Mister Wallow is dead, Thirteen is locked up, and Karim is doing time again. This is the news from Tangier.
"Wallow" means "nothing" in Moroccan Arabic. I was told by others that Mister Wallow once lived in Brighton where he'd been, allegedly, the chauffeur to a British government minister. According to rumour he was screwing both the minister and his wife, unbeknownst to one another.
I met him one day about five years ago when he walked up to me at the Cafe de Paris, asked me if I was English, asked me if I could write English, and wondered whether I would write out for him a letter he wished to send to an old friend who lived in "Brighton and Hove". I said I would. He wanted to know if I was familiar with that town. I said that I was, that it was a nice spot. Mister Wallow must have been about sixty years of age right then.
We arranged to meet the following day at the Cafe de Paris at a certain time, when he would bring a pen and paper. I showed up, I was planning to be there anyway, but Wallow never appeared. I didn't see
him then for another three weeks until he bumped into me on the street and bitterly denounced me for being "a fucking asshole" for not keeping to our appointment. After that he took a bizarre dislike to me and attacked me like a mad dog every time our paths crossed. I'd cross the road to avoid him.
I found out that Wallow's main source of income was acting as pimp for a small stable of late teens male prostitutes. It was in this interest that he was forever walking from one end of Boulevard to the other, sitting in front of the Cafe de Paris, or otherwise participating in Tangier's own daily Halloween Parade.
He was a stylish enough looking guy, a bit like Jean Genet at much the same age, muscular in a track suit. He walked with a certain jaunty air, cock of the walk like all the other Boulevardiers.
When I was sitting in front of the Cafe de Paris the other day one of Wallow's boys, now in his mid twenties, walked up to me.
"I thought you'd like to know that Abdul is dead." he said.
"Huh?" I said.
"Abdul, you know? My friend Mister Wallow. I thought you'd like to know."
"Ah, I'm sorry." I said. And I was, though I don't know why.
Perhaps it's just another piece of old Tangier slipping away.
Joe Ambrose has written 14 books, including Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. Joe is currently working on his next book, Look at Us Now - The Life and Death of Muammar Ghadaffi, which is an expanded version of a story first published in the anthology CUT UP! Visit Joe's website for all the latest info: JoeAmbrose.co.uk.