Becoming Ndeye Bator

The first day I got my Wolof name, I wrote it down on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket. Everyone asked for it, and even if it was in consecutive conversation, I had to look at the paper to remember the strange sounds that defined me. For three days I peeked into the name in my pocket, and for a week after, my response to the question would be “Cla-, I mean Ndeye Bator.”

I went to Saint Louis and got my new name engraved on a bracelet. I never have to look at it, but I feel the weight of it and I know it’s there, and I know how difficult it would be to take off- the silver balls a subtle silver chokehold on my change in character.

After lunch yesterday, I went to visit my friend Aida. I shook hands with her family, and it wasn’t long before they were clapping, demanding I dance with them. I took my broken Birkenstocks off and felt the burning sand between my toes as I hunched my shoulders and kicked my knees up right there in the sun. We laughed as I sang along to the TV music video in Wolof and they patted my back before we all sat down to drink Attaya (tea). I asked if I could make it, and they gathered around with their chins in their hands like children. I poured the tea from glass to glass from as far a distance as I dared, cooling it as they did. I shook my head and they giggled as I spilled onto the tray below me. Finally our glasses were ready and we slurped contentedly in our melted postures, sighing after each sip as our satisfaction emanated from our lips like the sweat off our bodies in the hottest hour of the day.

As I finished, I looked down at my bracelet which had grown hot after sitting in the day’s reflection and it glinted with approval. I felt, at that moment, that I could be every expectation I had for the person I wanted to be here, and that I would never forget my name again because it would never forget me.