Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Shrimp Sandwich

He said "Oh what I wouldn't do for a shrimp sandwich right now" and they laughed, not realizing just how serious he was. He could see the shrimps floating in oil, red from the tomato sauce as his mother stirred them with the baku (or was it a kudu loos - he was hungry, and could not remember the details - nothing but the shrimps), the marvellous shrimps, the beautiful shrimps. The fish when his mother fried them went "chssss" and smelt like fish being fried but the shrimps slid in without a sound, and smelled like a room in a house that was your mother's room and where you went to lie down when it was raining outside after a big lunch of domoda with beautiful, soft, melt-in-your-mouth pieces of lamb floating in the hot diwtirr-covered degeh as you sat there and ate with your friend who you'd just come out of the rain with and there was a lamba on RTS in the living room and your Dad was making bad jokes about the men in their ngembahs. And when the shrimps were done you went to the bitiki peul and bought an adansa, also soft, almost white, baked to an even consistency so that when you pulled out chunks of it the soft whiteness inside made you wish the old men at the mosque would hurry up and nordah so you could go break your fast; and you took the bread home and your mother had just finished making the shrimps and they were still hot and covered in onions and tomato sauce, they looked so red, you had never liked red so much, the color, had never realized colors could be tied to tastes and red was tied to saltiness and a hint of pepper and the taste of the shrimps, oh the glorious Oceany taste of the shrimps making you try to remember all the scientific words related to the mouth you had learnt in high school just so you could describe it properly to yourself in the future: palate, taste buds - what else, your recall failing but who cares these shrimps God these shrimps... Their crunchiness offset by the softness of the Adansa bread in your mouth and when that was done, when they were all mixed up and ready to journey forth into your throat and your stomach and spread the good news to the rest of your body you took a gookh of tea (gookh the right word here because no word in English could ever capture quite as precisely the first sip of hot tea down your parched, thirsty throat, the sound as much a part of it as the swallowing of liquid itself, the collective gookh of everyone in Gambia ak li ko worr as the TV announced the end of the fast, the gookh that brings us all together). In the end all that would be left would be the plastic bag (which had contained the Adansa) with a few stray crumbs on it, and in your body a tiredness as if you had just run a long race and finally arrived at the end, sitting around with the rest of your family and giving each other proud looks. We made it through the first day. Sigh. Now only twenty-nine more to go....

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