With a cup of pasta for the road and a whole heap of hugs, i left Lisbon to head towards Seville in the south of Spain. Tom, a cheeky surfer from Byron Bay was catching the same bus as me but i was getting off earlier, he was taking it the whole 12 hours to Algericas where, if you find yourself sick of Europe, you can catch a ferry for an hour and you’re in Morrocco.
Tom has a smile like an American’s arse- wide and totally enveloping. The first four hours of our bus trip drifted down the highway as we traded stories and terrible jokes.
“I used to be into necrophilia, S&M and beastiality until i realized i was just flogging a dead horse.”
The neon blue lights of the bus soon wore us down though, and in the spirit of our new found friendship i offered Tom some sleeping pills so we could both wake up refreshed and ready to take on our respective cities.
“I’ve never had a sleeping pill,” he hesitated.
“They just put you to sleep,” i said, “i mean, i’ve heard some stories that if you try and force yourself to stay awake you can have a pretty weird time but..”
And that was it, two little pills later and we were floating sleepily into our dreams.
The bus slammed to a halt and Tom and I both jolted awake. Before we could resist we were being herded off the bus by a stocky bus driver who obviously had an inferiority complex and into a brightly lit service station.
Bewildered, i started grabbing assorted tube of toothpaste, bags of chips and novelty compilation CDs.
“Shit,” i thought as i saw Tom crash into a stand of chewing gum, reeling.
I grabbed him and somehow we stumbled back onto the bus. All of a sudden everything looked really weird.
“Bridget,” i looked across at Tom to see him staring at me, slack jawed, “your face looks really different. Who are you? Are you real?”
I was kinda pissed off that we’d been BFFs for about 5 hours now and Tom couldn’t even recognize me, but as i was preparing to call him a dickhead the shadows shifted and Tom’s face started to look not unlike a small sea otter. Who can abuse a sea otter right?
All of a sudden the bus ride got a whole lot more fun. The handles attached to the top of seats took on faces.
“This one is Anita and this one is Gracie,” i announced.
“No way, Anita? She prefers to be called Leaf.”
Hilarious for us, not so great for the rest of the bus. As we giggled our way down the South of Spain the prissy french couple in front of us gave us an introductory course in French swearing and the Spanish guy across from us took to throwing his inflatable neck pillow across the aisle. Jokes on him- i didn’t have a travel pillow before that. Hope he enjoys sleeping with an unsupported neck, sucker!
By the time we arrived in Seville i was in no state to be wandering the Spanish streets at 6am in search of a hostel. “I’ll just great breakfast, see the town,” sober Bridget had said a night earlier. I really hate sober Bridget. She’s far to optimistic and creative and is prone to making officious plans to see cultural icons and galleries and go on 8am walking tours.All of a sudden the 6 hours until hostels accept check in spanned before me like Tom’s cavernous grin. No problem, or as they say in Spain, danada.
“I’ll just come to Morrocco!” i announced happily and immediately collapsed on the bus stop floor.
Before we knew it we were sailing the sea on a high speed ferry Africa bound. Stumbling into the port we were laughing and beaming “we’re in Africa!This is so surreal!” I was in another continent! I was here after a split decision at the bus stop!It was awesome! Then a charming man with an AK-47 frog marched us away from the exit and tried to deport us.
You know how when you fly they tell you not to take off your seatbelt until the seatbelt sign is turned off? But as soon as you land, seat belt sign still buzzing hopefully, you hear 50 clicks as precisely every single passenger ignores that announcement?Well it turns out that’s kind of an Australian thing. Or maybe just a fuckwit thing. Either way, no one on a ferry from Europe to Africa ignores the bloody announcements. Except of course the two grinning idiot Australians. Oh, and a fat red headed American.
Back on to the boat we marched to a very unimpressed police officer?Coast guard? African body guard? I don’t even know, who stamped our passports but not until we admitted we were “very foolish and inconvenient passengers.”
Here we go again, the three of us now, marching off the boat just in time to see our bus into town speed away with all the smart, not inconvenient passengers safely tucked inside. I swear i saw the prissy french couple give us the finger.
Shit, now what were we going to do. A few smug officers told us the next bus was not for an hour. It was 50 degrees and i don’t know what the American was thinking coming to Morrocco, but red heads aren’t meant for that kind of sun. He would be burnt to a shrimp on a barbie by the time our ride arrived, nothing remain except a few locks of his ridiculous clown like afro.
I took matters into my own hands. “Cmon guys, there’s a highway there, let’s hitch hike”. Before the boys could complain i stuck out my thumb and a cop car came screeching to a halt. Uhoh. Deportation round 2? Not so. The cop was going to Tangier and the three of us and our huge backpacks piled in.
What followed was the strangest and funniest 24 hours of my life. Dropped in Tangier we were soon spotted for the sucker foriegners that we were and picked up by a “guide.” Apparently he’d lived in New Zealand and England but i had a feeling he’d never left Morrocco and had picked up his accent from a bit too much Gavin and Stacey.
Jesus was his name, and as it turned out, that wouldn’t be our last acquaintance with God’s right hand man. As Jesus numero uno dog legged us around town “Quick here’s a castle, oops you missed it, look eat this fruit!Watch out for the motorbike!Climb this wall, cmon closer now, not too close i can’t be seen with you it’s Ramadan the police will think i’m smoking and drinking with you” the American introduced himself as Chris and introduced us to his love of God.
Tom and i now refer to him as Jesus Chris-t, and i’m not sure how it all happened but somehow we managed to get bible bashed the hell out of. I got bible bashed so hard i think i have the words “Holy Bible” permanently imprinted on my face.
I can’t remember what set it off. Maybe it was me asking why he’s getting married when he’s only 20, maybe it was Tom asking what’s in his little bag (‘things that can’t be replace’, he said rather cryptically. I was thinking some sort of family heirloom or possibly Lindsay Lohan’s virginity. Turns out it was just a big fat bible) or maybe it was the sleeping pill story that set off the saviour switch in Chris’ mind, but what ensued was a two hour conversation (and i use this term very loosely because Tom and i literally did not make a sound except perhaps a few stifled giggles) of Chris’ love of God.
“I mean, i was prayin’ to God for a friend you know, someone to confide in and God came to me and said here are you options, and showed me a friend from church, and my cousin. And he said choose.And i said you know God – pause for effect- i choose you. I don’t want anyone but you.And now i really love God you know, i just love him. I am in love with him. And I told my girlfriend at the time, you know I can never love you as much as I love God. And you will never make me as happy as God makes me.” Tough gig for the poor girl. And she wasn’t even christian.
He then detailed how he and his fiancee met, how it took them like, i dunno, 4 years or something to get together because they kept going on relationship fasts. What they were fasting from i’m still not sure of. There were a lot of miracle dreams in there as well “and then Ellen had this dream that she was walking in the street and it was all gold you know, and God was there and he was like “what are you looking for?” and she said “my husband” and he said “he’s been here waiting for you all along,” and she looked down and she was wearing a wedding dress and I was in my tux’ just smiling at her and at God.”
Actually for a 20 yr old he’d seen a lot of miracles. Driving all night but not actually driving (apparently Jesus was driving for him), matching dreams, meeting his fiancee in his dreams before he met her in real life etc etc.
I think we were at about the point in the story where Chris had gone on relationship fast number 3 when Tom looked at his watch.
“Shit it’s been 2 hours! We were meant to meet 10 minutes ago.”
We’d promised Jesus numero uno we’d meet him at Jesus Chris-t’s hotel and he’d take us to the train station to get to Marrakesh.
Sprinting through town, dodging motorbikes and donkeys Chris is still going, “and i was hurtin real bad you know, *puff puff*, “cause i loved Ellen and i was finally with her, but i didn’t have a ring to give her. You know i was doing this missionary work for God, but i couldn’t provide for Ellen.”
“Oh my god!” Tom is yelling.
“Don’t use the Lord’s name in vain,” Chris is yelling back, his face as red as his hair by now.
We turn down the street of the hotel and up the hill i can see Jesus numero uno running towards us.
“Where tha fuck have ya been?” he’s yelling, slipping in and out of his fake cockney accent.
“Cmon we’re only ten minutes late!”
Jesus is ignoring me, hailing taxis like crazy.
“Get the bags!”
We sprint into Chris’s hotel and he’s bringing up the rear, still going on about Jesus.
“So then i met my Mumma, and she gave me this ring right, her mother’s engagement ring.But my brother had never seen the ring, cause she left it in a gym bag….”
On and on and on, he just didn’t give up. He was gonna save our souls if it was the last thing he did.
Behind Chris comes the hotel manager, “Three to a room!? Three in a room?! NO you only pay for one!” he’s yelling.
“We’re just getting our stuff,” i’m arguing, running down the hallway.
“You pay 3 people for 3 to a room!” he’s screaming after me.
“And so my Mumma’s a ring sz 6, but Ellen’s a sz 7,” the hotel manager is running too now.
We reach the door to Chris’s room and the hotel manager slams into us.
“You pay for 3 now!” he raises his arms.
“Just let us get our bags!”
“So i’m prayin’ for this ring to fit y’know”
“CHRIS!” i turn around and stare at him in disbelief.
“OPEN THE DOOR!”
Finally, he shuts up.Stunned, he puts the key in the lock and opens the door.
Tom and i crash in and grab our bags.
Chris is leaning in the doorway. For a second I think he’s gonna barricade us in there until we’ve heard the 4 hour story about the first time he and Ellen shared an ice cream.
Tom saves the day.
“Cool story man,” he says in a tone of amazing sincerity, “shame we gotta leave like this.”
Chris grabs both of our shoulders in his meaty, red fists. He’s looking deep into our eyes, pleading with us to open up to Jesus.I think we’re meant to be having some kind of break through moment but I’m still swinging my backpack around and the hotel manager is still screaming irate Arabic from the hallway. Arabic is an angry language at the best of times so being abused by this red faced little gremlin was one of the less enjoyable experiences of my life.
Chris is still holding me and he looks down at the two of us with a knowing smile.
“So i put the ring on Ellen….and it fits.”
A look of pure relief passes over his face and he sets himself down on the tiny bed, a blissful smile radiating up at us.
He’s at peace now. He’s finished his story and even if we don’t “find God”, he did the best he can. He can go home to Ellen and tell her about these poor helpless souls he met in Morrocco, so empty are their lives they had to turn to sleeping pills for some kind of joy. She’ll take his huge hands in her perfectly-fitting-ringed fingers and kiss them and tell him he’s a good man and you can’t save everyone, you gotta save a little
Tom and i leave him there, like that, totally content with a totally pissed off hotel manager and make our way out to the street. In the meantime Jesus Numero Uno has run out in traffic and directed approximately 8 taxis to our feet.
“CMON CMON YOU’RE LATE I WAS ON KIWI TIME CMON GOGOGO” he spits at us from beneath a toothless grin.
I’ll never understand that. Why the hell was he on New Zealand time? Fucking weirdo.
We’re bundled into a cab and sent to the train station where we have to wait approximately 2 hours to even buy a ticket (ramadan mean it’s breakfast time at 7.30pm and nothing’s open while they all gorge themselves like they haven’t eaten for 12 years when in reality it’s only been 12 hours since the last feast) During the wait Tom manages to befriend this guy and it’s difficult to tell because he only speaks a little English and keeps breaking out into aggressive Spanish rants, but i’m pretty sure he was trying to explain to us that he’s a drug dealer. He told us some bizarre story about why he was wearing an entirely brand new outfit (i had picked up that his shoes were a disturbingly bright shade of white and stupidly asked about it. I should have known after the epic tale of Chris and Elllen it was best to never,ever ask a question again.)There was a lot about “corrupt cops” and he kept trying to hide from what he thought were incognito police officers at the train station, but he was a lot less pushy than Jesus Chris-t so i was happy for his company.