I stood in a dark crevice of the bazaar and listened to the call to prayer as it rolled in waves of silk and spice and through beetle-like lamps that hung from the ceiling and translated it like great, silver tongues into a language of echoing metal. I remembered hearing it for the first time in Fez, lounging on the terrace of the grand colonial remnant, the Palais Jamais, a scarlet-draped skeleton that whispered inside with cut crystal and mint tea. Outside, the sunset had rusted at the horizon as five or five hundred voices rose like ghosts from green tiled roofs and joined in a smooth rhythm, ancient and alien, piety and opulence joined seamlessly in the sky. It had been surreal. It had been the beginning of a journey which would lead me through mountains and souks and deserts and which would undoubtedly lead me out greatly changed and with eyes open.
But as I heard the call again in that market, the last time I can remember hearing it, it was not the army of ghosts come to carry me out of the dark. It was not spiritual or intangible. Piety and opulence did not meet and dance, but became dirt and burlap and jewels and spices and henna'd a veil across the sky. The song hung very real and earthly about the lamps. And I thought back over everything, and there had been no epiphany in any of it.
I remembered the desert. I will remember it for as long as it went on. I had sat for a long time on one tall dune. It had to be the tallest, or it wouldn't mean anything. I had sat and listened and heard nothing, and thought that was very important. I had sat there and hated my home, hated all the buildings and all the concrete and even my own room for their hollowness, and I had given myself the desert and told myself, my little soul that complained of emptiness that here was everything, that here was a place that could change me. I had wanted to become the desert so badly.
By the time the sun had set, I had been blessed by the winds with a caul of orange sand, but I was the same beneath it. I could not become that place. I could have sat out there until I was a mound of sand, until I was entombed in that tall dune. It could cover every inch of me, but I could never press the desert into my skin.