Sibo is walking along the path from the Arabic school, her tablet tucked under her arm. Her skirt drags on the ground, keeping her slow and clumsy, but then she spots us sitting outside so she starts to run. She crashes through the corrugate gate, whips off her veil and jumps up onto the bantaba. The only teeth left at the moment are on the sides, and she knows this makes her look like a monster, so she grins and growls and grabs her sister who screams and smacks her. Sibo’s hair is clumped and unbraided and she’s feeling the urge to dance in a way that makes her head move side to side, opposite her eyes, which look at everything and nothing while she keeps a beat by smacking her tongue. Then she drops herself heavily onto my lap, pawing at my book with a surprising sense of entitlement, gets bored with it and looks to me for more inspiration, which I’m stunned I could possibly provide. I just laugh a little. “You came?” I ask.
“I’m back,” she says.
Bampha the crazy boy is heading to Soma. He’s got a rope tied around his waist that bunches up his oversized, grimy t-shirt, and this weird little bottle hanging around his neck. He looks like he might be auditioning for a part in Robinhood, Prince of Lower River Region. We see this boy everywhere. We don’t know where he lives, but everyone talks to him and everyone knows him. He has a charm that people revere, even as they make fun of him for being unwell. The last time I saw Bampha, someone had asked him to prove that he knew how to count. I found him walking alone on the road; he was up to 85. Today I’m with my host mother, she asks him why he’s going to Soma, he says to visit someone. She’s pleased because he says it like it’s official business. Far behind us is the truly crazy guy, the one who sleeps in an abandoned colonial building in a pile of glass and guano. Even he is the harmless kind of madman, but his zombie walk is disconcerting and people keep away except the occasional person who will light his cigarette for him. Two pretty girls are in the road, and they want to talk to Bampha, so he stops to flirt as we continue. I hear their little chatter but then Bampha shoots past us. “What’s wrong?” my mother asks him.
“A crazy man is coming!”
The girls are breathless from laughter, and even Bampha seems to get the joke, because he smiles the next time he looks back at the lumbering man behind us. But he keeps on running and I think I see him shrug as if to say, “Well, this is my role here. I don’t want to disappoint,” as he charges along towards Soma.