I’ve Found Either Drugs or a Human Liver

Whatever it is, I shouldn’t be keeping it…

Time To Read: 8 mins | July 1, 2017

Do you get offered drugs constantly? I’m asking sincerely, because this is all very new for me.

Living in a tourist town overseas is a lot like those ‘90s DARE videos, the ones public schools used to scare teens into believing that weed caused instantaneous death, or worse, made you “a total loser.” In every country I’ve yet visited, random locals come up to you on the street and say things like, “Hey man, you wanna get high?” “I got the best fucking ganja, man!” Or my personal favorite, “My friend, my friend, tour bus? Water skis? [then, in a whisper] Cocaine?”


Where were all these offers when I was growing up, like the anti-drug campaigns promised?

I made it all the way through high school without being offered anything more dangerous than marijuana, and even that only twice. And both times I said no – not because I was worried that the substances would actually kill me, but because my mother, had she found out, most certainly would have.

Having just turned 30-years old, I have almost no interest. Especially while I’m traveling alone. I spend the vast majority of my time reading books and walking around, events that call for neither uppers nor downers.

But the street hustlers of the world don’t know how boring I am. I suspect my appearance has something to do with it: long hair, an unshaven face, and the perpetual aura of not knowing where the hell I am is probably the ideal recipe for a sale.

In Mexico, all the offers were for cocaine. That was surprising until I really thought through the situation: sketchy men haunting dark alleys in places like Playa del Carmen and Cabo San Lucas aren’t aiming for the chilled out weed crowd, they’re targeting the twenty-somethings who’ve been drinking all day and need a pick-me-up if they’re going to continue buying jagerbombs all night.

Colombia and southwards was marijuana. Again, surface-level surprising, but a conversation with a local cop revealed that the crackdown on cocaine in Pablo Escobar’s backyard has been so aggressive in recent years that most low-level dealers won’t risk it.

And so you don’t think I’m being biased against foreign countries, I was just in Los Angeles for a week and was utterly inundated with Adderall, which I’m now convinced is the classy & legal title for coke in 21st century America.

Then I came to Morocco, and Ramadan or not, the hustle doesn’t stop. Here they push a different product:

“Hey man, you want hashish?”

Short answer, no. Long answer, more no, and can you please send a group text to the other 1,391 young men in this town that I’m not interested either?

I’ve already ranted about how endearingly aggressive the markets got in Marrakech (actually I haven’t because I don’t like the way the piece reads at the moment, so that’s coming later). Essaouira, the ancient beach fortress I’m currently sitting in, is marginally calmer. That is to say, you can sometimes make it a full thirty feet without being waylaid by a man selling hand-woven baskets, knock-off candy and/or rubber snakes.


Walking the streets of a Moroccan medina (market) is a bit like what I imagine having children is like: wonderful and exciting, sure, but God dammit if you don’t just want some peace and quiet.

After spending an hour in the Essaouira’s streets, at one point fighting off a group of children peddling raw gutted fish, I found my happy place in the riad’s shower. Although this took some doing, too. The shower had no curtain and opened towards the room’s door, which was fitted with several decorative holes facing straight out into the hallway. Should one of the caretakers walk by and have a casual looksey, they’d get a soapy gringo strip show free of charge.

That situation was both weird and understandable. This riad, I’ve learned, has only just been renovated to host guests. The well-to-do owner recently upgraded to a nicer pad, and so now uses his 5-bedroom oceanside villa as a miniature hotel. But as this is a new endeavor, some of the features that suited a small family aren’t yet tailored to the needs of a dozen strangers living on top of one another. The shower peep holes are one of them.

Not to worry though. I jimmy rigged a hand towel to keep prying eyes off my Little Malcolm, then took an indulgently long shower. Spend all day in a five hundred degree sandblasted desert beach town with children clawing at you, and you’ll understand that I was in fact doing everyone with a nose a favor.

Now, per the aforementioned lack of a shower curtain, water went everywhere. And because this was an extended bathing experience, I virtually flooded the entire bathroom. I was standing in a swimming pool of perfect depth for the undersized cast of Ferngully.

This was odd. Mid-shower, as soon as I realized I was drenching the room, I’d spotted a drain outside shallow bathing terminal that should have kept the flooding to a minimum. Obviously it wasn’t working. So after drying off, applying deodorant and putting [REDACTED – TOP SECRET] in my hair, I started toeing the drain.


The grate slipped off easily, and the problem was apparent: a small baggie wedged in the pipe.

I removed the blockage and the water began flowing immediately. Then, still naked, I regarded my find. It looked to be brown, powdery, and completely shut.

After spending several hours being harassed by salesman, guess what my mind jumped to?

Thing is – and trust me, it wounds my pride to admit this – I’m not really even sure what hashish is. I’ve heard of it, I know it exists, and I’m pretty sure it’s a drug. But beyond that, I was totally clueless.

So like a 14-year old boy who’s about to go on his first movie date and Googles “where is the clitoris?,” I, a thirty year old man and still quite naked, had to search on my phone, “what is hashish?”

From what I (think I now) understand, hash is a derivative of marijuana. It’s made by pulling the cannabinoids from the actual plant/flower and condensing them into a solid or gelatinous substance that’s more potent than simply smoking weed. You’re extracting all the fun psychedelic bits out of the grass (‘hashish’ is literally derived from the Arabic word for ‘grass’) and creating a concentrated version of Colorado’s newest tourist draw.

But what would that be doing in my shower drain, you ask? Here’s my working hypothesis: this was a family home until very recently. Some teenager was probably the only one who ever used that bathroom’s shower, and was keeping mommy and daddy in the dark about his hash stash by hiding it in the plumbing.

That story checked out, until it didn’t.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the parable never stopped an overgrown child from investigating a potentially illegal substance. So I unwrapped the baggy, sniffed, and promptly threw up in my mouth.

Whatever’s in that bag smells like shit. Literal shit. There’s no other way to describe it. Go step in some dog’s mess and take a deep breath with your face an inch away from your shoe. That’s what assaulted my nose.

I admit I didn’t read the entire Wikipedia article about hashish, but I’m pretty sure that if the stuff smelled like this, no one on Earth would be too keen about buying it. Whatever was stuffed and sealed inside my shower, it wasn’t fun drugs.

On further inspection (of course there was further inspection, now with the bag resealed), it pulled apart like… well, like meat. Soggy, old meat. But then why is that hiding in a small bathroom in Essaouira?

I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation, and that explanation is probably murder. What happened to the rest of the poor guy/gal is a mystery, but as a precaution, I’ve not eaten at the nearest kebob stall since.

In the meantime, the parcel is hiding under my bed, and I shall be replacing it in its designated drain exactly two minutes before I check out.


photo: just a man casually fishing outside an ancient ocean fortress. essaouira, morocco

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.

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