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91# The nightmare before Christmas

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

- You stayed until the end?

- Yeah, Anas drove me home, why?

- Ok. Walk me through what happened after I left. Don’t skip any detail… it’s important.

The city life had no visible horizon, no endless line, no soothing sunset. Being surrounded by concrete and pollution was asphyxiating. I looked for a way to escape the noise, a way to travel with my eyes. My friend Bob had recently bought a farm out of town and was working on the land. I offered to help, anything to escape the concrete jungle.

I hadn’t seen Bob in years! He welcomed me with a freshly pressed orange juice and his carefree signature smile. Bob is an engineer, a nomad who worked on oil platforms in remote corners of the globe. He was a world-class endurance swimmer and a walking encyclopedia, but never bothered to show it. He knew a lot and was more curious than talkative. I found his achievements and total detachment inspiring. He just didn’t care.

We needed extra hands for the boulders and around noon Anas joined us. Anas was my pious, artsy friend. He introduced me to Metallica when I was listening to the Backstreet boys. And to Terry Pratchett when I was reading Goosebumps. Anas was humble, shy and sophisticated. We finished work and chatted for hours. Those conversations were what I missed the most from being on the road. Anas was also single.

Bob was seeing Elza, a Latvian expat living in Marrakesh. He wanted to introduce us. In the afternoon, Elza and her friends joined us at the farm for a sunset beer. The girls were charming and hot. I was still sad about Alicjia but Anas was horny. Being far from their families, the girls wanted to celebrate Christmas with friends. Bob created a group chat and added us all in.

The ladies wanted to have snow for Christmas. They suggested a cabin in the Atlas Mountains. I was craving surfing. I argued for the beach but a sassy girl in the chat turned all my points down. She had an answer to everything, Raja was her name. A few days and a thousand messages later, we agreed on nothing. I gave up. Anas was disappointed. Bob didn’t care.

Elza had organized a last-minute diner party and invited me and Anas to her place, Bob asked me to bring wood. Anas picked me up and we arrived at Elza’s, grateful and excited. They introduced us to the group when a girl exclaimed: “Oh you’re the selfish surfer! Nice to meet you”. Everyone laughed. That was Raja.

The girls had cooked a royal feast! After diner, the married ones left the party. We were twelve to take our cups around the fireplace. In that loud, drunken and scattered vibe, Elza took it to heart to play a card game. I thought it was dumb but she was the host. The rules were long, complex, and only her knew them. People listened like high school students listen in a philosophy class.

Unable to catch everybody’s attention, she started pairing up people. The pairs got to know each other instead. Anas paired up with Raja and me with Bob. Drunk and childish, Bob and I mocked her attempts to establish order and play by the rules. An hour into the game Bob and I more clueless than at the beginning, it was hilarious. After one too many jokes, Elza snapped at us. She gave up and left to her room, sour. Anas cringed. I laughed. Bob didn’t care.

The party was dying along with the fire. Bob, too drunk, went to bed. Only five of us remained around the fireplace. The red wine and Raja’s charm overcame Anas’ shyness. They were touching and teasing each other as if we weren't there, almost making out. Someone shouted at them to go get a room. They exchanged a look, then Raja left.

I encouraged Anas to follow her and he did. It was almost 2 am and I wanted to go home. Half an hour later, I called him. He bargained an extra 10 minutes and came back to the living room, disappointed. Anas and I were the last ones to leave. Thank you Elza, it was a great party.

The next morning, I received a disturbing call. Something was off, Bob cared.


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