The guy is just impossible. From his wheelchair and in the distance his words aimed very loudly at me : ‘Hey, girl, come over here !’ I did as I was told. ‘You are beautiful. I noticed you many times in the past but you never paid attention to me. Why ? Am I so ugly ? I wish I could marry you.’
To be honest, the guy is not ugly. He is just dirty. Actually the ladykiller on a wheelchair is very dirty. But he has such a power. He knows how to claim -very loudly- his share of life. Shortly after our first encounter, I had to go : ‘Gentleman, I must be going now. Next time, I’ll marry you. Yes, I will.’
No longer new, but still on the job, friends !
Some days later, I met him for the second time. The wheelchair was on the road again. I was on a shopping tour looking for a pair of shoes for my kid. It is not really a shopping tour since there are only a few shoe vendors on the market place. And the kid is not really my kid. Although his biological parents are still alive, the kid adopted me as he was 6 months old. Now he is 8. I take care of him. And he takes care of me. That’s what adopted people are supposed to do to each other.
‘Hey girl, what are you doing here ?’ A tall slim boy was pushing his wheelchair. Not an easy task to push wheelchairs on the sandy roads of Senegal. Sand is absolutely everywhere in the city. Even in your nostrils whenever the wind is blowing.
‘I am looking for a pair of shoes for this kid’. It was not his problem and he said very determined : ‘Hey I need to go home. Give me 500 CFA to get a taxi now.’
We live in the same area. ‘I am going home by taxi quite soon. I can give you a lift in ten minutes. The kid needs some shoes. The ones he is wearing right now are worn out’.
‘I can’t wait that long. I wanna go home NOW !’ Oooh this peremptory tone that I hate so much. ‘Listen, gentleman, you are on wheels. So if you are in a hurry, just leave now. Your Mercedes will take you home in no time’.
‘Ok, ok.’ And he told his pusher to push him quicklier to keep pace with me.
After having bought a pair of red and black summer shoes decorated with a sports car on the sole for 1000 CFA, it was great time to head home. He was sitting in the middle of the main road, all by himself, waiting for me. It was obviously my turn to push his wheelchair since I promised to take him home.
Have you already seen the main street of Mbour, the capital of the tourist region of Senegal ? And its secondary roads? They are all bumpy, sandy, stony, with large potholes (GE : Schlagloch ; FR : nid-de-poule. Interesting how different countries call the dangerous holes in the road surfaces). It was a difficult task to push his wheelchair on the awful roads. I did my best. ‘Slowly, slowly. Don’t push my wheelchair so bruskly. Otherwise you’ll break it into pieces. It is an old cart. It won’t last long, if you mistreat it the way you do it right now.’
We did a fine job together. As soon as the wheelchair landed in a hole or was stucked by a stone, his strong arms left the front part of the chair so I could it push again on the bumpy roads of Africa. His routine was a big challenge for me. The way to the taxi ‘garage’ (= park) was too difficult and too long for my taste. ‘Wait here. I go and get us a taxi.’ ‘No, we go together’. And again, I pushed his car. I was sweating like hell. It was noon under the African sun. But thinking that he had to endure these difficulties everyday gave me the energy to push again. The kid, patient and silent, was following me.
I hired a taxi for 500 CFA (approximately one US dollar). ‘Have a seat.’ He claimed the front seat. ‘Much better because of his wheelchair.’ What a storyteller since his wheelchair must be folded and stowed in the car trunk !
He took place in the back of the car. My little kid’s face shows how he reluctantly shared a taxi with a person who was much dirtier than himself.
‘Hey girl, give me a cigarette.’ ‘Sorry, gentleman, I don’t smoke.’ ‘I need some money to buy food for my kids’. He told me about his eight kids ! ‘You are a wheelchair driver. It is already hard to find food for yourself and you dare have EIGHT kids !’ Unbelievable !
Although I hired a taxi to take us home, my kid and I, we got off the taxi at the nearest crossroad to my place, and we went home on foot. The wheelchair and its impossible owner got safely home, comfortably seated in MY taxi.
Curiously, four days later, I made the acquaintance of a wheelchair maker from Germany who came to Africa to build all-terrain wheelchairs for handicapped. More about him soon.