The shirt and the pants weren’t particularly important. Had no sentimental value, nor were they terribly expensive. But they came to represent her overall carelessness with people’s things, least to say their emotions. She had promised to keep hold of them when Graham found he had no space left in his backpack to shove them in, the medium-sized Jansport being too overflowing with trinkets he had bought at various Marrakesh markets to bring back to his family members. It was both a foolish and genius move for Graham to only travel abroad with a backpack; no worries of checked bags lost or required to be waited upon. But also no space to store gifts for loved ones to signify that, no, you hadn’t forgotten about them on your journey of bigger and better things. He was very into his family. This had always irritated Sabrina, made her feel this strange form of jealousy—like she could only truly secure a place in his heart if they were related. This could very well be the main reason why she treated him so poorly, shrugged him off at the end of their trip together, which she had decided at the last minute to continue with, opting to go to Fez as had always been one of her dreams, in addition to going to Ibiza before she turned thirty (it was an island for twenties ilk—or those in their forties who couldn’t stop feeling the rhythm). But Ibiza was much farther away and more expensive at this point. Fez would be the more logical of the two dream fulfillments.
And though she was supposed to go back to Los Angeles with Graham, persist in living with him in their Los Feliz/Glendale bordering “efficiency” apartment, she simply could not.
“When are you coming back then?” Graham asked with a whiny tone as he watched her put on some eyeliner with the roteness of an assembly line.
“When I feel like it, I guess.”
“And you can’t even give me an estimated time frame?”
“I’ll be back when I’m back. I just need to be here for longer.”
“I’m not ready to re-ingratiate myself into the L.A. life. Driving, talking about tacos. I fucking can’t with it yet right now.”
“What about work?”
“What about it? I write for a fucking travel blog. They’ll encourage it. Maybe I can squeeze $500 out of a story about getting mugged in Fez or something.”
“Are you planning to get mugged?”
“I’ll make it up. The James Frey school of writing always makes more money.”
“Well, I hope it’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy of yours, this desire for an interesting plot point to write about.”
“Please, don’t say ‘self-fulfilling prophecy.’ You sound like my mother.”
“And would that be so bad?”
“Yeah, we don’t all want to be reminded of or feel close to our families all the time.”
He rolled his eyes, the glints of green in them standing out to her in the dim light of their private room hostel. For a moment, she did feel briefly hesitant to part from him, as though she knew somewhere within her that this would be the last time they saw one another. But she couldn’t get maudlin now. Fez was calling. And she had to make her train and lodging arrangements regardless of whether it was callous to be using a computer to do so during her and Graham’s last hour together.
He sat on the bed, his backpack next to him bursting at the gills. He looked at the pants and button-front shirt he had laid out on the bed for her to take along with her in her own far more spacious suitcase (he liked that she still used a suitcase, the kind you’d picture a businessman using in the 60s for short trips across the country). He got both items at the souk they had happened upon near the Kasbah neighborhood. There were a few jeweled flourishes on the white button-front that Sabrina balked at, saying there were already enough effeminate straight men ever since Marc Bolan solidified glam rock as commodifiable fashion.
“That was David Bowie,” Graham countered.
“No it wasn’t.”
He bought the shirt, admittedly, to spite her (this was added to as he sang “Rock the Casbah” while doing it). The pants with subtle ruched details at the knees were just icing on the ktefa. He wanted her to notice him in some way, that she hadn’t in quite some time, least of all on this trip that would presumably bond them closer together. Yet she seemed to recoil further from him during their nights spent in Marrakesh, as though this vacation was really her elegy to him as opposed to her promise of forever. And she had promised it, early on in their relationship, when she was still twenty-two and didn’t know any better—didn’t know that of course she would want more. Of course he would eventually become flaccid to her. It was just that, now, there was nothing she couldn’t or didn’t know about him. It had all gone stale, made more so by his bizarre desire to cling on to what they no longer had. Still, she was too much of a coward to guillotine his heart, already bleeding to begin with.
Graham, oblivious to all that was running through her mind, was naively convinced that she would do as she said and return to him. All he had to do was let her go in order to get her back.
The pants and the shirt were a promise. They were meant as insurance. The assurance that Sabrina cared enough to reunite again. What’s that old bullshit? If you love someone, set them free. Well, turns out, if you love someone and set them free, they’re going to conveniently forget how to navigate the path to return to you on their quest for self-actualization.
On the way out of the hostel, Sabrina forgot to grab the pants and shirt. Or was it a calculated move? An act of defiance against what Graham expected from her and what she could not grant. Not to him, not to anyone.