I think Mme Du-Somethingorothers a fool too, but at least shes does a better job of playing social worker to the local needy. She really makes out she cares about our lives. Sometimes, youd almost believe her. She fires questions at me in this high-pitched voice. The other day, she wanted to know what Id been reading recently. I just shrugged. But really, Ive just finished this thing called The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun. Its all about a little girl who was raised as a boy, because she was the eighth daughter in the family and her father wanted a son. Back in the time when the book is set, there wasnt any ultrasound or contraception. It was strictly no refunds, no exchanges.
What a shitty destiny. Fate is all trial and misery because theres you cant do anything about it. Basically, whatever, no matter what you do youll always get screwed over. My mom says my dad walked out on us because it was written that way. Back home, we call it mektoub. Its like a film script and were the actors. Trouble is, our scriptwriters got no talent. And hes never heard of happily ever after.
My mom always dreamed France was like in those black-and-white films from the 60s. The ones where the handsome actors always telling his woman so many lies, always with a cigarette dangling from his lips. When she lived in Morocco, my mom and her cousin Bouchra found a way to pick up French channels with this aerial they rigged up from a stainless steel couscous-maker. So when she and my dad turned up just north of Paris, in Livry-Gargan, February 1984, she thought they must have caught the wrong boat, got the wrong country. She told me the first thing she did when she walked into this tiny 2-room flat was throw up. Im not sure if it was seasickness or a sixth sense warning her about life in this place .
The last time we went back to Morocco, I was kind of dazed. Im remember these old women with tattoos, coming over and sitting next to Mom at the weddings and baptisms and circumcision ceremonies.
--You know, Yasmina, that girl of yours is growing into a woman, its time you thought about finding her a boy from a good family. How about Rachid? That young man whos a welder
Stupid old bags. I know exactly who that is. Everyone calls him Mule-head Rachid. Even the six-year-olds make fun of him to his face. Not to mention hes missing four teeth, he cant read at all, he s cross-eyed, and he stinks of piss. Over there, its enough that you have even the smallest little bumps for breasts, you know to shut up when youre told to, you know how to bake decent bread, and then bam youre all set for marriage. Anyway now I dont think were ever going back to Morocco. We cant afford it for one thing, and my mom says it would be too humiliating. People would point at her and shake their heads. She thinks what happened is all her fault. Id say there are two guilty parties in this story: my dad and fate.
We worry about the future but whats the point? For all I know we might not even have one. A person could die in ten days, or tomorrow or suddenly, right over there, right now. Its the kind of thing that doesnt exactly let you know when its coming. Theres no advance notice, no final warning. Not like when your electricity bills overdue. Thats how it was with M Rodriguez, my neighbor from the twelfth floor, the one who actually fought in the war. He died not long ago. Sure, OK, he was old, but still, no one expected it.
Sometimes I think about death. Ive even had dreams about it. One night, I was at my own funeral. Hardly anyone there. Just my mom, Mme Burlaud, Carla the Portuguese lady who cleans the elevators in our tower, Leonardo DiCaprio from Titanic, and my friend Sarah who moved to the suburb Trappes south of Paris, when I was twelve. My dad wasnt there. He had to look after his peasant woman, carrying his Momo-to-be, while I was, well, dead. Its disgusting. I bet you his sons going to be thick, even more stupid than Rachid the welder. I hope hell limp and have problems with his eyesight, and when he hits puberty hell suffer from the worst possible acne. He wont be able to get a hold of any Clearasil for his zits in their crappy, middle-of-nowhere village. Except maybe on the black market, if he knows how to work the system. Whichever way you look at it, hell turn out a loser for sure. In this family, stupidity is passed down from father to son. When hes sixteen, hell sell potatoes and turnips at the market. And on his way back home, on his black mule, hell tell himself: I am one glamorous guy.
Excerpted from Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, by Faïza Guène. (c) 2006. Reproduced wither permission of the Publisher, Harcourt Books. All rights reserved.
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