“Good. Good. However, I suppose you do realize this will incur additional expenses.”
“Additional expenses? How much?” Lahcen asked, his mood becoming morose and his voice flustered.
The muezzin pulled out a small notebook from one of his pockets, leafed through the pages, wetting the tip of his finger with his tongue as he turned the pages until he came to the desired one and said, “Good, here it is: seventy-four thousand, five hundred dirhams.”
“What?” Lahcen jumped to his feet and threw his arms wildly in the air, “Seventy four thousand, five hundred dirhams!”
“Yes, seventy-four thousand, five hundred dirhams,” the muezzin replied calmly; then his voice became strident, with an undertone of scorn, “Do you expect to marry a French lady with the price of a goat or an ass, as we do here in the country? A European woman, my good friend, is a gold mine, while a Moroccan woman is a bottomless pit. The first brings health and wealth to her husband; the other ruins his health, cuts holes in his pockets, and sells the roof beams of his house in the flea market during his absence. Wa la’ayadu billah (God protect us).”
With a nod of agreement and a nervous smile, Lahcen said, “Give me time. This is a colossal sum, but inshaallah, I’ll find you the money.”
“There is still one more thing…”
Lahcen fastened a hard gaze on the muezzin.
“You must divorce your wife,” he said in a tone bereft of emotion. “And do it as quickly as possible, at dark before dawn, before she falls pregnant and keeps you tethered to her by a string of whining babies and pesters you by a crowd of troublesome and tiresome children. No French girl accepts polygamy. Women in France aren’t like our women, you know. They detest co-wives and step kids.”
“If it’s only that, don’t you worry about it.” Lahcen was relieved that the muezzin didn’t mention more money. “My Dawya won’t get pregnant. We use contraceptive methods. We’re a modern couple, you know. She’ll get her divorce as fast as making a cup of coffee. I have connections,” he whispered, smiling conspiratorially.
Lahcen borrowed the required money from his mother and other relatives. He also had his picture taken in a studio because the muezzin’s friend in France had requested it to show it to the French girl he had intended for him. Lahcen tried to look his best in the picture. He wore a suit, with a bright orange silk handkerchief sticking out of his breast pocket, and a red fez on his head to conceal his slightly balding scalp. He purposely smiled in the picture to expose the gap between the incisors and his golden tooth. That gap alone, he was convinced, would make this French woman swoon and melt with love for him. She would neither eat nor drink, nor rest, nor sleep until she had entwined her long, graceful arms around his neck, lifted herself up onto her tiptoes to reach up and brush a soft kiss across his lips with all the longing and tender passion she possessed.
Almost an entire year elapsed without any sign of the muezzin. However, by the time Lahcen was fed up with being alone without a wife and seriously suspected that he had been hoodwinked, the muezzin appeared at his door, driving a dark brown Simca 1100. He got out of the car, and in slow steps walked up to Lahcen and greeted him with a hearty hug. After apologizing several times for his absence and explaining how busy he had been with the affairs of the world, he pulled a plastic folder out of his briefcase and announced, “All your papers are now in perfect order. You need to make a trip to the French Consulate to apply for your marriage visa. For this, a little more money is needed for your air-ticket, translation of documents, travel insurance, and other related expenses.”