It is a strange coincidence that, in this country, whenever I have been heading south I have been ill and whenever I have gone back north I have got better. Were I a superstitious man, I would take this as a sign and stop my gradual quest toward Mauritania and head back north to the welcoming arms of Chefchaouen. Being either too rational or too addled by fever to put two and two together, I continue into the ever more barren south, ever more ridden by the war being raged inside of me.
This leg of the story begins a few days after my near arrest; I had spent a few more days lazing, walking and drinking tea. I did not really want to leave Chefchaouen, but felt that spending any longer there would be a poor show. After all, what point is there in travel if you are never in transit? So, I made my way to the bus station. As there are only about five buses departing from this place a day, the station is scantily manned at best. I watched a single employee switch from waiter, to cook, to ticket attendant back to waiter again, all the while wondering quite when somebody would come to man the booth relevant to my traveling needs. Just then, a man opened the back door and entered, proceeding to ask me where I wanted to go. My suspicion was immediately aroused by the strong smell of hashish and alcohol coming from him, as well as the fact that his eyes kept rolling back into his head; obscuring the iris, they would then swivel to the left and arise from the bottom again. This had the rather disconcerting effect of spinning a full 360 degrees. I was so taken aback that when I told him that I wanted to go to Fes and he handed me a crumpled piece of paper with “Fez” and “250 DH” scribbled on it, I was not at all surprised. At just the moment I began to argue with him, the real ticket attendant came in through the same back doors, looking furious. The drunken man was then dragged out, thrust to the ground and kicked repeatedly. The rest of my ticket buying experience took place to the stifled moans of a wretched drunk crawling awkwardly away.
Upon arriving in Fes, I realised that I had eaten the wrong roadside cafe sandwich. Putrid and sulphurous tastes and smells were busy being emitted from my bowels and gut, and the German sitting next to me had trouble hiding his disgust. All I wanted to do was get to a hotel, find a room and, more importantly, a toilet, and spend some good time emptying myself. One of the many things that I have learnt about this country is that when you really want to achieve something, be it walk undisturbed, haggle for socks or make your way to a hotel, it becomes infinitely harder than if you were to merely do it on a whim. I spied a taxi rank outside and got in the hind cab, asking to go to Bab Boujloud (the main gate to the medina). The driver gave me a smile that seemed a little too content. As he pulled away, a taxi ahead pulled out and screeched out block his path; the rest of the drivers ahead then got out and ambushed us. They opened the door on my side and began shouting over me, then spitting, then throwing punches. Strangely, none of the projectiles hit me. The surrounding drivers were imploring me to exit the cab. I was confused to say the least (I later realised that I had broken the rule by which you must always go to the front taxi, the one that has waited the longest), but in my physical state, the pandemonium outside was merely a weak imitation of the firefight inside. The internal war boiled over; first, I lurched to the side and threw up on an assaulting cabbie’s shoes. This seemed to cut through the argument; those surrounding us gave off a collective shrug as if to say “fuck it, you keep him.” The once smug driver was now looking nearly as sallow as myself, and drove me hastily to my destination, trying to overcharge me, but, when confronted with renewed lurches, gave up. Finding a room was easy, as was spending a whole day convulsing out what little was left inside of me, to the pained rhythms of cramps and cold sweats.
The feeling that a course of events was taking place entirely beyond my sphere of control had taken hold. I was at that point entirely beholden to the whims of a malevolent world. This was only to get worse.