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Authors: Mois Benarroch

Gates to Tangier

BOOK: Gates to Tangier
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Gates to Tangier

Mois Benarroch

––––––––

Translated by Sara Maria Hasbun 

“Gates to Tangier”

Written By Mois Benarroch

Copyright © 2016 Mois Benarroch

All rights reserved

Distributed by Babelcube, Inc.

www.babelcube.com

Translated by Sara Maria Hasbun

Cover Design © 2016 Alan Green

“Babelcube Books” and “Babelcube” are trademarks of Babelcube Inc.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Gates to Tangier

Part One | THE JOURNEY HOME

You cannot count the miles until you feel them. | Townes Van Zandt

✺

Madrid

FORTU/MESSOD

ISAQUE

SILVIA

ALBERTO

✺

Victor Hugo

✺

Barajas | ALBERTO

✺

SILVIA

ISAQUE

ISRAEL

FORTU

✺

Málaga | ALBERTO

FORTU

SILVIA

✺

Algeciras

✺

Tétouan

✺

Chaouen

✺

PARIS

Second part | GOING HOME

FORTU

ISAQUE

SILVIA

ALBERTO

ISRAEL

✺

ZOHRA

Think of me, but do not grieve, do not suffer, do not try to change your journey nor your destiny.

Esther Bendahan,
La Vaca De Nadie [Nobody's Cow]

Part One
THE JOURNEY HOME
You cannot count the miles until you feel them.
Townes Van Zandt

“T
he son of a bitch!” she shouted, surprising herself with her own words.

An absolute silence fell in the office of lawyer Ilan Oz, at 7 Ben Yehuda, Jerusalem. The kind of silence that follows a terrorist attack. Everyone was seated around a large table and seemed to be in a state of shock, five adults trying to understand what was happening, what had befallen them.

“So that’s it. He has dropped a bomb on us.” continued Estrella, the mother. “After his death.”

“And if we don’t look for him? What happens if we don’t look for him?”

“According to the will, the money will remain in a locked account for five years. After this time, you can access it. The will just says that you should do everything in your power to find him.”

The youngest of the children, Israel, swirled his black yarmulke, which he wore from time to time.

“It’s just that—I don’t understand. He really wants us to look for his son?”

“That bastard,” said Messod, the oldest. “What does all this mean? He never told anyone about this?”

The mother looked at the lawyer. “He couldn’t have taken this secret to the grave?”

The lawyer became impatient.

“I don’t have any other information, this is what is written in the will. I can only speak to the legal parts, nothing more. I believe that at this point, the provisions are pretty clear. You ca
­
n try to nullify the will, but I don't think it will be that simple.

"We should do everything we can to find his son," said David.

"Who should? Everyone? Or is one of us enough? Do five people have to put their lives on hold to look for his son?"

"I'm not going, I'm definitely not going to
­
Morocco to look for my husband's bastard son. No way."

"Fine," said Silvia, "I don't think we're going to resolve this sitting around an office. I think we should go home and think, and if we have questions, we will call you, Mr. Oz. Thank you." She gestured to the others that they should leave.

"One more question," said Albert. "An important question. How much money are we talking about?"

"I have account numbers," said the lawyer. "But I don't know how much money they have. There is an account in Switzerland."

"There isn't much left," said our mother, "some six
­
hundred thousand dollars, a bit less, that's all that is left."

"That's all that is left of the legendary fort
­
une of the Benzimra family, less than one hundred thousand dollars each? That's all that is left of the fortune that could buy princes, ministers, and kings? Get any Jew out of jail?"

"That's how it is," said Israel. "The
Ashkenazim
got rich
­
here, and we got poor. A gen
­
eration more and we won't have anything left.

"That's already begun," said Albert. "It has already begun."

"Well, now is not the time. Thank you very much Mr. Oz. We will call you if we need you."

✺

"Where are you going, son?"

"I'm going alone."

"Do you see anyone?"

"I see you all, but you are very far away."

"And will you return?"

"I've already returned, I always return."

"Where do you return to?"

"The sea."

"Do you like it?"

"The waves don't leave holes."

"A rock is always waiting."

"I am the rock."

Madrid
FORTU/MESSOD

I
'm always waiting for something to happen, I'm always waiting for something. And when something happens, I hope for more. I have spent thirty years far away from Tétouan and haven't gone back. It is always there, eternally there, a there that never ends, a word from the past, a word from oblivion, a word from memory. Thirty years I fled from that journey.

Alberto told me that he was th
­
ere, that things were going well, that every mi
­
nute was a wonder. But others, many others, spo
­
ke of the trash, how dirty everything is, that the whole city is garbage, that it is full of
moro
s, as if the Moors had never lived there before. And maybe they weren't there, maybe they weren't part of our lives, despite the fact that they lived with us, by our side, always in tangential circles that did not penet
­
rate our lives, they were in parallel universes, bringing us our necessities,
Fátima
who did the housework, bought oranges and fish. And we were always the same for them, the ones that moved the economy, the ones that provided employment. They miss us, they as
­
k why we left, if we had felt bad, and I don't believe that's the case.

We didn't all feel badly, but some did, lik
­
e Mamá and our grandmother; the women felt unco
­
mfortable in the city, they spoke of Israel as something obl
­
igatory, always the women, the women are the ones that decided to go to Israel, the men, like myself, preferr
­
ed something more known, Madrid, Paris. Who was right? I don't know, but when I came to visit Israel in 1977, I felt like it was to
­
o late for me, too late to change my life and leave Madrid, leave the smell of squid, the chatting over
tapas
, it was too late, I told my father, I told my mother. He understood, she didn't. She wanted me at her side, he would have preferred to be elsewhere in Palma de Mallo
­
rca; where my cousin wanted him to go to run or buy a hotel, or in Canada.

"This is not for us," he told me a thousand times.

"I understand, but at the least it can be for the next gen
­
eration,"

"The nephews and nieces, yes, it could be better for them, but I see your brothers, and your sister, and none of them really feel at home, none are really doing very well, not even your brother Isaque, who was never very conventional. He's better in New York.” 

I don't believe we would have been better in Ne
­
w York, I think. I think that we would be better off in Madrid, or P
­
aris, or in Jerusalem, but New York – is that far? Not really. For someone bo
­
rn in Morocco, Jerusalem is much further. Don't you think so?

I said that last bit out loud, seated next to my dear sister Silvia.

"What?" she said. "What am I supposed to think?"

"I don't know, I can't stop thinking about it, I can't stop thinking about what this trip is for. What are we looking for, a brother? A brother we kno
­
w nothing about. Maybe we're looking for a dead man. Maybe he is already dead, people do die young, you know. Thirty years is a long time. And in M
­
orocco, with all the drugs, you know how many get killed.

"I can't stop thinking about it either."

I asked the flight attendant for a whiskey, a full bottle and glasses with ice. I offered some to everyone. J&B isn't our favorite whiskey but we all like whis
­
key, and it was a good excuse to try to reduce the tension.

1974. The family dispersed: some went to Jerus
­
alem, and I stayed in Madrid to finish my medical stud
­
ies. After the dream subsided, the distance between us widened, languages beg
­
an to change, his language, mine, the language of my brothers and sister. We spoke about things we didn't understand, that we couldn't understand, didn't want to understand, discrim
­
ination, racism, oppression....but my mother did not want to even hear about emigrating to another country, or anywhere outside of Jerusalem, although I proposed they move to Madrid many times.

"We are managing just fine here, money is not a problem," she said.

But a year passed and then another, and then it got to the point that the youngest brothers would have had more prob
­
lems adapting to Madrid than if they had come directly from Tétouan.

"They have new friends," said my mother, "and they speak Hebrew. That is what is important. That we speak Hebrew."

Maybe she was right about that, but they didn't have many friends, this I know. I always knew. Many of our friends are here in Madrid...I don't know why I keep thinking about all this. Maybe to escape myself, from the situation that I'm in, from the death of my father, from the strange will he left us. I'm lost in my thoughts, and I always end up thinking about this strange brother, my half-brother. What will I tell him when I see him? What? Maybe nothing. I'm the one who should talk, the older brother. I should start.

"Here you are, Yosef, you, son of my father. I didn't know my father had another son, but he remembered you and named you as his heir, here, you see? Sign and receiv
­
e one hundred thousand dollars, maybe a little more, and that's it, we're brothers, thank you very much, we're very ha
­
ppy to have met you but we're not going to se
­
e you ever again. You'll receive a check from our law
­
yer within a month or two, when we can arrange all the legal documents. That's it.

Maybe that's what will happen and maybe...what? I'll start to cry, I'll tell him that he is the substitute for Israel, the one born in the middle of the six-day war and dea
­
d in the Lebanese war. He was the only Israeli in the family, he loved the land and the language, the only one, and he died in Lebanon. And now you - you - Yosef, you are my brother, understand? My brother, but that's it.

That's how it all would go, or maybe not, maybe we would find his address and send him a letter. Letters are simpler, easier. Who am I? Forty-seven years old, what do I need a brother for now? I have a son. What do I need a brother for?

"This is what we are all wondering," said Silvia.

"So then...if we look for his address and send him a letter, he'll sen
­
d a letter from his lawyer if he agrees. If not, we've done everything the will has asked of us, right?

"You haven't considered that maybe Papá wanted us to meet. To see him. You didn't consider that?"

"I don't know what he wanted. Papá is dead and we can't ask him anything. Or...I thought maybe you had spoken to him and he told you something about all this. He was closer with you than with us, and with Ruth. Not with me, not as much with me. Did he talk about this with you?"

"No. Never. Never specifically, but there were a few things he said that maybe had to do with all this, or at least now that hold a differe
­
nt meaning. Maybe I'm imagining things. A year ago he told me that if he died before Mom, we should take care of her, and insisted that he didn't mean financially. Sometimes he would tell me that in Morocco he had left behind much more than money. He said strange things that now have taken on new me
­
aning."

The food came, Silvia asked if the food was kosher, and the flight attendant said that on this flight all meals were kosher. It was something to do on
­
the flight. Meals on planes are more of a pastime than a source of nourishment. They come to fill the long hours sitting with nothing to do. But food couldn´t keep my thoughts at bay while I tried my best to open the box of food without letting anything fall on my clothes or on my sister's clothes.

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