This is a story of a man so strange in manner and occupation, unlike the masses.
My father the spy.
As we watch the sun laze on the horizon, stretched out in ascending colour, the story of dodging compulsory military service. Dodging bullets.
My father the womanizer.
The man who, if he had been a sailor, would have had a girl in every port. As it is, he never left the one northern port, and never strayed too far in his travels. He was always home in time to bring back tall tales and hotel sewing kits.
This is the story of a man who will still use two glasses to cool my tea, blowing intermittently, at 6, 18 or 26.
The man who makes me freshly squeezed orange juice in the tiny dark kitchen, the electric machine singing arummm rum rum as each half moon is squashed to pulp.
We dance in front of the full length hallway mirror, him clicking his fingers and scatting an unidentifiable tune. Cackling into his reflection and asking opinions on hats as we try on garments and silly faces.
The man who answers the phone as a Frenchman, despite the simmering resentment that remains in the blood of all colonized peoples.
This is the story of a man who still visits his departed mother’s house for lunch every day. A man who doesn’t seem to realize he is in his sixties except for, perhaps, in his morning tea when he drops little white tablets quickly scurried out from their hiding place in an inside jacket pocket into the milky brew.
Huddled under the whitewashed low roof of a Berber cottage, I ask my father to tell me tales in the candlelight.
Pieces of my candlelight mythology.
This is the man who would tell us tales at bedtime of Helen of Troy, and take us in summer to the caves of Hercules, pointing to where his impressive strength, the same strength that strangled snakes in his crib, also left holes in the walls of the Mediterranean. My mother would read us classic English storybooks at bedtime, but my father would paint a world of adventure with his story telling, a world to which I would run off into in my dreams.
This is a man who takes strangers through hillsides freckled with olive trees or patch worked with hope of harvest. Hillsides that have taken ancient cobbled steps into their bosom and, as you wander up in the sunshine, an ancient Roman town appears. This is where my father the guide likes to take strangers, building the ruins back up into full buildings before their eyes. And this is where my father the joker presents his favourite trick, lowering unsuspecting women and men alike onto the phallus carved into the stone, an ancient street sign pointing to the local brothel.