III. Concerning Time in Mogador
They say that according to the calculations of the most ancient African astronomers, the sun slows down when it passes over Mogador, lingering there more than any other place on the planet. That is why time is measured here at a leisurely pace and things in the world are perceived differently, with a certain throbbing intensity.
Because time in Mogador passes differently under the sun than in the shade, and with even greater distinction from day to night, very infantile elders and extremely wise babies may cross our paths, as well as meticulous lovers who in the blink of an eye can cover an entire body with deep caresses and kisses that last a lifetime.
Even the sand in the hourglass falls differently here, at times very quickly and at others more restrained. Each hourglass is believed to carry an internal wind that controls the shifting of its small dunes. And they say lovers with a penetratingly slow touch acquire and develop an inner wind that commands all their movements, setting, in particular, the cadence of their urgent caresses.
In Mogador, the heart is considered the most precise clock, or at least the most respected, not just for its consistency but for its ability to distinguish the profound nuances of each instant. It is a clock that falls in love, becomes frightened and aroused. Those skipped heartbeats become milestones of life shared by more than two and at times by all. The history of this city is measured by inflamed hearts. The rhythm of blood in the veins, what one poet called “the music of the body,” is a kind of national hymn for the Mogadorians. And making love with a very erratic heart is how it is best interpreted and sung, to such an extent that at official ceremonies foreigners are amazed to hear the most patriotic Mogadorians nearly moan their hymn with an enthusiasm more amorous than warlike.
Another clock that is very respected in Mogador is the sea with her moving insistence. The waves rise and fall against the walls, sowing in the city a stubborn sensation of the constant rhythm that touches everything. Here, the moisture on the skin, on clothing, in corners, books, and even the air are a clear measure of time. In Mogador time is liquid. They say it calms thirst and eases the penetrations of lovers. And so the gesture of anointing a lover is often accompanied by a fluid smile and the saying, “To love, give time.”
The waves and tides are pendulums of that expansive clock of the sea. In Mogador, lovers sense that their city expands within that immense saline clock, and desire incites them to caress bellies and backs like an undulating swell. And they enter each other like tides obeying the moon, embracing with enthusiasm the magnetic allure of the stars. To love, here, is to measure time.
“Let me touch your time with my hands,” is a common but rather desperate saying, used to request a much longed for intimacy. But if someone here brashly tells a lover, “give me time,” it is considered an obvious act of pornography. For some it is insulting, while others find it very exciting. Time in Mogador leaves no one immune.
Singing and dancing is yet another way to measure time in Mogador. The heart is a bass drum or, if you prefer, castanets hidden deep beneath the skin. It is a kind of ritual guitar: the gambri, with strings like arteries. Time dances in the veins of lovers and expands its volume when the uncontainable blood swells the sexual organs. And it beats and beats reinventing the rhythm of the clave (one, two, three, one-two). They dance to measure scattered time, to discover it in the body of others as in a broken mirror. And, if everything falls into place with a certain grace and finesse, the moment arrives when the time of one person is within the time of the other. And they say that a clock is within another clock when lovers are united and chime in unison to the beat of their hearts, as if dancing. But it is not advisable to coincide with absolute precision, absorbing the same fragment of time, for that is when time stops, like a heart stricken by a severe case of arrhythmia.
Every day in the squares of Mogador, the story is told of a pair of clandestine lovers who began making love in an excessively rushed manner, beneath an old staircase in the marketplace, under the shadow of an ephemeral wall of flour sacks. And when, with haste and reluctance to part, the couple finished their “quickie,” more than twenty-seven years had past. Their respective spouses had remarried and their children had moved away. Unbeknownst to the lovers and without them ever being exposed, the flour that shielded them had become loaves of bread. “The inevitable happened,” says the storyteller of the Square of the Snail, “and it is not the first time this has happened in Mogador: the excessive impatience of those who desire burns the surface of time, which as everyone knows is as smooth as silk, and lovers fall into one of the abysses of the calendar. The same kind of abyss of time that always leads us to believe, whenever we are making love, that only our love is eternal.”
They say, with rhythmic insistence, that time in Mogador is another entrance to the body: an open and deep sex, a long good night, an appealing mystery. An apparition.