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Meriem became a prostitute because she lost her virginity. She told me this in a house that I was renting in a Moroccan seaside town. It was 2008 and I had just moved there from Fez because the words people used to describe the place were belle and tranquille. Europeans owned homes in the Old City, which they occupied in the summer, when the town was saturated in blue and the beach looked savage and grand. The rest of the year, you saw vacant homes and hungry people and heroin addicts.

Seated on my sofa, Meriem narrated her life story.1 I stopped her on occasion to be sure I wasn’t misunderstanding her Moroccan Arabic. “Your childhood boyfriend raped you?” I asked. I repeated the word she had used, which I assumed meant “rape.” She nodded while I looked it up in my dictionary, but rape wasn’t there.

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Sarah Dohrmann is a writer in Brooklyn.
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