"Who is that?", he asked the shopkeeper. An old man dressed in a chaaya - how long he had gone without seeing a chaaya - and short kaftan, sitting on a stool with one leg lifted onto it. In the manner of the old man's sitting he saw a familiarity with the World, a comfortableness within it that he envied. He had felt restless since his arrival. Filled with a waiting that would explode within him. A need to do something - anything - and a feeling he could not do enough, he was falling short and wasting valuable time.
"Njaga Mbye", the old man replied, showing kola-nut stained teeth.
Ah - no wonder it had seemed familiar. At home he wouldn't have been caught dead listening to Njaga Mbye. Here now it stirred something deep within him, and it seemed at once the most beautiful sound he had ever heard in the world, and something so fundamental to his identity he did not know how he could have missed it before.
The shop was filled with bales of cloth of many colors, and in the window looking out onto the street were set kaftaan and abaaya pre-made, and other clothing he had seen the women back home wear during Juli but which he did not know the names of. There was the smell of must and age in the air. The sharp biting winds from the street did not reach in here.
"This is my friend", his friend told the shopkeeper, after they had exchanged pleasantries, and the old man reached forward to shake his hand, smiling.
"And how is Gambie then?", the old man asked. His head covered with graying hair, the remnants of a beard around his chin, looking like the hair had fallen out instead of being shaved.
"Fine", he replied, "everyone is in peace". The old shopkeeper nodded, satisfied.
"You are from Banjul?". He said yes - the answer would be long, and probably the old man would find it uninteresting, the place names he would name meaningless to a Senegalese. But he was not from Banjul, and it became suddenly important to him here to point out that fact, to not be mistaken or mis-placed.
"No", he told the shopkeeper, letting go of his hand, "Kuntaur".
"Is that far from Sairay-kunda?", the shopkeeper asked him, and he had to stifle a laugh at the old man's earnest expression.
"Not really", he said, finally. His identity could wait. The shopkeeper nodded, looking proud at his knowledge of Gambian geography.