We see beautiful people and recognize them. But what about beautiful tests?
We were winding our way back through the souk to our riad. A man kept telling us we were going the wrong direction. We insisted we didn’t need his help—not because we were confident in our way, but because we were confident he was sending us in the wrong one.
He wanted to take us to the Big Square. All the souk seems to think that, if someone hesitates to get one's bearings, the destination must be the Big Square. And if the Big Square is down and you're heading up, the corrective comes quickly.
Despite the series of no-thank-yous we offered, he was unusually persistent. He popped up several times, too. We would lose him for a bit, and then there he would be again, always going out of his way to get in front of us and say, “No, I don’t want your money.” At one point, he even got offended, “Oh my god, I only help. No money. No money. That way is closed. I only help.”
We never agreed to follow him. We did end up taking a turn or two behind him but only because he kept jumping ahead to make sure he was leading us to where he thought we needed to go.
When we were finally out of the souk and onto the street, we turned to head to our riad. He turned the other direction. As he had promised, it was over. I felt kind of bad for having thought we were in for it. Evidently, it was indeed done. He went his way. We went ours.
Only it wasn’t done. When he looked back and saw we weren’t following him, he started in. “Where are you going. Wrong way! Wrong way!”
“No thank you," I said. "We know where we are going.” We hadn’t changed our tune once.
He disappeared again. It was done.
But it wasn’t done.
We made it to our quiet little alleyway, the last little stretch to our riad, and he came barreling down after us. When he got close, his eyes were wild. He had all the signs of being high. “Give me a gift!”
“Give me a gift!!” he growled.
I told him we had not asked for his help. We had told him no.
“I show you where to go. Give me a gift!”
Wanting this to end, I grabbed the change from my pocket, which ended up being about 20 dirhams. This enraged him. “No!” He flailed his hands. “200! 200!”
I doubled down. “We told you no. We didn’t want your help. You have a gift, now leave us alone.”
He was fuming.
He jabbed my arm. It wasn’t like it hurt or anything, but there was no mistaking it. It was intentional.
I asked if he was Muslim. The man absolutely blew up. If he had been enraged before, he was beyond himself at this. “No I am not a Muslim!! NO I AM NOT A MUSLIM!!!” he screamed.
In my heart—looking back NOW—what if it had gone this way?
...If he had been enraged before, he was beyond himself at this. “No I am not a Muslim!! NO I AM NOT A MUSLIM!!!” he screamed.
I saw his pain and withered. He didn’t need my 200 dirhams. He needed something else. But since he didn’t want it, I just said, “Oh dear friend. I didn’t realize.”
Big, compassionate tears poured down my cheeks. I pulled my wallet out of my pocket, grabbed every bill in it, and said, “Here, take it. It’s all I have.”