Thrown under a bus

Aissatou Tagaty Badio - Senegal


November 23, 2018

September 2018

Every time I hop on a moving vehicle, I get sick. That is quite ironic, because I love care rides, with either the radio blasting or music plugged into my ear while staring at the landscape. This time, during the family drop-off procedure, I opted for the latter, although I didn’t have much choice because the bus radio was already playing this extravagant religious chant that did not stop for the whole ride. Nine other Fellows were on that bus at 3 in the afternoon, and none was left by 8 PM. It made me think of this classical thriller called And Then There Were None by Agatha Cristie. It was the story of 10 obscure strangers, all reunited on an obscure island for an obscur reason. They all had something in common but didn’t know it yet ; they didn’t know who invited them there either. What was for sure was the fact that with each day spent on the island, one of them mysteriously disappeared, murdered. The family drop-offs were just like that: 10 young adults all reunited in a bus, one of them disappearing after each stop into their new home and family.

At first I found it thrilling: the excitement of seeing people’s houses, and the admiration of witnessing a warm welcome from the families. Then, apprehension started to hit me once the bus got half empty. Fears knocked my doors. I was scared of disappointing my family for not really being a Toubab, resentful of having a home that I didn’t like, disgusted by the idea of using squad toilets. I wanted to cry and I almost did, when this girl cried next to me on the bus because her also, was feeling the heat. Two minutes later, I was dropped off without even a notice. I can’t describe how I felt at that moment because truly, I didn’t feel anything. I was just like a baby: seeing, talking, but barely processing anything. My mom was the first one to welcome me and I smiled awkwardly. She brought me into the house and I felt attacked by this loud singing coming from loud speakers. I felt lost amongst all those people, many strangers, staring at me in silence. They showed me my room, I didn’t say anything. They took me to the bathrooms, I didn’t think of anything. They asked me if I was okay and I barely said: “Yes” because I was on the verge of crying. I didn’t want to cry. They brought me upstairs, the place where the loud chants were coming from, the place where tons of men and women were sitting down on two distinct sides, observing my arrival. I too, observed them in silence. “We have to go” my people said and only then, I started crying because I realized that everyone is leaving me in a place that felt so out of place for me. “You’ll be fine” my team leader whispered into my ear and I knew I would be, but I couldn’t help but hugging Phoebe, my friend, real tight and crying on her shoulder.

And they all left, just like that. I went to my room out of reflex but it didn’t feel right so I stood outside awkwardly. It didn’t feel right either but soon after they invited me to sit on a plastic green chair. So I sat. A young woman sat next to me, and I didn’t care about what she was telling me at that time, although, looking back, I should had because she became my first local friend. I remember thinking: “So many people in this house, which ones are part of my actual family?” The lady next to me started to recite monologues and all I remember of that discussion is that her name was Hawa and that she lived next door. I stared at things in front of me, at my room, at people passing by. I had my big glasses on but my sight was still blurry. The microphone was too loud and the women downstairs were speaking but I couldn’t understand anything. Without a second thought, I jumped out of the chair and stormed into my room. I was about to break down when I heard a small knock on my door. My mother appeared, shoved a big bowl of cakri (millet and sugary yogurt) in my hand and ran away. I stood alone and in shock, not knowing what to do or think. Then I sat on my bed, plugged earphones to mute those extravagant religious chants and tasted the food. I usually loved cakri, especially the one my real mom used to make back in Canada. But this one tasted different, Everything felt so different. Tears flew down my cheek as I told myself that hey, this is your new one now and dude, things are going to be different and that’s okay. I listened to Miserable at best by Mayday Parade on repeat just to polish my sorrow. Although Derek Sanders was asking me not to cry through the song, I still couldn’t help it. The mom gave me so much food and how the hell could she expect me to eat that much? My stomach was already filled with despair. I held the bowl tightly and tried to calm myself down. I repeated slowly that things would be fine. That the first day was supposed to be the hardest. That I was crying now but the second I would go out of that door I would jut pretend to be okay. Fake it until you make it, they say.

Aissatou Tagaty Badio