It was that enchanting afternoon in front of the Atlantic, a couple of kilometers up-beach from the village of Palmarin, somewhere along the Senegalese coast. I and a friend had just arrived there after a long, hot, and dusty day driving in an about-to-break-apart, curio car, first; and on top of a luggage load on top of a small bus, then; through the flat, arid, and dirty desolation of the yonder environs. Our stuff left in that Mauritanian tent we found for rent, it was the exact right time to have a refreshing swim in the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean.
Upon the very moment I stepped on land again, I saw that man approaching me on a vivid, hasty pace. He reminded me of a football player on the moment he gets a great chance to score a goal. He was in a football outfit, and the possible chance of a lifetime I was presenting to him made every muscle of his face to dilate in joy. He introduced himself as Dominique.
Throughout the conversation that thus started between us, I came to this following conclusion… I had already observed that the majority of the people you get to talk to in this part of the world have their thoughts directed towards two principal goals: one, to extract from you profit by any of the possible immediate means, varying from begging to fixing girls; and two, to realize their dream of migrating to Europe (which, alone, in their understanding, equals to living the life of an African football star). The great majority of them – out of experience, I guess – will have their efforts aiming more towards the first goal. Dominique, making the exception, he was rather focused on the second, higher goal. He was spending his days waiting patiently for the beautiful blond bride, the football talent hunter, or any sort of mentor/benefactor who would elevate his life forever to dimensions of greatness. Dominique was an idealist.
That introductory interaction of ours ended with the agreement to meet each other again in the same spot later that evening, and go to his home in the village, where he invited us for dinner. A couple of hours passed, and we headed down to the beach once again. Our friend, Dominique, we found out, he’d never left, but he’d been waiting for us there all the while. A broad smile manifesting deep satisfaction appeared on his face as he started to run towards our part upon the very instance he took notice of us coming. So, all the three of us, we started striding along the exotic, wide beach while the sun was slowly plunging behind the distant oceanic horizon.
By the time we’d finally made it to the little village of Palmarin, we found it forsaken to absolute darkness. There was no lamp illuminating the sandy roads and the shadowy figures of the few people walking through them. A faint light coming from a small tv led us through the outer yard into the inner yard of Dominique’s house. There was Dominique’s grandma sitting on a stool right in from of the light’s source, barely noticing our arrival at all. And that was the exact thing she kept doing throughout the entire time of our staying there: sitting on the stool, still as a statue, abstractedly watching the soap opera on the screen, without giving absolutely no attention to anything else happening around her. She gave me the impression that she’d lost faith in her grandson’s grand aspirations, and she’d rather prefer him to go out fishing or get any other sort of normal job, as some other of her grandchildren were probably already doing.
Besides the old lady, there also was a group of four little children waiting for us in the yard – Dominique’s siblings… cousins… siblings’ children …it’s never easy to say in an African family. They knew we were coming and they perfectly played the role they were instructed to play every time a candidate benefactor for their family was on a visit at home. They ran and gave us a hug, each one of them in its turn. And then, they all sat still and quiet on a bench by the wall, attending us curiously.
We moved into the interior of the house. It was quite a spacious and tidy room for the average of an African village. It was neatly and frugally furnished and the walls were plentifully decorated with paintings of the last supper, various saints, and other Christian artifacts, on which people often rely to sustain their hopes for this life and relieve their fears for the afterlife. We sat on the couch and enjoyed the delicious fish dinner Dominique arranged to be prepared for us in some neighboring house.
Having filled our stomachs up with food abundantly, we proceeded with filling our heads with merry mood, by means of alcohol, and we proceeded to the larger village of Djifer. It was a long night roaming around that bizarre, debauched village and interacting with its many drunkards. That night ended with Dominique joining us all the way to the beach in front of our lodging, the exact same spot where we had earlier met him. We bid each other good night and agreed to meet again there by sometime next morning.
By late next morning, coming down to the beach, the first thing we saw was Dominique trotting joyfully towards our part, upon the very instance we appeared within the reach of his sight. He let us know that he’d been waiting for us there ever since sunrise. From there on, for all the rest of our stay there, that exact coincidence was to be repeated many a time. Every single time we were heading down to the beach, we knew with absolute certainty that Dominique will be there, running towards us, as soon as we were passing the lodge’s gate. Every day, from sunrise to sunset, he’d always been there waiting for us patiently.
He’d obviously laid high hopes on us. I did not well surmise what sort of logic led him to keep regarding me and my friend as his potential benefactors… We’d already made it clear that we have no relation with the football industry and our ability to fix for him a contract in some European team was no greater than our ability to have him employed by NASA and sent to Mars. We’d also made it explicit that we do not operate any dating agency, and fixing for him a European wife is not as simple a task as he imagined, no matter how many local girls he was eager to give in exchange. The only thing we could do for him was to offer him some advice in this following matter: There was that Dutch guy with his French girlfriend staying at the same lodge. Dominique had already proposed him to exchange his girlfriend with him for four local girls from Palmarin, but in vain. One noon the couple was sitting on the beach. I suggested that four girls was a rather low offer. If he was offering ten instead, surely the French guy would reconsider the matter. Dominique pondered on it for some few seconds and walked towards the couple’s part to make his new offer… He was turned down again.
Dominique was not daunted, however. He kept insisting in his effort indefatigably. He came up with many creative ideas as for what a service he could provide us with, in case we were to take him with us to Europe. But none of them was enticing enough. So, that last noon of our staying there, we bid him goodbye and wished him the best. He sadly regarded us as we were walking away for some moments, and he sat down on the sand, staring at the ocean and waiting for his fortune.