A bustling crowd, persistent salesmen, faux Ray Bans, and a cart coming in hot—the medina is all too familiar now. All it takes is a bump from an elbow to push me into the path of the speeding wooden vehicle. “Sorry,” mutters the man, who is pushing a frail woman in a wheelchair. Although a fellow English speaker, he appears to care very little about what has just taken place. Metal and wood on skin isn’t the greatest feeling: especially when cleanliness isn’t the medina’s best quality. Thankfully a semi-deep scrape is my only “gift” from this unwanted encounter.
Now Natalie and I have two goals: escape the maze-like market and find a clean sink with soap. Locating a sign to direct our travels to the square is our mission. After walking for several minutes with no hope on the horizon, we come to a familiar crossing. Our reward is a sign shaped like an arrow with dull mustard-colored paint. All we have to do now is follow these signs. If only it was that easy: the height at which the signs are hung make them incredibly easy to miss. Tattered brown signs scattered along the way add another level of difficulty to navigation.
By now, five to ten minutes have passed since the first marker. I’m not sure if the two of us could be more lost at this point. None of the stores, streets, or restaurants are ringing a bell. As it turns out, we have made our way to the exact opposite side of where we needed to be. As the sun is preparing to leave the sky, we turn around with a sigh. Side streets now deserted; it’s a race against the clock. Another five minutes pass, bringing us to the crossing at last. Now to figure out where we went wrong. Making our way back, much slower this time, a different sign captures our eyes. Instead of the right previously taken, a left turn was necessary to arrive at the square. Seven minutes is all it takes to reach our destination now that our bearings are correct.
Finding the café is the new objective. Scanning the rooftops for a familiar terrace, we spot the green wraparound balcony belonging to the café visited by the group yesterday. Natalie, my minor flesh wound, and I push through monkey handlers, snake charmers, juice vendors, and spectators until the granite steps of the café are at our feet. I’m making my way upstairs, walking fast, arm throbbing, and I’m sink-bound. Fresh soap cleanses my gouge. A sense of relief washes over me as the water slowly dissipates down the drain. Sugarless mint tea quenches my dry throat as the sun falls below the brick skyline. Following the fall of the sun, the moon rises once again, setting the stage for the night to come.