As a child, I was similar to the majority of the world at least in that I knew of Casablanca almost exclusively through the film of the same name. Maybe even more so, for my father was a dedicated fan of the movie which he played repeatedly on video. I knew the screenplay almost by heart practically due to osmosis. Later in college, I had a very good friend, Samya, from Casablanca. From that time on, Casablanca would always be synonymous with her. It was only natural then that when traveling to Casablanca for the first time (in route to Marrakech from Madrid with the Comment Killer), I would think of her. Actually, I was also thinking of how excited my father would be that I was in the city where Rick had fled to because he had been “misinformed”. Thus, my plane from Madrid to Casablanca flew to the tune of “As Time Goes By“. Here is my very curious experience:
So, there I was in my seat while passengers were still boarding. A flight attendant was speaking first in Arabic, then in French, and finally in English. As I listened to her English, I suddenly recalled my friend, Samya, and wondered whether Samya’s accent would have been similar to that of the stewardess. I simultaneously ran through the database in my brain to conjure up an image of her. At that precise moment, I looked up . . . and there was Samya . . . twelve years since the last time I saw her. Even more of a coincidence, she was to be seated directly in front of me. The gentleman next to me kindly offered to change seats, and Samya and I got to spend the flight catching up. After twelve years, we ran through the basic facts of the courses our lives had taken, gossiped about the trajectory of some friends, and tried to remember the names of others. Of course, we couldn’t NOT talk about our Suzuki experience with El Granuja in Saint Martin during Spring Break.
As time went by, I kept thinking how much things in life changed and how others stayed the same. How we lost things with age and how we retained things over time. Ironically, Samya is also living in Madrid. She has married a Spaniard and they are expecting their first child in a few months.
After we had exchanged phone numbers and said goodbye, I couldn’t shake the incredible coincidence from my thoughts. So many memories and images from the past came crossing through my mind, and not necessarily of her. Names and faces from the past that I had almost completely forgotten came back to me — most of which I will probably not see again except by chance. Now, I keep questioning whether I will be in contact with Samya again in Madrid and meet her new family. Sometimes, you share the story of what has happened in your life over the past 12 years, then there is nothing left to tell, and no need to say more. I believe it was in Immortality that Kundera explained how meeting with someone from the past was only really significant in that it puts one’s own self into perspective. It is essentially a way to gauge and to measure one’s own growth (or decline).
When I was growing up and something really bothered me, my father used to always tell me not to get too hung up on it, these problems were merely “ripples in the water” . . . the same waters Rick had gone to Casablanca in search of. Now, as time goes by, I think that Casablanca is about the fundamental things in life: things that never change, and things that need not stay the same. And of course, the joy of seeing that your friends from the past have grown up and are doing just fine.