, visit her official, and also very good,
|navigation: barcelona review #17 March - April 2000|
|Fiction||Rachel Resnick The Meat-Eaters of
Josh Wardrip Death in the Third Person
Alden Jones Shelter
Matthew Tree Summer of Love
Marjorie Kanter Delgado The Skirt
|Article||March and April in Barcelona|
|Quiz||Jorge Luis Borges
Answers to Federico García Lorca quiz
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