A Day Of Observation – Short Story By Oussama Benayad

If there is something that I have learned during the twenty-three years that I have been on this heavenly body, it is what could be be summed up in one sentence “corruption is like an epidemic, it proliferates quickly, and sweeps everything it passes by, and when you become aware of it, it’s either confusing, or too strong an opponent.”

When I say “Corruption” I mean all sorts of corruption; that which defiles one’s mind and prevents it from reasoning properly, and that because of which we’re still a third-world country, and even that because of which I, now, think that I have discovered something special. All these types of corruption are concerned. This lifelong precious lesson has taken me no more than a half-a-day succession of events to be deduced. Yet, I reckon it has changed the way I see this sneering world altogether, and forever.

Now, even as I want to relate what happened, I feel a trifle hesitant as it may not be very interesting, I may have overrated it by the great amount of thought I had given it. Anyhow, this took place four years ago at one evening. I had just come out of a two-hour course and my head was throbbing fiercely; all I wanted at that time was to go home and  lie down for as long as needed. But I had a problem of transportation as usual, what could be considered as an issue of supply and demand. There were dozens of people standing at the taxi rank, and by the way, those creatures did not know something called queuing; all they knew was rushing and pushing one another like a herd of buffalo that was chased by some predator, as soon as a Grand Taxi stopped by. This was what Morocco looked like, and that was why I always stood back  and watched those creatures pushing each other and quarreling over tenuous things, such as who had come first and who had the right to get in the taxi.

That evening, I stood there for a long time, until I started to feel angry and depressed at once, for time seemed to be stagnant, if not retrograding. In fact, many gypsy cabs had come and I had had a chance to get into one of them and go home, yet I had not dared doing so, and to be honest, not because of my integrity, but rather because of a girl from my department who was waiting there too; I thought that getting into one of those illegal cabs would make her despise me.

A few minutes later, which seemed like hours, a friend of mine appeared out of nowhere, wearing a ridiculous white medical overall. The whole atmosphere now started to resemble that of a dream.

“Oh Hi! I didn’t expect to see you today!” he said.

“Neither did I!”

“Man where you standing you’ll never get home!”

“I don’t like to start running and pushing people there as they doing now, look! that’s so dehumanising! Don’t you think?”

“Man, living in Morocco is dehuminising! Don’t you think?”

I smiled.

“Look bro, there’s three gypsy cabs! let’s go!”

“I don’t go in gyspy cabs, it’s against the rules, and a cultivated person shan’t do that!” I said, though it was not true. I had, indeed, gone in gypsy cabs many times, and the last time was just a week ago. But whenever I did so, it’s not me who chose to do so.

“Aight then, I’ll go. See you later!”

Then, he took off his white overall and headed towards one of the gypsy cabs, while turning around to peer at my side occasionally.

I noticed, later, that the girl from my department had also gotten into one of the gyspy cabs and was now looking at me through the steamed glass. For some reason of which I was totally ignorant, her  way of looking at me through the glass disturbed me more than anything else. I did not dare get into these cabs for the sake of keeping the intact image I supposed she had of me, but she did not even consider keeping hers intact in my eyes. What proved that was her bold way of looking at me while in the cab. The atmosphere, now, genuinely resembeled that of a dream. It was cold and horrible, and I started to feel weary of waiting.

I did not think that I would get home ever again, it was dark and the taxi rank was now almost empty, which gave me the impression of being in a deserted place where my life, as well as the very few people’s lives were threatened; but threatened by what? I did not know.

As I was contemplating the creases on a lady’s face which was enlightened by a close light pole, a gypsy cab stopped by and the driver came out and asked if our destination was Temara. That was where I wanted to go and, regarding the fact that I had been standing there for almost two hours now and it was late evening, I did not hesitate getting into the man’s car, and I did not feel a jot of guilt.

I was  the one to sit on the passenger seat, in total comfort, listening to Janis Joplin as I mostly did while on the way home. Then, the driver said:

“Put on your sea-belt son, I don’t want a policeman to notice me. They smell gypsy cabs, ask me about them, they smell us. Once he notices that the car has 4 people of different age, not talking to each other,  and another one in the passenger seat sitting silently, they stop you. It’s hell of a problem, and you’ll have to pay lots of money.”

Though it was night and I didn’t think any policeman would notice us, what the man had said compelled me to face what I had been trying to avert. He made me realise that I was truly violating my shallow principles. I felt awful.

Henceforth that moment, I kept looking at the sky and nothing else until I was home. I am not going to describe how the sky looked and how poetic the whole view was, for I have never seen a poetic scenery described from a gypsy cab. Anyhow, what happened next was what made the night even worse. When I was in the car, I brought out my wallet to pay the man, and placed it on the seat between my thighs; but when I got out of the car, I left my wallet there, which contained my Identity Card. I did not realise that I left the wallet in the man’s car until he was already gone. Now, the problem was that even if he wanted to give it back to me, the address on the Identity Card referred to a place where we no longer lived; at that time I had not yet changed it. I knew, thus, that I would need to go through some sort of a somnolent process in order to have a new Identity Card.

At home, my mother was reading the Quran as she usually did at that time of the evening, when I interrupted and said:

“I lost my identity card.”

“I’ve told you a thousand time not to interrupt me when I am reading the Quran, if you don’t respect it, I do!”


“How did you lose it?” she said, while chuckling.

Then, I had the same feeling as that when the girl from my department was waiting at the taxi rank, I felt a need to preserve a specific image of me, though now it was my own mother.

“I don’t know, I think it fell from me somewhere today, but I don’t know where.”

“You stupid, now you’ll have to go and report that to the police so as to avoid problems in case some criminal finds it and does something bad with it, God forbid!” She said thoughtfully.

“All right mum, I’ll go tomorrow morning.”

“What? Tomorrow? you should go now!”

“Aren’t they off work now?”

“No they aren’t, go!”

Without even drinking a cup a water, I went to the police station to report having lost my Identity Card and, on my way, my mother called.

“Hullo!” I said.

“Hullo stupid’ she said playfully ‘listen, don’t tell them that you have lost it, they’ll make you pay lots of a money for having lost it, listen to me, tell them it was stolen from you.”

“No!” I said “Isn’t it forbidden in Islam to lie?”

The reason why I said so was that a few days before, my mother discovered that I was an atheist. In fact, I told her so; but again, like the case of not being able to get into the gypsy cab because of that girl, it was not me who wanted to tell mother that I was an atheist, she pushed me to do so, by saying that I was gullible and, thus, deceived by people who made me stop praying and stuff of that sort.

“This is no lie” said mother “they are the ones lying to us and making us pay for things we have not asked for.”

“I am not going to lie, mother,” I said.

“Do whatever you like,’ She said.

Afterwards, I knew that what happened was playing for my own good. Mum, henceforth, would stop teasing me, as she would finally fathom that ethics had nothing to do with religion. Of course, I was rude and stupid, though intelligent enough to discover that religion is nothing but a way of steering the herd, but that situation made of me an inconsistent hypocrite. But I did not care about that at the moment.

As I arrived at the police station, it was closed, but there was a policeman to whom I said that I had lost my identity card.

“Oh, that’s fine, you should bring two pictures, a residential certificate, and seventy-five Dirhams,” He said

“Is that all? Won’t I have to pay for having lost it?”

“No you won’t, the new system doesn’t make you pay for that,”

“All right, cheers!”

I felt better after that conversation, not for being exempted from paying for the loss of the card, but for having told the truth. Yet, at the same time, I felt very inconsistent. I knew that what I had done was very odd, and nothing but a way to redeem myself of the many violations I had committed. I said that I didn’t use gypsy cabs yet used them the same day. Then, I blamed mother for lying and being corrupt while having done the same thing; because there was no dichotomy between lying to avoid paying, and using a car that was not duly licensed or permitted by the jurisdiction in which it operated, instead of waiting for a taxi cab, whose owner payed taxes to work legally. In both cases, mine and my mother’s, we were pushed to do what we did. I did not find any other means of transport, and I was persuaded by the familiar faces who used this means of transport. On the other hand, mother, as a humble citizen who read the Quran everyday, told me to lie because she was pushed to do so by a whole country whose people said ‘the government is corrupt’ without being able to elaborate on that.

Anyways, that night at home I kept teasing mother about having told me to lie, and I made sure that she now understood how ethics had nothing to do with religion, and how we were all corrupt at one or another moment of our lives; this made my mother feel helpless and guilty. But deep inside of me, I knew that my mother, this typical citizen who spent a great portion of her day reading a book written in the late seventh century or whatever, was very much more virtuous than I was. In fact, when compared to me,  she was an innocent angel.


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