This time I will not get lost. In my notebook I write: BLUE PLASTIC past 51, red walls, Meditel, broken down fountain, turn right, big street Charia El Alou, Pharmacia Cherqi. But of course I get lost the first turn I take in the maze of the medina. I am staying on Rue Sabat-el Isfi. Zakia pointed out the sign embedded in the wall when she led me to my lodging and I wrote that down too, but as far as I know, that was the only such sign on the entire street which may be long or may be short, may be bent or may be straight. Even if I knew how to use my phone I couldn’t ask her help. She doesn’t speak English or French, and I no Arabic.
I give up. I will have to walk and walk until I stumble upon that sign, or the BLUE PLASTIC past 51, whatever that means. I have time. It is hours before sunset. Where do I have to be? Nowhere.
Oh what luck. There it is, the little sign. But now I can’t figure out which door is the right one. I walk up and down the narrow street–it’s it’s not a street, it’s a narrow passageway with street cats, women in hijabs, the occasional reckless scooter–looking for a hint of familiarity. I inspect the front locks to see if there’s an affinity to my peculiar key. There are no numbers. Rue Sabat-el Isfi is not long. Periodically I emerge at one end or the other and the bookseller and the cactus seller wonder what my problem is. Finally, mid-street I ask a skinny old man in a nearby pocket-size grocery. “Connais Zakia?” Is that correct? Why can’t I learn decent French? He is baffled.
“Zakia. Connaissez-vous Zakia? Zakia?”
Comprehension sparks and he points to the door left of my shoulder. Now I remember. There were two doors side by side. Why didn’t I see it before? Mine is the left.
Home. Why did I ever leave? The question every traveler asks in certain moments.