First love

Saïd, our taxi driver, left Tangier for London in the 1980s, looking for a job after his studies (he does not specify which ones). We drive by the sea towards Assilah. I wanted to see the ocean over there again in front of the softness of the white ramparts, and the aimless, timeless expectation that pervades everything, right up to the horizon. What my friend and writer Bernard Collet had made me discover. Idle kids like stones in front of the waves. What edge stops waiting? What border discourages a tomorrow always postponed?

Saïd returned to Tangier to take care of his very tired old parents. He left his job in a luxury London hotel to drive a taxi in Tangier. “There was only that for me here”, he said. It expresses itself with an equalizing fatality, without the slightest bitterness. The years of laborious exile are gone. The hope of another life too. Or has hope crumbled silently, long before returning home, in the tiny and repeated cracks of each renunciation there, in London, that reality must have imposed on this man’s dreams?“I was an only child, he said, I decided to return to the country to help my parents who are too old to live alone. » I answer that I understand, while we walk along vast wild beaches punctuated by subdivisions under construction – deserted sites that end up appearing as so many contemporary ruins. Aborted dreams of resorts in the sun, haunted by a few sheep or stray dogs. The funds will not have followed. Corruption maybe. Or overambitious development plans.

Saïd knows nothing about me except that I live in Paris. He takes the opportunity to declare himself a fervent supporter of PSG, the football club of Messi, Mbappé and Madrid’s Achraf Hakimi, whose parents are Moroccan. But Saïd especially has something to tell me. He thinks that the respect and the attention that one owes to his old parents are like a rare pearl that must be polished, made to shine in his life. These are his words, too simple. A treasure, he also says. That’s why he came back to take care of them. He adds, without knowing that he is throwing me into deep distress, that in France we prefer to abandon our old people in hospitals. ” It’s like that “, he adds quietly. I think back to my father, who died a fortnight after joining the Parisian nursing home where he ended up agreeing to go, with our mother. I would like to explain to Saïd that it was no longer possible. “Inshallah, said Said, my parents are over 90 and they are doing well, thanks to me. »

In the back of the taxi, and in the dust of the sun which hits the dirty windows of our vehicle, I whisper softly that Dad is dead and that my mother is losing her mind a little. I feel a very hard, black pearl in my throat blocking my breathing. Saïd pursues and my torture with it. With each step of his old mother that we accompany, he explains, it is like a treasure that increases. ” It’s like that “, he repeats. Assilah is deserted. It is ramadan. We eat in a bad Spanish restaurant, one of the few open for the few tourists lost, like us, in the ancient whiteness of the city. Saïd is fasting in the shade on the terrace. He is waiting for us. I will end the visit, after a brief stroll in the small city and on its ramparts which no longer protect anything or anyone but seem to have always watched over the repetition of the waves. What have we forgotten that is so precious, so ancient? A treasure hidden in the indefinite expectation reproduced here by the sea and the light, an expectation that no longer necessarily hopes but remains faithful to the very first love.


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