My dad, Captain Enrique Perez, affectionately known as Cap, was a proud Tuskegee Airman who fought with the elite fleet of black pilots during World War II. According to his journals and accounts from his friend and fellow Airmen, Christopher Franklin, Cap met and had a brief affair with my mother while stationed in Morocco. My mother, Giselle Benet, was a belly dancer at her family's restaurant in Casablanca where Cap, Chris Franklin, and the rest of the squadron had been invited to have a private dinner.
"Please follow me to your seats," he said as he ushered the men into the dimly lit dining area.
"Negroes can't get treatment like this in the states," Cap said loudly as the men were led to their seats by the host who motioned for them to sit on the pillows that were placed around the low-positioned table.
"We got to sit on the floor?" exclaimed Cap giggling with laughter.
"Yes, sir," the host replied.
"Cap, have you already had a little something to drink?" Chris asked with a snicker.
"Of course," he replied without missing a beat. The men held their bellies and laughed.
A waiter appeared out of nowhere it seemed with a copper-colored kettle in his hand.
"What's in the bottle," Cap inquired? "A genie?"
The men laughed hysterically. and the waiter smiled.
"Yes," he replied. "A genie. Close your eyes and hold out both hands in which to receive your wish."
"You better do as he says, Cap." Chris remarked. Or e1se this magic carpet just might up and flyaway with your black behind on it."
Cap chuckled and held out his hands and closed his eyes as the waiter instructed. Suddenly, he yelped as the sting of hot water poured over his cupped palms.
"1 hope your wish comes true, sir," said the waiter as a young boy came out with a towel to dry them off.
"What did you wish for," asked Chris?
"A woman," Cap replied with a sly grin, and the men slapped their knees and roared with laughter. The waiter proceeded around the table and poured water on the hands of the rest of the men while explaining the menu.
"Lamb is the meat of choice in Morocco," he said.
"That's a far cry from chitlins," said Chris with a smile.
"You mean shitlins," said Cap with his nose turned up.
"I don't see how y'all eat that mess down South," he continued.
"No more wine for him," said Chris as the men laughed and enjoyed the ambiance.
The waiter returned and placed a hunk of bread, a rack of lamb, and a bowl of couscous on the table.
"What's this?" asked Cap referring to the couscous.
"It is couscous, Sir," replied the waiter. "A staple of the Moroccan diet."
"Looks like grits to me," Cap quipped. "I ain't seen grits like these since leaving Tuskegee." he continued.
"Where are the utensils?" asked one of the men.
"The meal is to be eaten with your hands," replied the waiter as he turned and disappeared into the darkness.
"Let's dig in men," said Cap, and the men ate. After the meal was done, the waiter came back out and poured water on the men's hands again. The young boy walked behind him with a huge black towel to dry them. The waiter then brought out another bottle of red wine which Cap happily opened.
"Next, we have entertainment for you," said a stout man with a pot belly. "Performing for your pleasure-the mysterious Giselle."
The drummer beat on his drums, and the men clapped their hands in anticipation. A woman, with an olive complexion and long brown hair cascading down to the small of her back, emerged from the burgundy curtains in the darkened room. Her supple belly hung over the waist of her dark green gypsy skirt. She balanced a small candle on her head and one in each hand and ferociously shook her