Memories of a Christmas past

by Evans Yonson

Barcelona – As I walked alone the cold streets of my host city, memories of love caress my freshly-shaven face and my eyes shielding my inner soul from possible hurt that will come anytime. Waiting seems forever as seconds turn into minutes and minutes into a full hour in this winter of great anticipation. Suddenly the one silhouette of life appears from oblivion when I least expect it. People see worthlessness when they see nothing but what masks a creature. Call it cliché but there is indeed truth in beauty within. Most refuse to see it. Others merely acknowledge it but never really understand its truest essence.

What is wrong with us? Are they always right? Are we sometimes wrong? Or, we deny ourselves to experience the difference between right and wrong?

Acting on a spur of the moment and traveller-without-a-plan attitude, I decided to get away from it all. I went to Marrakech with the hopes of forgetting some inopportune episodes of my reality. I left Barcelona with a heavy heart and a determined spirit that all these will come to pass. I arrived in a rainy Moroccan city where Christmastime is foreign. First step towards achieving my goal. Instead of sulking myself in this hostel room for five where everyone speaks Spanish, I braved the rain the first two days. Walking endlessly like I never used to.

On the third, finally the sun showed another sign that I was on my way to putting everything behind. A new day for Christmas day as I would call it later that fateful Friday. I walked pass a garden where olives grow wild and the scent of fresh and blossoming red roses filled the air. On this beautiful garden, I met a Moroccan guy who would later become my friend. He spoke French the whole time. There was nothing wrong with that because the language of his actions and his eyes spoke more than his French. Ayoub, that’s his name, would later volunteer to show me the real Marrakech.

The real beauty of any city is always seen with a local. Ayoub brought me into the inner city where tourists dare not go. I smelled Moroccan housewives cooking chicken curry for their families. I saw children playing in the mud against the red colored walls of the Medina. I admired how old men gathered around a hall chatting the afternoon away. I heard the enchanting call to prayer from a nearby minaret. I felt a different breeze as we rode through the dirt roads of sand and gravel. I made little screams as Ayoub took sharp turns on blind corners of one-way traffic roads.

Christmas ended peacefully as Ayoub brought me to my place. One of the staff thought that I was not Filipino because my Spanish sounded like I am from somewhere else. What could have been a perfect day, ended with a reminder for the reason why I was in Marrakech in the first place. Much as I wanted to engage myself with the staff, I simply refused to talk to them for the rest of my stay.

I saw Ayoub again the next day and we just talked the whole time. It pained me to tell him goodbye on my last night. He couldn’t bring himself to see me off at the airport and so he gave me something that I will always remember him and Marrakech.

There is nothing wrong in meeting strangers in strange lands. I appreciated Ayoub’s effort and enthusiasm in showing me his city and affording me a true Moroccan hospitality. What is wrong sometimes is when your friends still see you as a stranger even in familiar places. I was wrong at the moment I first shook hands with Ayoub because at the back of my mind, prejudices were lurking and telling me so many things. I was wrong to treat friends with kindness when their minds tell them something else about me. I was right when I said yes to Ayoub because he immediately saw my confidence in him. Sometimes even when you look at your friends’ eyes directly, you see them but they simply refuse to see you. Perhaps my friends are wrong. Perhaps they are right. I just hope that they still see the real me and they will let me see the real them.

And as I turn my back towards my destiny, I will never look back to this winter night with pain and rejection but with the fondest memory of how the silhouette missed the chance of knowing this familiar face in a strange land.

Going with the flow comes in one simple direction. But going against it is a greater challenge. Rejection, hate, and despair are some of the surprises that await in this less-travelled road.