Monday, February 04, 2008

It’s the night before the big holiday and Fatou invites me to help her break her fast with what tastes like last year’s meat. The evening before I'd made homemade minestrone with a close friend, now I have a subtle inclination to cry. Instead I poke this grey matter into my mouth and go from there. Let this go down, I will my gag reflex. I remember this feeling from childhood, the feeling of taking bad food personally, like when dad stir-fried poultry gizzards and livers, or that stew my sister referred to as “beef barfy,” and we’d assumed it was given to us to build character. Now I realize it’s what he liked to eat. I suddenly feel ashamed that Fatou has been up since sunrise without eating but she’s pushing the choice bits in my direction.
“Mariama, what does ‘don’t flat-tah me’ mean?” Hoja is following the Nigerian film Total Disgrace, frame by salacious frame. The leading lady flicks her bangled wrist playfully, “don’t flatter me,” she says. The boss’s son has fallen hard for this sexy secretary and she soon gets sacked for what seems like no good reason…Shockingly, the father himself has had relations with this vixen, both of them having (oddly) waited until his son married her before informing the boy. The movie continues to live up to its title, but I go to bed.
Grandma Kaddy wakes me in the middle of the night to help her break open a kola nut with my teeth. Kola nut = old lady pacifier. She wakes me up again later just to pray for me, cementing her unshakable resemblance to Yoda as her hands hover over me in the dark. It’s something about God granting me a husband and babies, the usual prayer for an aging bachelorette, but oddly timed. May the procreative force be with me I guess, thanks Gram.
Our holiday involves the customary ram slaughter, which the kids watch with indifference or
a disconcerting touch of glee.
Ebi proudly waves his bloody hands around for the camera. He has dunked them into the ram’s gushing body. I’m horrified but these kids are so comfortable with it all. As my friend Dan put it, “Why couldn’t Abraham have been asked to sacrifice some broccoli instead?”

Baby Sarjo, who has filled roughly the same niche as our Atari did when I was seven, has been wrapped up in special cloth. We literally wait for turns to play with her, and campaign for her first word like those obsessive parents prepping their kids for spelling bees. Say Baba Baabaa..
My host mother doesn't recognize herself in the photograph I give her from last year’s feast. “Naa, that’s you,” Hoja assures her, and everyone else moves on but I catch her still puzzling over it later, touching the face on the picture. The expression “all dressed up and no place to go” must have been invented this day long ago. Heels sink into sand, babies
have been enhanced with eyeliner,
we all bring each other meat. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t trust a photograph if I were my host mother, it isn’t a medium she relies on for her memories. But for me, at this point, draped in iridescent fabric, clutching a boiled ram’s foot, I might not believe anything but.