In the dry heat of the late afternoon the women all sit down together at the round table, situated off center from the fireplace pressed into the intricate masonry of the veranda wall. The air is heavy with the scent of saffron, drifting upwards from their pulled pigeon entrees - and I notice the corners of their lips tilt upwards into a polite, graceful smile.
There were five hundred below the ground, in the tunnels sifted into the earth beneath our feet that we often forget about. Out of sight and out of mind, and yet I always pull my chair away from the table every single day, sit down and eat my meal without a word, instead tugging at the fabric of my working clothes that have clad me for weeks, months even. With only a few hours of reprieve, my head only touches a pillow but for the moment that the entire hotel is quiet - silent, and yet the pressing urgency of business remains, a lingering thought in the back of my mind where none should have been in those early hours of morning.
Royal Mansour waits for nobody, and certainly not the ones that uses its hallways and can practically call it home. Even when the guests sleep, work remains - a mindless, time-consuming gesture that sweeps the floors of its dirt, keeps the beds and couches made and all the sheets washed, curtains hanging at their precise angle measures in order for the sun to come bleeding inside each room the right way. I watch sometimes, before the guests return from their afternoon adventures out of the Mansour, when the heart of the evening comes dripping inside of the libraries in the Prestige, and paints the exteriors of each book a brilliant tone of copper. It is never long, however, before my duty calls, and locking the door behind me, my heels touch the hallway carpet and I once again am reminded that it isn’t right to question, to appreciate something that was created for the ones who could afford.
In language, Arabic reminds me that sometimes servitude wasn’t always feeling less than the ones that look down upon us - instead we bow our heads, a faint smile tracing our features before it finally fades when we disappear from view, although we remain content with our lives. Despite the squalor of old-Morocco, I continue what I have always known, here, in the heart of wealth and money where I am nothing more than a piss boy. It was the fact that I was here, in cream-colored robes and a covered head, cleaning their chimneys, making their dining tables before they come back, making sure that their clothes are pressed and free of wrinkles day-in and day-out. I find myself in the hallways of a palace out of the imagination of a child, boasting a budget that could sweep even the mightiest of millionaires off their feet.
And yet here, they are captivated in the dollar signs every single imported tree represents, removed from the presence of the developing country over the walls the Monsour provides for safeguard. It is less for the ones that would try to get in, but more so for the ones that don’t wanted to feel the truth of Morocco, that want to observe in the comfort of silk the reality of such a place. The privilege of peering through the glass of a Bentley at the native women, teenagers, mothers, and grandmothers that wrap hijabs about their faces, shielding them from the harsh sunlight that tears the city streets open in large clouds of dust.
Because here the foreigner observes, and I see these foreigners every day of my working life - the ones that wonder why whenever they round a corner I duck into a door frame, and pray that their narrowing gazes don’t scour my face and wonder what has possessed me to be there, why the tanned young boy bows his head for the elder instead of taking advantage of the opportunities around him. Why the boy raised up from the ashes of nothing decides to partake here, in the presence of the high and righteous.
Most of them can not know my story, and why even after long days covered in soot and changing in the bathrooms below their suites, I replace my genuine smile with a tired comparison and finish my days thankful for what God has provided me. They can not understand that even when I stare down at the toes of my shoes as they walk by, I am thinking about the moment that I would be able to leave new-Morocco and make my way back to the roots of the country. It is where my mother, father, grandfather, and two brothers sit huddled together around an even smaller table in their mud hut home, thanking my job for the clean water that now runs through a pipe in their wall. And it is then that I walk through the doors, my head continuing to bow with a different type of respect for the woman that has raised me higher than the man that rides in the back of our Bentleys, that has taught me the comfort in Him and our words. My mother reaches upwards with her calloused and leatherback hands, her face split in two with a grin and she croaks out, “Aryn!” in her petite accent.
At the end of the day they pay me little mind, aside from the tanned young boy that visits their rooms in the heat of mid-afternoon, and watches their coppery books and folds their towels without creases. While the entire time I watch, I am aware of the world outside the sheer glass that separates money from culture, and I thank Him for the luxury of one that has become the prosperity of the many. At the Monsour I wonder how frustration didn’t seep into their bones; how despite having so much at their fingertips, they dip their pinkies into filtered water instead of diving into the ocean.