No one has ever called the mosque in Potou graceful. Maybe when it was first built, maybe then they said that it was a good mosque: a clunky, stumpy tower which served to regularly pierce heaven with forceful cries of God’s goodness. Potou, the town of a thousand Allahu Akbars before dawn.
She sat looking at it from a wiggly wooden bench that stretched the length of a pickup truck that had recently held the entire town’s breakfast. She was still half asleep.
“Où vas-tu?” the driver greeted her, a white girl in Africa-land, “Léona?”
“Waaw,” she replied in his language, yes.
He lit his cigarette and walked around the truck. They weren’t going anywhere just then. She smelled tobacco and dirt and adjusted her full and heavy canvas tote beside her.
As though the bread truck were attractive, several young men and their embroidered jeans appeared where there had been no men before. When only one climbed in the back with her, she was surprised; she had never traveled in a nearly empty truck before.
She and this man exchanged muttered courtesies and nothing more. She felt they shared the complicity of those who travel together late at night or early (so early!) in the morning.
Lucky, she thought, lucky. Lucky that this truck agreed to take her. As the rattling of the rusty engine finally got underway, one of the young men, who had been holding on his tongue those foreign syllables that were just beginning to taste familiar to her also, turned his eyes on hers.
“Aujourd’hui c’est la grève,” he said animatedly. Whether he was angry that the driver had taken on two paying passengers during the strike under cover of blue-black pre-dawn or whether he was merely informing her of the day’s lack of further transportation, it didn’t matter. They were pulling away from that town of palm trees and streets littered with plastic wrappers, fantastically colored fabric scraps and the occasional dead rodent.
Flying down the broken road, she clutched the two coins she would use to pay and kept her balance as best she could, the only way she knew how. That way being, of course, the same way she avoided being thrown backwards when a New York subway train awoke from its sleek, 30 second repose at any given Manhattan station.
Forward they drove. Drove into the long day that, inshallah, would see her to a village past Potou, past Léona. A village of concrete rooms and grass huts. A village of timeless peace.