Heather in Senegal

Monday, June 04, 2007

Boye is a tall muscular twenty-five year old man. He has a baby face and speaks slowly, making him seem like a gentle and simple kid in a mismatched body.
He approached me in town back in November, and after preliminary greetings, he told me he wanted to learn English. I gave him my standard answer, that if he came by my house we could start holding lessons. Many people ask to study English, but Boye surprised me; he is the only one who ever showed up in my compound.
We held class twice a week for a month. Between lessons he would write me text messages saying he missed me and sending me big kisses. He seemed bewildered when I repeatedly asked him to treat me like a teacher and not a girlfriend.
He was a good student. He studied his vocabulary well, and we were able to have simple conversations in English, filling in with Pulaar when he was ,missing a word. During a class about names for relatives, we discussed his father's wives and the dating system here. I told him I find the common method, of a boy telling a girl he just me that he loves her and wants her to be his girlfriend, a bit abrupt. He agreed, and told me he prefers a slower style. He related for me how after our first conversation, which I don't remember, he racked his brain for how to get to spend more time with me, and thus came up with the idea of asking for English lessons. I had had no idea the lessons' inspiration. After we filled a page of his notebook with vocabulary, I told him I'd be busy for a spell, but would call him when I had time again.
After a few weeks he started dropping by my house. He had little to say, and I did not want to encourage him, so after basic greetings we spent a lot of time quiet. He came over one time while I was gardening, and he helped me with the digging. He told me his mother gardens, and the next day we met and he took me to see his mother's vegetables. She and I spent the afternoon chatting. For the next few months Boye called me often, telling me his family greeted me and wished I would visit again. I tried once, but I got lost.
His calls and visits tapered off with time, so I was surprised to see him at my house last night. We did the usual routine of greeting and then staring off until he got up to leave. As is custom, I offered to walk him down the road. As soon as we got out of my compound and out of my family's earshot, he told me the purpose of his visit.
He had been thinking, and because he has no wife, I have no husband, and we have spent so much time talking, he figured we should get married. He spoke in such a calm and cheerful manner that had I not understood his words I would have thought he was commenting fondly on the nice weather. Even understanding his words I had to ask him to repeat himself just so I could be sure. The second time around he added that he loved me and wanted me. This is a step up from the proposal I received from a religious man who spoke English, in which his two main arguments in favor or a wedding were, "I am a diamond in the road and you should pick me up before someone else does," and "I've never fucked." For less serious proposals I say things about already having some husbands or about my marriage fee being very high, but I wanted to give a reply that left no room for debate, and said simply, "I don't want you." Boye proposed a few more times before my refrain sunk in, and finally he left.
When I told my family about Boye, instead of laughing at the absurdity of a man I barely know, and with whom I can't manage more than five minutes conversation, thinking we could be a happily married pair, they responded thoughtfully, "But he might really love you." I miss people from my culture.


Post a Comment

<< Home