Sidi Ahmed

Bring Sidi Ahmed, they said.

Sidi Ahmed was the Bonhomme, healer, dealer in dark or light magic, remover of djinn, exorcist, shaman. Shaman with the ability to rid a home of demons and pervasive curses.

Sidi Ahmed comes to the home. Doors close.

Time drags. Time stops.

Corners bend. Window sashes fly open.

Doors blow open, slam shut.

Winds come. Winds go.

The home fills with a sweet heavy smoke, thicker than the smoke of a pyromaniac’s craziest dream.

Sidi Ahmed scolds and cajoles the air:
Yallah, Zeit! Zeit al Djinnoun!

A choir of men in collusion lined up against the wall murmur and hum: Aiwa! Allahu Akhbar! and Al Rahman Al Rahim! Amin!

as if to say…Amin
as if to say…Amen
as if to say… Go ahead again , Sidi Ahmed, just go on and on and on

Finally, it is time for Sidi Ahmed to leave
Sidi Ahmed says in Darija what they said to me must mean:
Protect me from the evil thought that I should be paid for God’s work.

The mother of the epileptic pushes plates of cookies made with orange flower water at Sidi Ahmed. Sidi Ahmed refuses to take them.

The next day Bachir leaves two chickens outside of Sidi Ahmed’s shack, which is just outside of nowhere anyone knows.

Sidi Ahmed’s wife leaves the fire on the ground and the ouiza in the teapot and the bread on the stone and takes the chickens, blessing Bachir. And then blessing Bachir some more.

It was near the village of Immouzzer or Ain Sebou or just near the Sephardic region of Sefrou. Sidi Ahmed lived far from nowhere, nowhere anyone knew. Only Bachir knew.

Bachir was known as a trustworthy man, and so everyone knew Bachir.

My husband was not Bachir.

My husband was a well-dressed man. My husband tamed his African curls with hair gel, and made them lie straight.

My husband put me in the back seat to drive Sidi Ahmed home. My husband ran over a dog. He killed the dog with one thump and yelp.

He did not pause, or brake, or swerve. He just drove over, and then on.

So let the American ask the wise man one question!

my husband mocked me. Usually women were not allowed to speak to shamans.

We rattled and bumped, careened and swerved down from Ain Sebou or Immouzzer or just Sefrou. I found my voice on the car floor. It had been resting there, I suppose.

I asked Sidi Ahmed why my husband had held a pigeon by its wings, when I had seen Bachir let a pigeon rest on his palm that very same day.

Sidi Ahmed said, “But this is a stupid question!”

Sidi Ahmed threw up one hand, flicked an olive pit out the car window. “Who knows? Maybe that bird just did not like him?”

Sidi Ahmed turned to look at what woman would ask such a question. Sidi Ahmed locked eyes with me. Sidi Ahmed paused. I saw recognition, respect, pity. And then flickering as fast as it had happened, Sidi Ahmed turned away. Sidi Ahmed turned around in his car seat again.

My husband laughed at the stupid woman’s question.

The year I left my husband, Sidi Ahmed died in his sleep.

It was the same year I opened the talisman Sidi Ahmed had scribbled for me on paper that day in Ain Sebou. He had handed the paper to me when no man was watching.

It was not in any script from any alphabet I had seen.

I cried until my lungs caught fire. I cried until my shoulderblades ached and snapped.

Laura Hartmark is a writer who remembers the day smoke blew all the windows open near Immouzer or Ain Sebou – or maybe it was somewhere in the region of Sefrou.

~ by lhdwriter on May 6, 2013.

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