Where the line narrows at the neck of the plane, instead of offering extended arms of right-of-way (as I have been accustomed), men briskly step in front of me with unknown, but unquestioned, authority on the order. Downcast eyes discard my presence so naturally that I am conflicted between feeling relief and insult. And although we are still in Europe, I recognize a thick foreign air, along with the cabin pressure, to have already filled the negative space between the seats. The confident finesse I have earned from six weeks of successful navigation around France, without any fight, cowardly flees. Not the adrenaline of ready action, but the equally excitable serum of surrender, floods my system, and like a faucet left long running, brings my soul to the surface of my skin, where it there beads the pore-purging sweat of suspension.
I close my eyes and ride this rush; a rush that France’s elegant capital and all its pretty castles combined, could in her fairest day not inspire. A flash of blond may catch the initial fancy, but too-easily-earned beauty paves the path to the brunette forest beyond the town of Known’s borders. With glass slippers, decorated dress, ornamented accessories, painted face, and bejeweled skin, I may have danced days away at France’s ball. Senegal, however, is hardly the ugly stepsister. No. No. Senegal is slipping out the side door at midnight, stripping eagerly of a costume that suddenly only constricts. Senegal is skinny dipping in the ocean, in the dark, where something slimy slides along your side and sends chills up your spine, and although you know not what it is, you love it, for it makes you feel raw, naked, exposed and alive.
If France’s French whispers softy, West Africa’s French sings. And to this tune I am eagerly greeted; “Se Va? Se va! Se va. Se va!” Three kisses, as opposed to two, emphasize the added touch and match my welcome in warmth to the air that greets my pores likewise by opening them with heavy sighs of my ever-enamored passion for the tropics. A handshake speaks a sign language I don’t yet know, but I play this game of knocking knuckles, bumping fists and thumb wars amidst the same round of giggles such games inspired from me as a kid. In a sea of dark faces, I am the only white. And I cling on to this fleeting awareness for I know that this rare isolation, and adjoining sensation, is at once precious and fading, by the minute, towards extinction.
During the car ride home, my receiving host and I share in animated conversation. It’s early morning and the night allows me the peace of keeping quiet the view that would otherwise command all my attention. Under my mosquito net, in my bed, I toss and turn through the night, tied up in the sheets of my anticipation. At some point I finally fall asleep, but when I, a few hours later awake, I find in my journal scribbled (as sketches of my dreams often do), the following leftover of excitement-inspired insomnia noted:
“Like a live wire; so deeply charged, my skin feels stretched and challenged by the task of containing me. Everything I touch, I find to already be reaching toward me, and I at once feel both the touch of It, and It’s touch of me back; the flower of my every experience greeting me by blooming. Now I understand the metaphor of Buddha’s step.”
In Senegal I have officially arrived. And although the chapter on my fairy tale has officially closed, on the rugged path into the dark and enchanted forest I now find, the messages sung from my six senses only multiplied. Stripped and faced not with fantasy, but raw reality, I dive into this dark sea, feel the mysterious thing that touches my side, sends chills up my spine, and makes me love it for making me feel raw, naked, exposed and alive.
Although I have seen hundreds of visions photo-worthy, taking out a camera is entirely, and almost always, inappropriate. Just a few new pictures, I have since uploaded…
And THIS GUY, was found in the shower of the house where I’m being hosted: