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City of Banjul
Monday, September 28, 2020

Bachelors by choice

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At 35, Nafa has an athletic built but had had no athletic bent until recently when he learnt that regular physical exercise improves one’s thinking faculty. Exercising at the beach has since become his pastime. Over time, the physical shape of his body has enhanced. He has a proudly protruding chest, welled-up arms and energy and strength he never thought he had. 

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On this particular Friday morning, like in the three days of the week that he goes to the beach, he completed a complicated set of routine physical activities. The exercises – running, squatting and press-upping – kept him grunting, exerting pressure on his muscles to keep them fit. Now he was pacing about, basking in the breathtaking breeze, waiting to take a deep dip in the warm water before going home, then to work. He stared across, got awed, once again, by God’s artistic work of putting up the planet earth with the land, sea and sky thrown onto their respective places. He looked into the horizon, the sky seemed to fit together with the sea.

Right under his feet, the sea was vomiting dead plants and animals from its bottomless belly. He held one of the plants in his hands; the tissues are stronger than the ones over land. Two metres away from him lay a dead fish with open wounds on its body, above the gill cover. He wondered what sort of genocidal warfare was underway in the waters. He thought to himself that survival of the fittest has ever been part of the condition of life on planet earth. But, if not for greed-driven human beings, who rape the sea and inconsiderately rake away its finite resources, and others who dump waste, polluting the water and poisoning the living beings, perhaps the scale of the tragic unrest in the sea would be minimal. 

Twelve hours later, he joined his friends Ba Jiki and Foday at their regular, Domorr Deema Restaurant. He was gay. The day passed on well for him at work, as the bright morning had promised. He’d been eager to see his friends, to catch up on last time. There was a lot to talk about; as usual, sports, women and money were on the menu for discussion, and so was pizza, Malta, shawarma to dine. As soon as he settled, he started bellowing, displaying almost in practical details how Real Madrid’s Pepe messed up mesmerising Messi of Barcelona. The El Clasico – a clash of the titans of football in Spain – had ended a night before in a Madrid victory. 

Foday, a Barca fan, was still embittered. He was in no mood for his friend’s provocation. He tried to mask his tension as he sipped his Malta. Nafa isn’t particularly a Real Madrid fan. He supports Man United but hates to see a Barca win. The seed of his hatred was planted three years ago, when Barca typically outclassed and outperformed his team. Real had done a similar damage a year later, but he was at least contended that the English match commentator invariably referred to CR 7 as ‘a former Man U player’. 

Ba Jiki has been an apathetic audience as the two of his friends argued. It pained him that his two friends lavished their time, energy and money on watching football and footballers who get an abominable pay. But he respected their taste. He knew they are nice enough guys and today, he wasn’t missing out anything. He has a more pleasant distraction. He glanced at Nafa and Ba Jiki, they were still standpating. He pursed his lower lip, his heart beating faster. What a femme fatale! Other days, other women, he would comment that it’s a food for his eye. That he has freedom to look wherever he wants, whoever he wants, and whenever he wants. But this cannot just be another woman, so he wasn’t letting a word out about his kidnapped attention. Therefore, he chose to play his cards close to his chest. 

The girl, in her mid-twenties, entered Domor Deema. She was with another girl, apparently, a friend.With even her exaggerated modesty unable to mask her dangerous beauty, she was well oiled and every department of her body was exactly what every insane man would want his woman’s to be. God the baker has baked her with perfection and no jealous angel was there to sabotage His artistic work. Her friend was good looking too but any attempt to suggest alikeness would be a comparison beyond the pale.

“Hey,” Nafa said as soon as he saw her. He is the more pragmatic of the two. He waived. Ba Jiki was disappointed. 

“Hey,” the girl’s friend waived back. She noticed to her little embarrassment that that was not for her. However, not wanting to be seen so, she gathered her broken emotional pieces together, put up a smile and nodded to her friend. There was a sea of eyes fixed on her and it was not just from the trio’s table. The girl adjusted herself on the seat, feeling quite uncomfortable. She managed a smile.  

“I’ve seen her before,” Ba Jiki boasted to his friends. He has quite a nose for romantic information. 

“What!” Nafa asked rather curiously.

“In fact, I’ve heard a lot about her,” Ba Jiki added. He adjusted his glasses, taking a closer look. Her name is Tanatala, he pronounced.  

Nafa and Ba Jiki have been friends since their teen years at school. With sharp eyes for beautiful women, the two fought over a girl while at school. They’ve since reconciled, refusing what they have in common to divide them. Nafa is handsome and elegant enough to sweep the girls of their feet. But he doesn’t know how to control his handsomeness and never hesitates to abuse it. Now at 35, he has several girls. Only god knows the number of hearts I broke, he often says. His type of woman is the slender one. The last woman, who was close to being his fiancée, was a lawyer he shared the same class with. He was ready to be faithful when he discovered that her girl was cheating on her with a judge of the high court. This broke his heart, strengthening his belief that women are not to be trusted. He became a philanderer with ‘lovecidal’ tendencies. 

From the day he discovered he was a man, Ba Jiki had been an unfaithful love partner. He has at any point at least three women in his life. He was open about his infidelity. From a village in Sarre Soukum, he became disinterested in school. Thanks to his uncle’s insistence, he learnt motor mechanics at the age of 19. Because of his conventional education, he had a comparative advantage in terms of adapting to new techniques. He excelled at his garage. Money was not his problem. “Dirty millionaire,” Nafa calls him. He was proud of what he does and girls have a choice to accept or reject him.

Foday had been a sharp contrast from the two. A bit of a Mama’s boy when he was growing up, he simply could not find the courage to tell a woman the three-word sentence: ‘I love you’. He attended Quranic schools before joining a western-styled school and graduated as an accountant. He’s quite loveable. At first glance, his easy-going style is attractive to women. Yet, he lacked confidence and is often amazed by the audacity of his friends as they rap to girls, telling them how much they made them sleepless when he know they were lying because they do sleep. He woke up from his slumber and trigger was unpleasant. His sister insisted that he marry Kumba. The girl was interested too, but the prospect hit a wall. Unlike the Kumba who has a royal blood running in her veins, he was from a low caste and Kumba’s parents were behaving as if the 21st century did not happen to them yet. Now, Foday is on an undisclosed campaign to prove his self-worth by dating the prettiest and most regal ladies in town. 

Sitting at Domorr Deema that evening, like they often do, these bachelors by choice have all the means to carry a wife. Yet none has the courage to do so. Now, looking at the dangerous beauty that was Tanatala, they were unsure who to attack first. None wants to rush and miss but none wants to be left behind either. Nafa seems to have retracted his overture a bit, calculating his next moves. He always finds a way around. “Hello!” his phone was on his ear. He got up and started pacing. “Yea yea, my man, how have you been?” He looked over the shoulders, but Tanatala wasn’t looking. Nafa became even more dramatic. ”I am at Domor Deema winding down with my friends. But I am leaving here in about an hour’s time because I had an AP with the minister.”

Tanatala looked up and Nafa noticed it. The whole time he had been glancing from the corner. 

“Okay, catch you later,” he said and hurriedly dropped the call. He walked back to his seat in style. If it means lie, he’ll spit a big one in order to have them. He wasn’t particularly interested in wealth but he likes to give impression to women that he has a financial muscle and often times comes with an unexpected angle. One day, his tricks backfired. He was chatting to a girl when a Lexus emerged from a distance. Nafa brilliantly ran and hid behind the fence. When the girl enquired why, he dusted off and told her it was his uncle. Unbeknownst to him, the man in the car was the girl’s uncle. When the girl enquired the name of the man in the car, he fumbled a name Sanna. The girl corrected her. “I thought it was my Uncle, he has a similar car. May be I should have looked at the number plate before running.” He knows the girl knew he was lying. 

By the time Nafa returned to his seat, Ba Jiki who has an eye for soft spots joined Tanatala and friend’s table. In no time, he was deep in conservation with the friend. Nyeema, she told him was her name. It appeared that they had many things in common. Ba Jiki once lived where Nyeema lives and he named a few people that she knows just by name. They even attended the same school, Ba Jiki was two years her senior. Nafa joined the table later and Foday, who worried about being left alone suddenly left when he read an SMS that popped up on his phone. 

Ba Jiki was surprised when he saw Nyeema two weeks later. They’ve been in touch since the last time they met. She happened by his auto mechanic garage. He was amazed when she hugged and kissed him. She didn’t care that he was in his robe. He had many girls, but none of them went that far. Most of them would like to see him when he changes his outfit. Nyeema is different. She sat on a worn out car tire, looking with interest as Ba Jiki worked on the car. Just a smile and his fears were gone. A moment later, they retired home, in his house. Nyeema moved her head toward him, clipped his lower lips, draw him closer and took his breath away. The room seemed smaller; every leap takes them hitting a wall. She was in love and Ba Jiki had no doubt about it. But he’s afraid of making any commitment. The next morning, he would go to work, jack the cars and think about the night before. That was her day, tomorrow’s someone else’s. 

Nafa collapsed into tears when he telephoned Foday. “Tanatala is dead” was all he could say, in between sobs. The line dropped dead. None of them had seen that coming. Tanatala turned up at his work place the same day Nyeema visited Ba Jiki and both Nafa and Ba Jiki updated Foday about the new development. He was happy for them, but as usual, advised them to be careful and if anything, treat the girls fairly. When Tanatala showed up, it was a few hours before close of work. Nafa took an early day. He retreated with her to the beach and told her how he comes down there to exercise and think about her. Tanatala had told him her story about dating men more than her age. Not all of them had seen her underpants, she said. She trusted one, a banker, who betrayed her trust, after his friends told him that she was too beautiful to be faithful. It’s familiar. Her fellow women flee for fear of domination but men flock only to flee after a fling. She had had many stories that beautiful ones like her are jinns, witches or unfaithful. She has since lost hope in love, in men, and in herself.  

The day she left Nafa’s house, she swore never to go back there again. Nafa was unhappy with her and cursed her for restricting his right to freedom of movement of his hands over her body. He was just one of them, who want to make her feel loved and left alone. Now that Tanatala is dead, Nafa could not control his tears. He regretted the way he reacted when she refused him entry into Jerusalem. No woman has ever done that to him, in his slaughter room. Yet, his intention was to apologise and make up with Tanatala. He promised himself that once he was able to reduce the volume of work in his hand, he would telephone her and propose having lunch together that afternoon. Then, news of her death came. When the caller  informed him that God has taken Tanatala’s life, he wanted to ask what type of god would take away from his loyal servant a woman like Tanatala, but the words betrayed him. He thought that perhaps Foday was right. Tanatala was neither a jinn nor a witch. She is sent on earth as a blessing for mankind; that whoever sees her would feel happy. But, jealously has blinded few who influenced popular perception about her kind. She has been rejected by the people whose life she was sent to bless. God has taken her back in His safe kingdom so that she may rest in peace. In Nafa’s mind, one thing was clear. If he dies and God happens to grant him Jan’nah, he would like to be with Tanatala, not the promised one hundred virgins.  

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